Gerald Kersh


Biography of Gerald Kersh

Gerald Kersh (1911–1968) was a British writer. Born in 1911, he began to write at the age of 8. After leaving school he worked as, amongst other things, a cinema manager, bodyguard, debt collector, fish & chip cook, travelling salesman, French teacher and all-in-wrestler whilst attempting to 'make it' as a writer.

He published his first novel Jews Without Jehovah in 1934 but in the autobiographical tale of growing up poor and Jewish had not sufficiently concealed the identities of some of the characters and a member of his family sued for libel: as a result the book was quickly withdrawn[citation needed]. Night and the City which was published in 1938 was more successful and was been filmed twice, most notably with Richard Widmark in 1950 and then in 1992 with Robert De Niro in the lead role (this version transposed the setting from London to New York).

Kersh was drafted into the army during the Second World War, and ended up writing for the Army Film Unit. Despite apparently 'deserting' Kersh ended up in France during the liberation where he discovered that many of his French relatives had ended up in Hitler's extermination camps. After the war, Kersh continued to enjoy commercial success, mainly because of his short stories, in genres such as horror, science fiction, fantasy and the detective story. From about the mid 1950s onwards he started to suffer from poor health, and financial hardship(specifically relating to his failure to pay income tax). However, Kersh continued to publish novels and stories, some of which were commercially and critically successful. In 1958, his short story "The Secret of the Bottle", originally published in The Saturday Evening Post, received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

After his death in 1968 Kersh became relatively unknown. In recent years, however, he has received some critical attention: Harlan Ellison has stated that Kersh is his favourite author. Writing to a fan, Ellison recommended Kersh, writing, "you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor." Kersh is one of eight writers commemorated in 'Compass Road', a watch design by Crispin Jones and writer Iain Sinclair.

The protagonist of his short story Whatever Happened to Corporal Cuckoo appear in the third chapter of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century. There, the character identifies himself as 'Colonel Cuckoo'.

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