Book Review – A Quiet Flame

A Quiet Flame

Philip Kerr

2008

I think something happened to Germany after the Great War. You could see it on the streets of Berlin. A callous indifference to human suffering. And, perhaps, after all the those demented, sometimes cannibalistic killers we had during the Weimar Years, we ought to have seen it coming: the murder squads and the death factories. Killers who were demented but also quite ordinary…Ordinary people who committed crimes of unparalleled savagery. Looking back at them now they seemed like a sign of that which was to follow…”

The fifth entry in Kerr’s series of novels involving German private eye Bernie Gunther, A Quiet Flame marks a new change of pace for the series – mixing two separate plot lines set across a time gap of nearly seventeen years.  Combining a routine 1933 murder investigation with a continuation of the contemporary story involving Gunther’s arrival in Argentina under the guise of a fleeing Nazi, the book stands out as the most unusual one in the series so far, whilst also providing some of the most memorable scenes of the series so far. Continue reading

Film Review – The Big Sleep (1946)

“How do you like your brandy, sir?”

“In a glass.”

One of the titles most closely identified with 20th century crime fiction, Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep is a vast labyrinth of a film both on and off screen, thanks its winding, intricate series of plot threads, memorable characters, snappy dialogue and, not least of all, the real-life romance of the leading stars. Much like the book, it stands up as one of the true high points of all hardboiled, noir, and detective fiction. Continue reading

Film Review – Smart Money

Smart Money

1931

Director: Alfred E. Green

The one and only collaboration between Edward G Robinson and James Cagney, Smart Money is an early entry into the gangster era, released on the coattails of 1931’s Little Caesar and The Public Enemy. A bit of an overlooked classic, due to the shift in focus in subject matter, and featuring less controversial elements than the aforementioned films included, it stands up as a film worth revisiting for any fan of the genre.

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Film Review – The Falcon Takes Over

The Falcon Takes Over

1942

Director: Irving Reis

One of the earliest screen adaptions of Raymond Chandler’s works, 1942’s The Falcon Takes Over is an interesting take on Chandler’s 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely, the second novel to feature gumshoe Philip Marlowe, which, looking back on them all now, stands out as one of the best entries in the series. At the time, Marlowe himself wasn’t as well-engrained into crime culture as would later become, and so rather than doing a straight adaption, RKO Pictures decided to fit the adaption within their ongoing series featuring George Sanders as amateur sleuth ‘The Falcon’. Continue reading

Film Review – The Brasher Doubloon

The Brasher Doubloon

1947

Director: John Brahm

Rule number one of being a detective – always cash the retainer check before the client has a chance to change their mind.”

One of the lesser-known cinematic adaptions of Raymond Chandler’s works, The Brasher Doubloon is an adaption of Chandler’s 1943 novel The High Window, the third novel to feature legendary gumshoe Philip Marlowe. A somewhat overlooked entry, both now as well as at the time of release, the film never received too much praise, but in viewing the movie recently, it stands up as being a light yet definitely entertaining entry into the Marlowe film series.

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Book Review: The One from the Other (Philip Kerr)

The One from the Other

2006

Philip Kerr

Detective work is a little like walking into a movie that’s already started. You don’t know what’s happened already and, as you try to find your way in the dark, it’s inevitable that you’re going to stand on someone’s toes…”

Fifteen years after releasing A German Requiem (reviewed here), in 2006 Philip Kerr returned to the ‘Berlin Noir’ series of novels featuring German gumshoe Bernie Gunther, the hardboiled detective reluctantly investigating the underbelly of the Nazi era. Dismissing any concerns which a fifteen year gap may bring, The One from the Other continues the series’ explorations into the underbelly of history’s darkest era. Critically, it proved a triumphant return to the series which, in this reader’s view, exceeds the high standards set by the entries before it, and marked a successful beginning of a ‘second era’ of the series which has continued on a pretty much annual basis since its release. Continue reading

Book Review – Vengeance is Mine

Vengeance is Mine

Mickey Spillane

1950

“I loved to shoot killers. I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do than shoot a killer and watch his blood race a slimy path across the floor. It was fun to kill those bastards who tried to get away with murder and did sometimes.”

Vengeance is Mine marks the third entry in the series featuring New York-based PI Mike Hammer – following on from I, the Jury and My Gun is Quick. This time around, Hammer wakes up in a hotel room following a difficult night of excessive drinking with an old buddy, Chester Wheeler, to find Wheeler dead, the result of an alleged suicide. For his troubles, the police take away Hammer’s licence and he is left facing a future away from the detective business. Continue reading

Film Review: Bugsy

Bugsy

Director: Barry Levinson

1991

Based on the life of legendary gangster Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel (not to be confused with ‘Bugs’ Moran), Bugsy tells the story of Siegel’s ambitious plans to create an oasis in the desert – the city that eventually became Las Vegas – as well as the mafia’s key role in funding and developing that dream, alongside showing the beginning and tragic end of his infamous relationship with Hollywood actress Virginia Hill.   Continue reading

Book Review – A German Requiem

A German Requiem

Philip Kerr

1991

The third and (initially) final book in Philip Kerr’s Berlin Noir series of novels involving German PI Bernie Gunther, A German Requiem is a harsh, stark and intricate detective novel set around the decaying ruins of post-WW2 Europe.

Taking a leap from the pre-War era of the previous two novels (set in 1936 and 1938 respectively), A German Requiem picks Gunther’s story up in post-War 1947 Germany. Gunther hasn’t had an easy ride since the last novel – he was conscripted into the SS, sent to the Eastern front and ended up in a Soviet POW camp which he managed a narrow escape from with the help of a moving train.

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