|Gerald Kersh (1911-1968), English novelist and short story writer, was born into a Jewish family living in Teddington. At the age of 2, he was pronounced dead of lung congestion, but recovered. At 8 he wrote his first story. He attended the Regent Street Polytechnic, but left before completing school.|
Kersh worked as a cinema manager, bodyguard, debt collector, fish & chip cook, travelling salesman, French teacher and all-in-wrestler before the publication of his first novel, Jews Without Jehovah, about a Jewish family in London. The book was withdrawn after relatives filed libel suits. More successful was his book about lowlife ponce Harry Fabian: Night and the City (1938). Harry Fabian is a small-time Soho gangster who eventually turns white slave trader.
In WWII Kersh joined the Coldstream Guards, but was invalided out with an injury in 1941. He returned to the front in 1945 as a journalist and succeeded in tracing some members of his family. Later he wrote about Belsen, and made his first visit to the USA, where he was abled to sell some articles. He eventually emigrated there after a brief period of residence in Barbados. Meanwhile, he wrote comedies for the BBC and scripts for the Army Film Unit. Under the name Piers England he wrote leaders for The People from 1940 until 1946, and then turned his hand to novels. He married Alice Thompson Rostrom in 1938, Clare Alyne Pacaud in 1943 and Florence Sochis in 1955.
Prelude to a Certain Midnight (1947), is about the hunt for a child-murderer in Soho. The Song Of The Flea (1948) is about a writer, The Thousand Deaths Of Mr Small (1950) about a nervous breakdown. His wrote an SF novel, The Great Wash (1953) aka Secret Masters. After settling in New York State he wrote Fowlers End (1957) about the cinema proprietor Sam Yudenow. He also received an Edgar for his short story "The Mystery Of The Bottle" about the disappearance of writer Ambrose Bierce.
Men Are So Ardent (1936)
Night and the City (1938) aka Dishonor
The Nine Lives of Bill Nelson (1942)
The Dead Look on (1943)
A Brain and Ten Fingers (1943)
Faces in a Dusty Picture (1944)
Sergeant Nelson of the Guards (1945)
An Ape, a Dog and a Serpent (1945)
The Weak and the Strong (1945)
Prelude to a Certain Midnight (1947)
The Song of the Flea (1948)
The Thousand Deaths of Mr Small (1950) aka the Secret Masters
Fowlers End (1957)
The Weak and the Strong (1959)
The Implacable Hunter (1961)
A Long Cool Day in Hell (1965)
The Angel and the Cuckoo (1966)
Gerald Kersh was born in Teddington-on-Thames, near London, in 1911. He left school and took on a series of jobs—salesman, baker, fish-and-chips cook, nightclub bouncer, freelance newspaper reporter—and at the same time was writing his first two novels. His career began inauspiciously with the release of his first novel, Jews Without Jehovah, published when Kersh was 25: the book was withdrawn after only 80 copies were sold when Kersh’s relatives brought a libel suit against him and his publisher. He gained notice with his third novel, Night and the City (1938) and for the next thirty years published numerous novels and short story collections, including the novel Fowlers End (1957), which some critics, including Harlan Ellison, believe to be his best.
Kersh fought in the Second World War as a member of the Coldstream Guards before being discharged in 1943 after having both his legs broken in a bombing raid. He traveled widely before moving to the United States and becoming an American citizen, because “the Welfare State and confiscatory taxation make it impossible to work over there, if you’re a writer.”
Kersh was a larger than life figure, a big, heavy-set man with piercing black eyes and a fierce black beard, which led him to describe himself proudly as “villainous-looking.” His obituary recounts some of his eccentricities, such as tearing telephone books in two, uncapping beer bottles with his fingernails, bending dimes with his teeth, and ordering strange meals, like “anchovies and figs doused in brandy” for breakfast. Kersh lived the last several years of his life in the mountain community of Cragsmoor, in New York, and died at age 57 in 1968 of cancer of the throat.