It is believed that Gerald Kersh was born in Teddington-on-Thames, Middlesex, England, on August 6, 1911, although some accounts give his birth date as June 8, 1909. His parents were Leon Kersh, a Russian, and Lea Miller Kersh, who was Jewish. He wrote his first story at the age of seven and succeeded in publishing his fourth literary effort, a novel—Jews Without Jehovah (1934)—while in his mid-twenties. An individual who always prided himself on his prodigious physical strength, Kersh almost died at the age of three from complications after a bout with measles; given up for dead by his parents, he spontaneously recovered.
Oddly, considering the broad reading background his fiction reveals, Kersh suspended formal education on leaving secondary school. Concerned with earning a living, he worked at many different jobs, as a salesperson, wrestler, baker, and bouncer—among others. During this time, the energetic Kersh resumed his education, at an extension school (the Regent Street Polytechnic), concurrently teaching himself to become a writer. He published several novels during the 1930’s. In late 1939, he joined the Coldstream Guards, remaining there until the early 1940’s; after a narrow escape from death in a bombing raid, he was removed from active duty. Kersh then joined the Ministry of Information’s Films Division and served as war correspondent for the United States War Department. He also wrote for a Labour Party newspaper and published ten books, including two about his beloved Coldstream Guards.
After the war, Kersh continued to publish: collections of mystery stories and novels of London’s sleazy underworld, lower class, and raffish social misfits. In 1958, he won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award for his short story “The Secret of the Bottle.” Kersh was married three times: to Alice Thompson Rostron in 1938, to Claire Alyne Pacaud in 1943, and to Florence Sochis in 1955. Resenting the British welfare state and what he considered its confiscatory taxation, Kersh lived in the United States between 1950 and 1952 and again in the last years of his life. He died of throat cancer in Middletown, New York, on November 5, 1968.