Author Confessions: Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr
Category: Reading

Bestselling author of the Bernie Gunther trilogy, Philip Kerr is a prolific writer. Born in Edinburgh and based in London, he has written over 20 books.

In 2009, he won the British Crime Writers' Association Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award and Spain's RBA International Prize for Crime Writing for his Bernie Gunther series. As you'll find out below, Philip is a former advertising copywriter. He released his first novel in 1989 and by 1993 was named one of Granta magazine's Best Young British Novelists.

We lured him into our Author Confessions booth upon the release of his latest book for young adults, The Winter Horses, a breathless journey of survival in the dark days of WWII in Ukraine...   


Where do you stand on spinebreaking?

This has always filled me with horror. Books are precious objects to me and I can’t bear a book with loose pages.

What’s the most over-rated book of all time?

Das Kapital has had an enormous influence. And yet it’s quite clear that nearly everything in this book is wrong

Good manners forbid me to nominate anyone who’s still alive; and frankly there’s merit in all books, I think. I should probably nominate Das Kapital by Karl Marx. A lot of people pretend they’ve read it. It’s had an enormous influence. And yet it’s quite clear that nearly everything in this book is wrong.

What’s your guiltiest reading pleasure?

I can’t tell you my guiltiest. No one would tell you this. If I don’t like a book I stop reading it. And I don’t read to impress people. Never did. So guilt doesn’t come into it.

Which author or fictional character would you most like to party with?

Jay Gatsby I suppose, even though he is a dreadful fraud. He’d be the character. The writer would probably be Oscar Wilde.

Have you ever pretended to have read a book to impress someone?

See above. Never. I’ve read books to impress myself. I read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking and enjoyed it enormously.

Is there a book by someone else that you wish you’d written?

Many books. Too many to mention here. I wish I’d written The Great Gatsby. I also wish I’d written a book called Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein. It’s a very clever book. One more, let’s see… The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot.

What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked about your work?

In Scotland I’m sometimes asked why I live in England. I’m Scots, you see. The Scots seem to find it very strange that anyone Scots should live in England. I was also asked once if I smoked a pipe. The person asking the question had the idea that all writers should smoke a pipe. But the strangest question – perhaps not that strange – was in Russia before the collapse of communism; and I was asked, several times, if I was a British spy.

How do you react to bad reviews?

I try not to ‘react’. They’re an occupational hazard. I really don’t like Amazon reviews. They are often very personal. And unnecessarily unpleasant.

What’s your most extreme research story?

In 1991 I spent several weeks with the Russian police – the anti-Mafia squad.

In 1991 I spent several weeks with the Russian police – the anti-Mafia squad. It was very cold. There was very little food. The hotel had a rat in my bathroom. The Russians thought I was a spy. Need I say more.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors what would it be?

Don’t give up. Keep going. Finish at all costs. You can always edit.

What is your worst writing habit?

Writing so many books.

Which author do you nominate for Author Confessions?

Graham Swift. He’ll hate this.


Competition: Win a copy of The Winter Horses!
Philip Kerr's latest novel The Winter Horses

Thanks to Philip Kerr's generous publishers at Walker Books, we have three hardback copies of his latest novel The Winter Horses to give away to three lucky winners. 

All you have to do to enter is answer this simple question in the comments below or email your answer to marked 'Philip Kerr Competition':

Which character would Philip Kerr like to party with?

Closing date: 17:00, Monday 27 October 2014. Open to UK entrants only. Full terms and conditions.

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