Few writers are as agile at manipulating the conventions of the novel form as Thomas Louis Berger, the son of Thomas Charles and Mildred (Bubbe) Berger. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946, mainly in Germany, an experience that is reflected in Crazy in Berlin, the first of the four Reinhart series novels. After World War II, Berger graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1948 and did graduate work at Columbia University. In 1950, he married Jeanne Redpath, and during the 1950’s he earned his living as an editor, working for The New York Times Index and Popular Science Monthly. In 1962, he was named a Dial Fellow for Rinehart in Love, and in 1965 he received the Western Heritage Award and the Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Award for Little Big Man. That novel was made into a successful film in 1970. Berger often published in Esquire, and he served as that magazine’s film critic from 1972 to 1973. He has been a writer-in-residence at Kansas University anda lecturer at Yale University and the University of California at Davis.
Berger’s novels often parody various forms of the novel. The Reinhart series—Crazy in Berlin, Reinhart in Love, Vital Parts, and Reinhart’s Women—forms a kind of extended Bildungsroman. Sneaky People and The Feud are coming-of-age stories with a small-town Ohio setting, Who Is Teddy Villanova? and Killing Time employ the tough-guy detective story conventions of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Suspects takes the form of the small-town police procedural. Regiment of Women and Nowhere are dystopian novels. Little Big Man is a parody of the frontier memoir and captivity narrative told by centenarian Jack Crabb, the lone survivor of George Armstrong Custer’s “Last Stand.” A sequel, The Return of Little Big Man, reveals that Jack faked his death so that he could tell his own story. In Arthur Rex, Berger reworks his material, partly in tribute to Mark Twain and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s...
(The entire section is 882 words.)