Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Kersh, Gerald

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(1911-1968) UK writer active in several genres from the 1930s, beginning with the family chronicle Jews Without Jehovah (1934); he was most famous for novels of London like Night and the City (1938) and Fowler's End (1957 US), and for WWII tales like They Die with their Boots Clean (1941). His sf was restricted to some short stories and to The Great Wash (1953; vt The Secret Masters 1953 US), though the Secret-Masters plot of this novel – involving a planned inundation of the world – is built on a Fantasies-of-History assumption that the Masters are already in place to benefit from a second Flood. Other novels – like The Weak and the Strong (1945), set in an unnatural-seeming Underground venue, and An Ape, a Dog, and a Serpent: A Fantastic Novel (1945), about the fantasy world of moviemaking – have slim elements of fantasy.

Short fantasies and Supernatural Fictions appeared throughout his career, the later years of which were darkened by ill-health and drink. Individual volumes of note include: I Got References (coll 1938), which contains "Comrade Death"; Selected Stories (coll 1943; cut vt The Battle of the Singing Men 1944 chap), both versions of which contain "The Extraordinarily Horrible Dummy", a tale of Possession that appears also in The Horrible Dummy and Other Stories (coll 1944) and was filmed as Dead of Night (1945); Clean, Bright and Slightly Oiled (coll 1946), mostly associational; Neither Man Nor Dog (coll 1947), which includes the Posthumous Fantasy "In a Room without Walls"; Sad Road to the Sea (coll 1947), which contains the Ghost Story "The Scene of the Crime"; Clock without Hands (coll 1949); The Brazen Bull (coll 1952); The Brighton Monster and Others (coll 1953), whose title story sees a Japanese man cast back centuries by nuclear Timeslip and thought a Monster, and which contains also "Whatever Happened to Corporal Cuckoo", whose protagonist – though made immortal (> Immortality) by a Potion – is incapable of benefiting from his condition; Guttersnipe: Little Novels (coll 1954); Men Without Bones (coll 1955; different selection with the same title 1962 US), which contains "The Oxoxoco Bottle", about a purported Ambrose Bierce manuscript describing a Lost Race; The Ugly Face of Love (coll 1960), which contains "River of Riches"; The Terribly Wild Flowers (coll 1962); More Than Once Upon a Time (coll 1964); and The Hospitality of Miss Tolliver (coll 1965). Two US compilations usefully present fantasy material: On an Odd Note (coll 1958 US) and Nightshade and Damnations (coll 1968 US) ed Harlan Ellison. The Best of Gerald Kersh (coll 1960) is also useful. [JC]

Gerald Kersh


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.