“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Gerald Kersh. A life lived.

One of my favourite films is Jules Dassin's film noir classic, Night And The City. It's a dark tale of London's pre-war underworld based on the novel of the same name. But if the movie remains a favourite of mine it certainly was not appreciated by the books author Gerald Kersh who hated it. Kersh was a hard man to please, in fact he was a hard man full stop. Prior to becoming a reasonably successful writer Kersh worked as a bodyguard, door to door salesman, bouncer and professional wrestler. When  war broke out he enlisted in the Coldstream Guards but was injured during the blitz and ended up with the Army Film Unit. But Kersh must have tired of this and deserted. Unlike other deserters he was not going to lead a furtive existence in the Soho pubs and cafes that he knew so well but headed instead straight to France and was in Paris for the Liberation. Kersh was never afraid of a fight.
The man himself was born in 1911 just down the road from where I live. Gerald first saw the light of day in the room above his father's tailors shop in the High Street. There is no blue plaque. There is certainly no local Jewish tailor now, just an achingly dull parade of posh frock shops and coffee outlets. Few have heard of Gerald Kersh today and the author of dozens of novels, countless short stories, not to mention his Fleet Street output, is all but forgotten. London Books have republished some of his work, there is an excellent biography on their site and you can read John King's ace introduction to the Night And The City reprint here  but  by and large this self-taught writer who lived his life on the edge seems sadly out of place in today's sanitised world.

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