Well, here’s a thing.
I finally decided to mop up some early Philip Kerr titles and get stuck into #4, A Quiet Flame.
Nowhere to be found. Plenty of places had it listed, but listed as unavailable. So, I took a chance on eBay (I think it was) and lo! It arrived today and is as good as new. Actually, unless I’ve gone blind and lost my sense of touch, it is new.
From the catalogue pictures, I thought it was in the same style as the other Philip Kerr paperbacks I’ve bought over the years (with the intention of laying them in and reading them in order, you see). However, in ‘real life’ I thought “I’ve seen that somewhere before, I wonder…”
Well, yes, I have indeed seen it somewhere before. In my hands while I was reading it and on my shelves when I’d finished it. It was of course, a David Downing book – one of his excellent Station series.
This one. Though it could be them all. Well, this one has the same, the very same, not similar, the very same, man walking away from the viewer, though it was the ‘burned’ edges that first had me reaching towards the old bookshelves over there. As David Downing’s version(s) came out first, I’m thinking that his were the first to use this visual theme (it is possible to get them all in this style, a re-print of the original, if my copy of Zoo Station is anything to go by) and while Philip Kerr was writing and publishing his stories at the same time as David Downing, the later style of Philip Kerr’s, are different, or more different than this A Quiet Flame. However, something seems to have happened at the marketing department – my guess is that David Downing’s have sold in Europe, better than Philip Kerr’s. I say ‘in Europe’ as there are a series of quite dreadful ‘Bernie Gunther’ covers which seem to be aimed at the US market. I haven’t checked to see if they have ‘a novel’ printed on the front (in case you thought you were buying a packet of birdseed), which, apart from truly appalling design and typography which went out with the Ark, or the 1960’s, whichever came first, is usually the sign that you’ve got hold of a US version by accident.
But look here – the same burned edges, the same bloke – exactly – different background. Even the typo is in the same sans-serif ballpark. It looks as if Philip Kerr’s people have tried to distance the two, by throwing some money at the finishing, his name and the title are embossed and glossy and someone has tried a subtle shadow on the title along with a hideous blue tint all over. .
See here (from left to right) a later Philip Kerr in the Bernie Gunther series, this one and David Downing #2 in the Station series.
I suppose, if you’re wondering well why not? You perhaps aren’t (yet) aware that both the Bernie Gunther and the Station series, are set, or begin, before, during and after World War II. Philip Kerr’s stretch a lot later than David Downing’s, but A Quiet Flame is set well within the same timeframe as David Downing’s. OK, the Philip Kerr’s have has a bloke on them previously, but not the very same bloke.
Bottom line: Wouldn’t it be smart if we confused people. Wouldn’t it be great if we could swing on the best-selling David Downing’s coat-tails with the Philip Kerr’s?!
Make ’em look similar. Job’s a good-un!
There ya go.
You can buy Silesian Station here.