Who Killed Emil Kreisler? Stories by Nigel Jarrett

November 10th, 2016 § 0 comments

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We are proud to announce the publication of our (drum roll) 29th publication: Who Killed Emil Kreisler?  by Nigel Jarrett. An intriguing title, and the genesis of the title story is explained by Nigel below. But first, this is what you need to know:

Nigel_Jarret-9780956892119-Perfect.inddPostcards from a dead woman; a tale told in letters, centred on a strange musical instrument; the journey of Bismarck’s helmet … In Who Killed Emil Kreisler? Nigel Jarrett takes the reader through centuries and across continents to places well beyond their comfort zone.

Jarrett’s stories take seemingly ordinary or innocent situations and gently tease out their emotional complexity.

Lesley McDowell, The Independent on Sunday

Who Killed Emil Kreisler?  costs £12 plus p&p. Order two or more books from Cultured Llama and p&p is free.

Nigel Jarrett also designed the striking cover image for the book (overall cover design by Mark Holihan). A man of many talents. Here is what he has to say about the title story of Who Killed Emil Kreisler?

Only twice have I ever been tempted to fictionalise something that really happened. On the second occasion, it resulted in the title story of my new collection, Who Killed Emil Kreisler? It was based on the bizarre (and tragic) death of the composer Anton Webern in 1945. Webern was visiting his brother-in-law, a black-marketeer, just before a curfew was to be imposed by the occupying Americans. On his way out to light a cigar, he was confronted by an US army cook, Raymond Norwood Bell, who was on guard duty after drinking, and precipitately shot the composer dead. Bell survived the war but expired in 1955, an alcoholic and full of remorse.

Before the worldwide web soaked up every fact ever known about the world and made it instantly accessible, the incident was a footnote in the history of music. But even in that fugitive state I found it incredibly moving. Its power as an inspiration for fiction lay in its extra-particular dimension: the idea of a soldier knowing that he’d killed someone famous in battle. Who was the sniper, I wondered, whose unerring bullet had done for the poet Wilfred Owen on the Sambre-Oise Canal on November 4, 1918? Did he survive the war? And did he, unlike Bell, become lost along with his victim in the uproar and clamour of war and its imminent end, never knowing specifically whom he’d shot – one of many, no doubt? I cannot get out of my mind the image circumscribed in his sights, as the poet moves inexorably, silently, into the telescope’s reticule of fine hairs, like a fly in a spider’s web. Bell, of course, would have had to account for himself.

Since I first learned of the circumstances of Webern’s death, the internet has become full of information about the story, to the extent of Bell’s family and friends defending the poor wretch against a swathe of opprobrium. The Webern family’s pain, of course, was no more and no less than that experienced by one mourning an uncelebrated and unsung relative.

I decided on a ventriloquised piece in the first person, depicting how mixed up and tormented Bell must have been. I set the semi-literate narrator down in the mid-West, maybe a prairie so vast one could sense the parameters of the world. I also researched and employed some Western terms, such as ‘freshet’, meaning a river in spate. Anyway, there it is: a short take, almost a piece of flash fiction. It seemed sufficient for portraying a man’s ineradicable anxiety. As a music critic, I was also attracted to other aspects of the Webern incident.

The first story I wrote based on fact doesn’t appear in the collection but is also set in wartime. I read a newspaper NIB (news in brief paragraph) about a concentration camp survivor who’d been known for cultivating flowers, red salvias, outside his hut, and had reached one hundred years of age. The collection’s other stories, I hope, also reflect the imaginative and geographical range of the title.

Who Killed Emil Kreisler?  costs £12 plus p&p. Order two or more books from Cultured Llama and p&p is free.

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