William Hull The Other Side of Silence

ISBN 13: 9781784295592

The Other Side of Silence

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9781784295592: The Other Side of Silence

New York Times–bestselling author Philip Kerr’s much anticipated return to Bernie Gunther, in a series hailed by The Daily Beast as “the best crime novels around today.”
 
The French Riviera, 1956. Bernie Gunther, our sardonic former Berlin homicide dick and unwilling SS officer, is the go-to guy at the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, the man you turn to for touring tips or if you need a fourth for bridge. As it happens, a local writer needs just that, someone to fill the fourth seat in a regular game that is the usual evening diversion at the Villa Mauresque. Not just any writer. Perhaps the most famous living writer in the world: W. Somerset Maugham.
           
And it turns out it is not just a bridge partner that he needs; it’s some professional advice. Maugham is being blackmailed—perhaps because of his unorthodox lifestyle. Or perhaps because of something in his past, because once upon a time, Maugham worked for the British Secret Service, and the people now blackmailing him are spies.

As Gunther fans know, all roads lead back to the viper's nest that was Hitler’s Third Reich and to the killing fields that spread like a disease across Europe. Even in 1956, peace has not come to the continent now that the Soviets also have the H-bomb and spies from every major power feel free to make all of Europe their playground.

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About the Author:

Philip Kerr is the author of the widely acclaimed Bernie Gunther novels, including The Other Side of Silence, The Lady From Zagreb, A Man Without Breath, Prague Fatale,and Field Gray, all New York Times bestsellers. Field Grayand The Lady From Zagreb were both finalists for Edgar Award for Best Novel. Kerr has also been a finalist for the Shamus Award and the winner of the British Crime Writers’ Association Ellis Peters Historical Award. Under the name P. B. Kerr, he is the author of the much-loved young adult series Children of the Lamp. He lives in London.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1: French Riviera 1956

    Yesterday I tried to kill myself.

    It wasn’t that I wanted to die as much as the fact that I wanted the pain to stop. Elisabeth, my wife, left me a while ago and I’d been missing her a lot. That was one source of pain, and a pretty major one, I have to admit. Even after a war in which more than four million German soldiers died, German wives are hard to come by. But another serious pain in my life was the war itself of course, and what happened to me back then, and in the Soviet POW camps afterwards. Which perhaps made my decision to commit suicide odd considering how hard it was not to die in Russia; but staying alive was always more of a habit for me than an active choice. For years under the Nazis I stayed alive out of sheer bloody mindedness. So I asked myself, early one Spring morning, why not kill yourself?  To a Goethe-loving Prussian like me the pure reason of a question like that was almost unassailable. Besides, it wasn’t as if life was so great anymore, although in truth I’m not sure it ever was. Tomorrow and the long, long empty year to come after that isn’t something of much interest to me, especially down here on the French Riviera. I was on my own, pushing sixty and working in a hotel job that I could do in my sleep, not that I got much of that these days. Most of the time I was miserable. I was living somewhere I didn’t belong and it felt like a cold corner in hell, so it wasn’t as if I believed anyone who enjoys a sunny day would miss the dark cloud that was my face.

    There was all that for choosing to die, plus the arrival of a guest at the hotel. A guest I recognized and wished I hadn’t. But I’ll come to him in a moment. Before that I have to explain why I’m still here.

    I went into the garage underneath my small apartment in Villefranche, closed the door, and waited in the car with the engine turning over. Carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t so bad. You just close your eyes and go to sleep. If the car hadn’t stalled or perhaps just run out of gas I wouldn’t be here now. I thought I might try it again another time, if things didn’t improve and if I bought a more reliable motor car. On the other hand, I could have returned to Berlin, like my poor wife, which might have achieved the same result. Even today it’s just as easy to get yourself killed there as it ever was and if I were to go back to the former German capital, I don’t think it would be very long before someone was kind enough to organize my sudden death. One side or the other has got it in for me, and with good reason. When I was living in Berlin and being a cop or an ex-cop, I managed to offend almost everyone, with the possible exception of the British. Even so, I miss the city a lot. I miss the beer, of course, and the sausage. I miss being a cop when being Berlin police still meant something good. But mostly I miss the people who were as sour as I am. Even Germans don’t like Berliners and it’s a feeling that’s usually reciprocated. Berliners don’t like anyone very much - especially the women, which, somehow, only makes them more attractive to a dumb head like me. There’s nothing more attractive to a man than a beautiful woman who really doesn’t care if he lives or dies. I miss the women most of all. There were so many women. I think about the good women I’ve known - quite a few of the bad ones, too - who I’ll never see again and sometimes I start crying and from there it’s only a short trip to the garage and asphyxiation, especially if I’ve been drinking. Which, at home, is most of the time.

    When I’m not feeling sorry for myself I play bridge, or read books about playing bridge, which might strike a lot of people as a pretty good reason on its own to kill yourself. But it’s a game I find stimulating. Bridge helps to keep my mind sharp and occupied with something other than thoughts of home - and all those women, of course. In retrospect it seems that a great many of them must have been blondes and not just because they were German, or close to being German. Rather too late in life I’ve learned that there’s a type of woman I’m attracted to, which is the wrong type, and it often happens that this includes a certain shade of hair color that just spells trouble for a man like me. Risky mate search and sexual cannibalism are a lot more common than you might think, although more usual among spiders. Apparently the females assess the nutritional value of a male rather than a male’s value as a mate. Which more or less sums up the history of my entire personal life. I’ve been eaten alive so many times I feel like I’ve got eight legs, although by now it’s probably just three or four.  It’s not much of an insight, I know, and like I say, it hardly matters now, but even if it happens late in life a degree of self-awareness has to be better than none at all. That’s what my wife used to tell me, anyway.

    Self-awareness certainly worked for her: she woke up one morning and realized just how bored and disappointed she was with me and our new life in France and went back home the very next day. I can’t say that I blame her. She never managed to learn French, appreciate the food, or even enjoy the sun very much and that’s the only thing down here of which there’s a free and plentiful supply. At least in Berlin you always know why you’re miserable. That’s what Berlin luft is all about; an attempt to try to whistle your way out of the gloom. Here, on the Riviera, you would think there’s everything to whistle about and no reason at all to be down in the mouth, but somehow I managed it and she couldn’t take that anymore.

    I suppose I was miserable largely because I’m bored as hell. I miss my old detective’s life. I’d give anything to walk through the doors of the police praesidium on Alexanderplatz - by all accounts it’s been demolished by the so-called East Germans, which is to say the communists - and to go upstairs to my desk in the Murder Commission. These days I’m a concierge at the Grand Hotel in St. Jean Cap Ferrat. That’s a little bit like being a policeman if your idea of being a policeman is directing traffic and I should know. It’s exactly thirty-five years since I was first in uniform, on traffic duty at Potsdamer Platz. But I know the hotel business of old; for a while after the Nazis got into power I was the house detective at Berlin’s famous Adlon Hotel. Being a concierge is very different to that. Mostly it’s about making restaurant reservations, booking taxis and boats, coordinating porter service, shooing away prostitutes - which isn’t as easy as it sounds; these days only American women can afford to look like prostitutes - and giving directions to witless tourists who can’t read a map and don’t speak French. Only very occasionally is there an unruly guest or a theft and I dream of having to assist the local Suréte to solve a series of daring jewel robberies of the kind I saw in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Of course, that’s all it is; a dream. I wouldn’t ever volunteer to help the local police, not because they’re French - although that would be a good reason not to help them - but because I’m living under a false passport, and not just any false passport, but one that was given to me by none other than Erich Mielke, who is currently the deputy head of the Stasi, the East German Security Police. That’s the kind of favor that sometimes comes with a high price tag and, one day, I expect him to come calling to get me to pay it. Which will probably be the day when I have to go on my travels again. Compared to me, the Flying Dutchman was the Rock of Gibraltar. I suspect my wife knew this, since she also knew Mielke and better than me.

    Quite where I’d go I have no idea although I hear North Africa is accommodating where Germans on a wanted list are concerned. There’s a Fabre line boat that sails from Marseilles to Morocco every other day. That’s just the sort of thing that a concierge is supposed to know although it’s much more likely that there are rather more of the hotel’s well-heeled guests who’ve fled from Algeria than there are those who want to go there. Since the massacre of Pieds-Noirs civilians at Philippeville last year, the war against the FLN in Algiers isn’t going so well for the French and by all accounts the colony is ruled even more harshly than it ever was when the Nazis left it to the tender mercies of the Vichy government.

    I’m not sure if the effortlessly handsome, dark-haired man I saw checking into one of the hotel’s best suites the day before I tried to asphyxiate myself was on any kind of wanted list but he was certainly German and a criminal. Not that he looked like anything less affluent than a banker or a Hollywood film producer and he spoke such excellent French that it was probably only me who would have known he was German. He was using the name Harold Heinz Hebel and gave an address in Bonn, but his real name was Hennig, Harold Hennig and during the last few months of the war he’d been a captain in the SD. Now in his early forties he wore a fine, gray lightweight suit that had been tailored for him and black, handmade shoes that were as shiny as a new centime. You tend to notice things like that when you’re working at a place like the Grand Hotel. These days I can spot a Savile Row suit from the other side of the lobby. His manners were as smooth as the silk Hermés tie around his neck, which suited him better than the noose it richly deserved. He tipped all of the porters handsomely from a wad of new notes that was as thick as a slice of bread, and after that the boys treated him and his Louis Vuitton luggage with more care than a case of Meissen porcelain. Coincidentally, the last time I’d seen him he’d also had some expensive luggage with him, filled with valuables he and his boss, the East Prussian Gauleiter Erich Koch, had probably looted from the city. That had been in January 1945, sometime during the terrible Battle of Königsberg. He’d been boarding the German passenger ship, Wilhelm Gustloff which was subsequently torpedoed by a Russian submarine with the loss of more than nine thousand civilian lives. He was one of the few rats that managed to escape from that particular sinking ship, which was a great pity since he’d helped to bring about its destruction.

    If Harold Hennig recognized me he didn’t show it. In our black morning coats, the hotel’s desk staff all tend to look the same, of course. There’s that and the fact that I’m a little heavier now than I was back then, with less hair probably, not to mention a light tan that my wife used to say suited me. For a man who just tried to kill himself I’m in remarkably good shape, even though I say so myself. Alice, one of the maids I’ve taken a shine to since Elisabeth left, says I could easily pass for a man ten years younger. Which is just as well as I have a soul that feels like it’s at least five hundred years old. It’s looked into the abyss so many times it feels like Dante’s walking stick.

    Harold Hennig looked straight at me, and although I didn’t hold his gaze for more than a second or two, there was no need - being an ex-cop, I never forget a face, especially when it belongs to a mass-murderer. Nine thousand people - men and women and a great many children is a lot of reasons to remember a face like Harold Heinz Hennig’s.

    But I have to admit that seeing him again looking so prosperous and in such rude health left me feeling very depressed. It’s one thing to know that there are people like Eichmann and Mengele who got away with the most appalling crimes. It’s another thing when several of the victims of a crime were your friends. There was a time when I might have tried to exact some kind of rough justice, but those days are long gone. These days, revenge is something of which my partner and I talk lightly at the end or perhaps the beginning of a game of bridge at La Voile d’Or, which is the only other good hotel in Cap Ferrat. I don’t even own a gun. If I did I certainly wouldn’t be here now. I’m a much better shot than I am a driver.

Chapter 2

    Between Nice and Monaco, Cap Ferrat is a pine-planted spur that projects into the sea like the dried-up and near useless sexual organs of some old French roué- an entirely appropriate comparison given the Riviera’s reputation as a place where great age and precocious beauty go hand in wrinkly hand, usually to the beach, to the shops, to the bank, and then to bed although not always in such decorous order. The Riviera often reminds me of how Berlin was immediately after the war except that female companionship will cost you a lot more than a bar of chocolate or a few cigarettes. Down here it’s money that talks even when it has nothing much to say except voulez vous or s’il vous plait. Most women would prefer to spend time with Monsieur Gateau to Mister Right, although unsurprisingly these often turn out to be one and the same. Certainly, if I had a bit more cash I, too, might find myself a pretty little companion with whom to make a fool of myself and generally spoil. I’m enough of a feeble minded idiot now to be quite sure that I don’t have what nearly all women on the Cote d’Azur are looking for, unless it’s directions to Beaulieu sur Mer, or the name of the best restaurant in Cannes (it’s Da Bouttau), or perhaps a couple of spare tickets to the Municipal Opera House in Nice. We see a lot of Monsieur Gateau and the firm, greenish apple of his rheumy eye at the Grand Hotel, but he has his confrères at the nearby La Voile d’Or, a smaller, elegant hotel situated on a high peninsula overlooking the blue lagoon that is the picturesque fishing port of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. This three storey French villa - formerly the Park Hotel - was established in 1925 by an English golf champion named Captain Powell, which probably explains the old wooden putters on the walls; either that or they have a very challenging hole in the hotel’s very elegant drawing room. That’s usually where I sit down and drink gimlets and play bridge with my only three friends, twice a week, without fail.

    To be perfectly honest they’re not what most people would call friends. This is France after all and real friends are thin on the ground especially when you’re German. Besides, you don’t play bridge to make friends or to keep them either and sometimes it helps if you actively dislike your opponents. My bridge partner, Antimo Spinola, an Italian, is the manager at the municipal casino in Nice. Fortunately he’s a much better player than me, which is unfortunate for him. Our usual opponents are an English married couple, Mr and Mrs Rose, who have a small villa in the hills above Eze. I wouldn’t say I dislike either of them but they’re a typically English husband and wife, I think, in that they never seem to demonstrate much emotion, least of all for each other. I’ve seen Siamese fighting fish that were more affectionate. Mr Rose was a top heart specialist in London’s Harley Street and made a small fortune treating some Greek millionaire before he retired to the south of France. Spinola says ...

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Philip Kerr
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Book Description Quercus Publishing, United Kingdom, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The French Riviera, 1956. A world-weary Bernie Gunther is working under a false name as a hotel concierge. His attempts to keep his nose clean go horribly awry when a wartime acquaintance sucks him into a blackmail plot involving one of the most famous British writers of the 20th century and the Cambridge Spies.Bernie is missing his old detective life when his past walks through the door in the shape of Harold Hennig, a former captain in the Nazi security service - the man who, in 1945, was responsible for the deaths of thousands, among them a woman Bernie loved. Hennig now enjoys a lucrative career as a blackmailer. Hennig s target on the Cote d Azur is a famous resident with a dark past and plenty to hide - the writer, Somerset Maugham. A shared love of bridge draws Bernie to Maugham s magnificent villa, where Maugham tells him of the existence of a very compromising photograph. Taken in 1937, it shows Maugham among a group of naked men beside a swimming pool - one of whom is the infamous spy and homosexual, Guy Burgess, who, with Donald Maclean, has recently defected to Moscow. Hennig has the photograph and is demanding $50,000 for its release. Bernie is reluctant to become Maugham s agent but his former life has made him as vulnerable to blackmail as Maugham himself. Not only that - he has a massive score to settle with Hennig. Bookseller Inventory # LIB9781784295592

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Book Description Quercus Publishing, United Kingdom, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The French Riviera, 1956. A world-weary Bernie Gunther is working under a false name as a hotel concierge. His attempts to keep his nose clean go horribly awry when a wartime acquaintance sucks him into a blackmail plot involving one of the most famous British writers of the 20th century and the Cambridge Spies.Bernie is missing his old detective life when his past walks through the door in the shape of Harold Hennig, a former captain in the Nazi security service - the man who, in 1945, was responsible for the deaths of thousands, among them a woman Bernie loved. Hennig now enjoys a lucrative career as a blackmailer. Hennig s target on the Cote d Azur is a famous resident with a dark past and plenty to hide - the writer, Somerset Maugham. A shared love of bridge draws Bernie to Maugham s magnificent villa, where Maugham tells him of the existence of a very compromising photograph. Taken in 1937, it shows Maugham among a group of naked men beside a swimming pool - one of whom is the infamous spy and homosexual, Guy Burgess, who, with Donald Maclean, has recently defected to Moscow. Hennig has the photograph and is demanding $50,000 for its release. Bernie is reluctant to become Maugham s agent but his former life has made him as vulnerable to blackmail as Maugham himself. Not only that - he has a massive score to settle with Hennig. Bookseller Inventory # LIB9781784295592

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Book Description Quercus Sep 2016, 2016. Taschenbuch. Book Condition: Neu. Neuware - The French Riviera, 1956. A world-weary Bernie Gunther is working under a false name as a hotel concierge. His attempts to keep his nose clean go horribly awry when a wartime acquaintance sucks him into a blackmail plot involving one of the most famous British writers of the 20th century and the Cambridge Spies. Bernie is missing his old detective life when his past walks through the door in the shape of Harold Hennig, a former captain in the Nazi security service - the man who, in 1945, was responsible for the deaths of thousands, among them a woman Bernie loved. Hennig now enjoys a lucrative career as a blackmailer. Hennig's target on the Cote d'Azur is a famous resident with a dark past and plenty to hide - the writer, Somerset Maugham. A shared love of bridge draws Bernie to Maugham's magnificent villa, where Maugham tells him of the existence of a very compromising photograph. Taken in 1937, it shows Maugham among a group of naked men beside a swimming pool - one of whom is the infamous spy and homosexual, Guy Burgess, who, with Donald Maclean, has recently defected to Moscow. Hennig has the photograph and is demanding $50,000 for its release. Bernie is reluctant to become Maugham's agent but his former life has made him as vulnerable to blackmail as Maugham himself. Not only that - he has a massive score to settle with Hennig. 400 pp. Englisch. Bookseller Inventory # 9781784295592

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Book Description Quercus Sep 2016, 2016. Taschenbuch. Book Condition: Neu. Neuware - The French Riviera, 1956. A world-weary Bernie Gunther is working under a false name as a hotel concierge. His attempts to keep his nose clean go horribly awry when a wartime acquaintance sucks him into a blackmail plot involving one of the most famous British writers of the 20th century and the Cambridge Spies. Bernie is missing his old detective life when his past walks through the door in the shape of Harold Hennig, a former captain in the Nazi security service - the man who, in 1945, was responsible for the deaths of thousands, among them a woman Bernie loved. Hennig now enjoys a lucrative career as a blackmailer. Hennig's target on the Cote d'Azur is a famous resident with a dark past and plenty to hide - the writer, Somerset Maugham. A shared love of bridge draws Bernie to Maugham's magnificent villa, where Maugham tells him of the existence of a very compromising photograph. Taken in 1937, it shows Maugham among a group of naked men beside a swimming pool - one of whom is the infamous spy and homosexual, Guy Burgess, who, with Donald Maclean, has recently defected to Moscow. Hennig has the photograph and is demanding $50,000 for its release. Bernie is reluctant to become Maugham's agent but his former life has made him as vulnerable to blackmail as Maugham himself. Not only that - he has a massive score to settle with Hennig. 400 pp. Englisch. Bookseller Inventory # 9781784295592

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