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I Was Jack Mortimer (Pushkin Vertigo Crime) (Pushkin Collection) Paperback – 29 Aug 2013
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The cast of this brilliant thriller … are pure Raymond Chandler … but the Viennese setting gives it an extra, stylish twist. It's excellently written and fearsomely gripping. --The Times
Very few novels published in recent years match its daunting panache… The fast-moving, cleverly convoluted plot is brilliantly served by the sustained irony of Ignat Avsey’s witty translation… a terrific book, one to read and then urge everyone else to follow suit… a truly clever, rather wonderful book that both plays with and defies genre -- Eileen Battersby, Irish Times
About the Author
Alexander Lernet-Holenia was born in Vienna in 1897. He served in the Austro-Hungarian army in the First World War and became a protégé of Rainer Maria Rilke. During his life he wrote poetry, novels, plays and was a successful screenwriter. His uneasy relationship with the National Socialist Party resulted in his removal from prominence in 1944, but after the end of the Second World War, he again became a vital figure in Austrian cultural life. He died in 1976.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book's author Alexander Lernet-Holenia had an interesting life. As a conscript, he took part in the invasion of Poland but from this he wrote what is thought of as the only Austrian resistance novel which was banned by the government because it contained "an ideologically troubled central character, hints at the existence of active political opposition" (Wikipedia). He died in 1976 with a reputation for controversy which made him "the difficult old man of Austrian literature".
Ferdinand Sponer, a young taxi driver picks up a fare outside the railway station who wants to go to the Bristol Hotel. When he arrives at the hotel, he turns to speak to the passenger and finds him dead with a bullet hole in his throat and other wounds leaking blood into the back of his cab.
Sponer's efforts to tell the police are thwarted at every turn and realising how implausible his story is, he decides to dump the body in the Danube and forget the whole thing. Needless to say, this is where things start to go terribly wrong for Sponer. Before long, due to a convoluted series of events he finds himself taking on the identity of the dead man (thus the title of the book). I have to admire the author's inventiveness as the story takes off on a wildly erratic route, with surprises at every turn.
The book has been filmed twice, once in the 1939s and again in 1952, but both times in the German language.Read more ›
Who is the man in the back of the taxi? How can he be dead, shot in the throat, on arrival at his destination? Can the young driver find out the truth before he is arrested and charged with the murder? Will he be helped or betrayed by the woman he loves or by the one who loves him?
What causes the hero to take on the identity of the victim?
And who really is Jack Mortimer?
This book is a nostalgic page turner, deftly translated from the German by Ignat Avsey and very stylishly produced by the Pushkin Press. It is a little treasure.
With its dry humour and sense of the absurd, Lernet-Holenia's writing reminded me at times of Antal Szerb or Jiri Weil, pitting an ordinary, unspectacular man up against forces beyong his control. The result is an enjoyable, knockabout farce that is underpinned by a subtle but powerful sense of menace. I particularly enjoyed the vivid evocation of Vienna between the wars.
My one criticism - and the reason I have only given four stars - is that it was too short. But to complain that I wanted more is always the sign of a good read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an exciting tale, well told, if ultimately forgettable. The author paints a gloomy picture of Vienna which suits the dark mood of the story. Nice unexpected twist.Published 23 months ago by P. Waldron
This is a good yarn and a very easy read. Slightly surreal but oddly believable in a way. I recommend it.Published on 10 May 2014 by Patrick Stephens