A German passport to crime: Gunter Gerlach
Passport to Crime, last year's volume of short stories collected from the monthly feature of the same name in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, includes the excellent "Wedding in Voerde," by Gunter Gerlach, born in Leipzig and living in Hamburg. An introductory note says none of Gerlach's thirteen novels is available in English.
If "Wedding in Voerde" is any indication, that's a loss to readers of English. The story, deadpan and slapstick at the same time, relates the familiar tale of two robbers freed from prison who set out to get their share of the loot from the accomplice who avoided capture. But nothing goes quite right. Their car breaks down. One of them is constantly burning himself, falling off stolen bicycles and running into trees.
When the pair finally find the accomplice, on his wedding day, neither the accomplice nor his bride acts as anyone expects. An air of guileless confusion pervades the tale until Ullrich, the accident-prone thief, brings the end of the pair's quest within reach -- unexpectedly, of course. It's no wonder that the article cited above says that "Writers such as Jakob Arjouni, Gunter Gerlach, Roger M. Fiedler, Jörg Juretzka or Norbert Klugmann (and) Peter Matthews clinically play with stereotypes."
The story is comic, with the barest hints, rapid as musical grace notes, suggesting darker possibilities. "Wedding in Voerde" won the Friedrich Glauser prize for short fiction in 2005, according to the story's introduction. Gerlach merits mention with the great Glauser.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
German crime fiction