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Book Nook: A Man Without Breath, by Philip Kerr


Whenever I start reading a book, I begin it with the hope that it will be so much fun to read that I won’t want to put it down. I never want certain books to end.

Books like “A Man Without Breath,” the latest installment in Philip Kerr’s noir series that features the long suffering homicide detective Bernie Gunther. Bernie is German. He was solving homicide cases in Berlin when Hitler took power in the early 1930's.

This creates a certain moral ambiguity. Bernie had to join the dreadful SS just to survive the war. He did the best he could to avoid becoming a war criminal. Nevertheless, he has a guilty conscience.

Kerr wrote his first Bernie Gunther book in 1989. He wrote three books that became his omnibus Berlin Noir trilogy. He thought that he was finished writing about Bernie.

Writers rarely have the luxury of reviving a character. After an interval of 15 years Kerr decided to write another Bernie book. And he has kept writing them. As "A Man Without Breath" begins the year is 1943 and the Red Army has just delivered a massive defeat to the German invaders at Stalingrad.

The tide has turned on the Eastern Front. Bernie is summoned to see Propaganda Minister Goebbels. The notorious Nazi wants Bernie to travel to Smolensk to investigate the rumors about a mass murder that might have been perpetrated by the Soviets.

Bernie cannot refuse. But no matter how terrible the assignment we can count on him to retain his gallows humor and his eye for beauty.

In this interview the author talks about his compelling series. I expressed my concerns that this could be the last book.  Does Kerr have another Bernie book up his sleeve? Listen to the interview to find out the answer to that question.

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Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them. Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.