(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Gerald Kersh wrote extensively about the underside of London society (the gamblers, hustlers, prostitutes, pimps, psychopathic killers, drug dealers, and bohemians), as well as about his military experience during World War II in the Coldstream Guards. Effective as some of his writing is in these areas, Kersh will most likely be remembered for his highly imaginative and very diverse mystery stories. His body of fiction—some twenty novels, approximately fifteen volumes of short stories, a number of uncollected fiction pieces—though quite uneven, contains many eloquent and highly polished passages and some that approach brilliance. In spite of a modest formal education, he was well-read and possessed of enormous curiosity about the world and its past history. At his best, Kersh suggests the verbal dexterity and aphoristic deftness of a variety of masters of English prose style: Oliver Goldsmith, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and O. Henry. Occasionally too, when Kersh is in particularly good literary form, a hilarious comic sequence may suddenly appear, calling attention to the wide range of his literary talents. Through a number of well-crafted short stories and at least one brilliantly wrought novel, The Great Wash (1953; published in the United States as The Secret Masters), Kersh brought new distinction to the tradition of the mystery story.