I was Jack Mortimer by Alexander Lernet-Holenia


I was Jack Mortimer by Alexander Lernet-Holenia

Austrian Fiction

Original title Ich was Jack Mortimer

Translator – Ignat Avsey

Source – Library copy


Well on of the best things about Pushkin press and one of the reasons I choose to do a fortnight dedicated to their books is perfectly shown by this Novel originally published in 1933 ,we finally got to read it in English due to this translation .Alexander Lernet-Holenia was born in 1897 in Vienna ,he fought on the eastern fron in world war One and then in the inter war years became a writer ,he was a protege of the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke .He was first called up as he was still a reservist lieutenant and fought in the invasion of Poland but became wary of the Nazis and in 1941 wrote a book called the Blue Hour describe as the only Austrian resistance novel .He spent war trying to avoid combat and prison but after the war he grew to be a well Known figure in Austrian culture .

During that evening and the next morning .Spooner found out from the doormen in Allergasse and from the head waiter of the nearby Cafe Attache ,but in particular from a commissonare who used to sit either on the street corner or in a bar opposite ,under a sign with two white horses that the girl was called Marisabelle Von Raschitz .

Spooner tries to find the girl he gave a ride to in his cab .

The book follows Viennese Taxi driver Fredinad Spooner ,as over course of one November he gets drawn into a strange and dark world .He has a girlfriend, but he  has fallen for a girl he gave  a ride too and tries to find her and to try to catch her eye he drawn into a dark world as a few days late he picks up a ride that ends up dead in his cab this ride turns out to be the Jack Mortimer of the title .Spooner sees he has a hotel room reserved and thus he decides to  assumes the identity of this man ,with out even know who he really is .and because he Spooner is nervous of what may happen when the body is discovered in his cab .But who was Jack Mortimer and why is he in Vienna ? and why is he dead ?

He took the dead man’s belongings out of his pockets and put them out on the table .They ,too ,were wet to some extent ,and only the passport ,wallet and the letters ,which had been in the breast pocket ,had stayed almost dry

He opened the passport

And what did he find Spooner in this collection from the dead man in his cab


I Loved this book the feel is like a mix of what I love best of the Austrian fiction of the time a sort psychological tale of what drives people a sort Freudian look at Spooner why he does what he does    and the best of Noir america, the sort of  adventure when a unexpected door opens  by the finding of the body and how it draws Spooner into a darker world around him .I wasn’t surprised to find out it had also been film twice .In fact one of the main things I left the book with was a feel for a film I saw many years ago in fact I blame mention of Patricia Highsmith (some one I not read enough off )and a film by the German director Wim Wenders called American friend a version of the  Highsmith Book Ripley’s game and that sees the characters drawn into a dark world the darker side of Hamburg in that case .Another triumph from Pushkin press I hope to go back and try other books by this writer as I like his style that seems more american than his fellow writers at the time .

Have you read this writer ?

What gems from Pushkin press have you found ?


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lizzysiddal
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 18:06:12

    Duly added to wishlist. It sounds fantastic!


  2. Guy Savage
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 19:40:01

    I just read this, and while I liked it, it had a certain anti-climatic feel to it


  3. Caroline
    Nov 13, 2013 @ 08:30:18

    This sounds intriguing. I haven’t read this author and, like Lizzy, will put it on the wish list.


  4. 1streading
    Nov 13, 2013 @ 23:11:08

    I recently read The Spectre of Alexander Wolf and liked that. I look forward to trying this next!


  5. Max Cairnduff
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 14:32:11

    Hm, your description tempts me a bit more than Guy’s did. The Freudian noir angle sounds interesting. It still sounds arguably a somewhat slight work, but a fun one.

    Did you get the anti-climactic feel that Guy did?


  6. Mel u
    Nov 21, 2013 @ 22:22:54

    I have added this book to my list of books by authors from Vienna.

    I agree Pushkin Press is a great resource.


  7. Mel u
    Nov 25, 2013 @ 13:10:00

    I just finished it. Over all I liked it for the atmosphere of Vienne Noir. I thought the parts set in the American west and for sure in Mexico were a lot weaker. The author knew only what he saw in the movies is my guess but for sure worth reading


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November 2013


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