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GERALD KERSH, JEWISH CRIME NOVELIST, LOOKS PETTINESS FULL IN THE FACE

Gerald Kerch wrote great crime novel, from which a great noir film was made: _Night and the City_. He had incredible verbal skills. He was Harlan Ellison and Michael Moorcock's favorite writer.

. One of the main characters in Night and the City is Jewish. Kersh often writes of the East End Jewish “alrightniks” from which he came. They are without any but the most artificial religious beliefs, and their real religion is their business. His first novel (aptly titled _Jews Without Jehovah_) was withdrawn after about a week on sale because his relatives, seeing themselves in the characters, sued for libel. He depicts the way they say Kaddish, visit their dead relatives' gravesites, celebrate Yom Kippur, and otherwise meld Jewish ritual into their lower middleclass milieu.

It is, remarkably, not all mordant and corrosive. Kersh’s _Fowler’s End_ is about a very unscrupulous owner of a film theater and hideous greasy spoon in what seems to be London’s most downtrodden, exploitive High Street, where every racketeer, schemer, loan shark and prostitute hang out. The theater owner is Sam Yudenow (“Jew enough"?) , and Kersh’s verbal pyrotechnics are amazing. Yudenow is a scream ("I'm the sufferer," he constantly whines); his only redeeming trait is that he never stops trying to get solvent, trying to put over a successful scam, and trying to keep people coming into his degraded establishment. “There is the Spirit of Man in this,” muses the narrator, one of Sam’s bouncers. Again, sheer perseverance is seen as something to wonder at. And it is--see Eisner's "The Building" below!

For Kersh’s eyes-wide-open anatomy of Jewish urban life, he was labeled “anti-Semitic”, “Israel hater,” or a “Jewish self-hater”. Wrong! But he is in good company, Philip Roth for example. Sam Roth, too. I'd like to be a fly on the wall if they ever met, which they did not.

Reading Kersh, I get the impression that he really is perceptive about how pulp entertainments shaped conduct among underclass people, and formed their dreams of eventual wealth and pride. At least, it seems to inform the career of Harry Fabian in _Night and the City_, and the thought processes of various characters in _Prelude to a Certain Midnight_.
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