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Philip Kerr (1956–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights

(P.B. Kerr)


Born 1956, in Scotland; Education: Law school graduate.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Henry Holt & Co., 115 W. 18th St., New York, NY 10011.


Writer. Previously worked in law, advertising, and journalism.



March Violets (also see below), Viking (London, England), 1989.

The Pale Criminal (also see below), Viking (London, England), 1990.

A German Requiem (also see below), Viking (London, England), 1991.

A Philosophical Investigation, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1992.

Berlin Noir (contains March Violets, The Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem), Penguin Books (London, England), 1993.

Dead Meat, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Gridiron, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1995, published as The Grid, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Esau, Holt (New York, NY), 1997.

A Five-Year Plan, Holt (New York, NY), 1998.

The Second Angel, Holt (New York, NY), 1999.

The Shot: A Thriller, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Dark Matter, Crown (New York, NY), 2002.

Hitler's Peace: A Novel of the Second World War, Putnam (New York, NY), 2005.


The Penguin Book of Lies (anthology), Penguin (New York, NY), 1990.

The Penguin Book of Fights, Feuds, and Heartfelt Hatreds: An Anthology of Antipathy, Penguin (London, England), 1993.


The Akhenaten Adventure, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2004.

The Blue Djinn of Babylon, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2006.


(With Robin Mukherjee) Grushko (screenplay), British Broadcasting Corporation, 1993.


Esau was optioned for film by Walt Disney Corporation; DreamWorks bought film rights to The Akhenaten Adventure.

Work in Progress

The final volume in the "Children of the Lamp" trilogy.


Philip Kerr is a British writer whose work encompasses techno-thrillers, mysteries, and science fiction—sometimes intermingled in one plot. According to Phil Baker in the London Sunday Times, Kerr "has carved out a reputation as Britain's new state-of-the-art thriller writer." In books such as Esau and The Second Angel, Kerr combines sophisticated science with action-driven plots, and in his more traditional mysteries he muses upon international politics, anti-Semitism, and nuclear proliferation. A Booklist reviewer noted that the author "asks serious questions about science and humanity's past and future…. This is genre fiction at its best."

After many years as a writer of thrillers and mysteries, Kerr surprised the publishing world in 2003 when he adpoted teh pen name P.B. Kerr and wrote the children's book The Akhenaten Adventure. The first in a proposed trilogy of novels, the book was immediately bought by Scholastic, who paid a record one million British pounds for the projected trilogy. Kerr explained to Caroline Horn in the Bookseller that he wrote for children because he wanted to get his eleven-year-old son to read: "I thought that if I could give my son a 'road to Damascus' experience he might become a reader."

The Akhenaten Adventure tells of twins John and Philippa who, while under anesthesia at the dentist's office, experience a revelation: they are really members of a tribe of djinn, or genies. The revelation leads to odd changes in the siblings: They suddenly find that they can grant wishes and have strange insights. Along with these new powers comes a need to learn how to control them. Their uncle Nimrod, also a djinn, takes the pair under his wing, but his motivation is not necessarily loving: he needs their abilities to accomplish his own ends. Meanwhile, an enemy tribe, the Iblis, are attempting to uncover the lost tomb of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten. The Iblis must be stopped or Evil will acquire great power over Good. Sharon Rawlins, writing in the School Library Journal, noted that Kerr's story has an "often humorous, fast-moving plot." A critic for Kirkus Reviews called The Akhenaten Adventure "funny and clever," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer stated that "Kerr keeps the emphasis on fun." Writing in Booklist, Jennifer Mattson admitted that "it's hard not to admire the well-crafted scaffolding that supports the fantasy," while Anita L. Burkam concluded in her Horn Book review that The Akhenaten Adventure is "an agreeable page-turner."

The Blue Djinn of Babylon is the second novel in the "Children of the Lamp" series. This installment finds John and Philippa at home, where they have promised their mother to embark on no more magical adventures. But when John is bullied at school, and Philippa is framed as a cheater, the twins use their magic to defend themselves. Worse, when the evil Blue Djinn of Babylon kidnaps Philippa, John must figure a way to defeat Kerr moves to children's literature with his adventures about twelve-year-old twins John and Philippa Gaunt, who learn that they have magical powers but must be taught how to safely use them. (Cover illustration by Petar Meseldzija.)the creature's magical powers. A critic for Kirkus Reviews called The Blue Djinn of Babylon "solidly entertaining."

Speaking to Carol Fitzgerald in an interview for KidsReads.com, Kerr explained why he made John and Philippa twins. "I think there is something special about twins," the writer stated, "something magical. In fact, ancient tribes used to think twins had power over the weather." Kerr admitted that the ending of his trilogy will be a surprise to him as much as it will be to readers. "I do not know exactly what will happen in the third book," he explained. "I think you cannot know too much about it yourself. Sometimes I do not know what is going on, which makes it more terrifying, all that not knowing what will happen in the next chapter."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Armchair Detective, fall, 1990, p. 473; summer, 1991, p. 345; winter, 1994, p. 104; fall, 1994, pp. 486-487.

Booklist, February 15, 1997, Brian Kenney, review of Esau; April 15, 1998, Brian Kenney, review of A Five-Year Plan, p. 1386; October 15, 1998, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Second Angel, p. 371; August, 2002, Frank Sennett, review of Dark Matter, p. 1930; September 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Akhenaten Adventure, p. 233; April 1, 2005, David Wright, review of Hitler's Peace: A Novel of the Second World War, p. 1325.

Bookseller, June 18, 2004, Caroline Horn, "Kerr Finds the Magical Touch for Kids," p. 35.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 2005, Timnah Card, review of The Akhenaten Adventure, p. 214.

Economist, November 10, 1990, p. 109.

Entertainment Weekly, January 8, 1999, Vanessa V. Friedman, review of The Second Angel, p. 62.

Horn Book, January-February, 2005, Anita L. Burkam, review of The Akhenaten Adventure, p. 95.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1989, pp. 720-721; February 1, 1997, review of Esau; October 1, 2004, review of The Akhenaten Adventure, p. 963; March 15, 2005, review of Hitler's Peace, p. 308; December 15, 2005, review of The Blue Djinn of Babylon, p. 1323.

Kliatt, May, 2005, Jodi L. Israel, review of The Akhenaten Adventure, p. 49.

Library Journal, April 1, 1998, Devon Thomas, review of A Five-Year Plan, p. 122; September 15, 1998, Ray Vignovich, review of A Five-Year Plan (sound recording), p. 128; November 1, 1998, Devon Thomas, review of The Second Angel, p. 126; August, 2002, Fred Fervat, review of Dark Matter, p. 143; April 15, 2005, Robert Conroy, review of Hitler's Peace, p. 74.

London Review of Books, October 11, 1990, pp. 10-12.

Maclean's, May 13, 1996, p. 49.

Magpies, March, 2005, Rayma Turton, review of The Akhenaten Adventure, p. 34.

Nation, June 7, 1993, pp. 788-800.

New Statesman & Society, October 5, 1990, p. 44; September 25, 1992, pp. 53-54.

New York Times Book Review, June 13, 1993, p. 20; May 22, 1994, p. 39; July 14, 1996, James Polk, review of The Grid; April 27, 1997, Liam Gallanan, review of Esau; February 14, 1999, Charles Flowers, "Blood on the Moon (Really!)," p. 20.

Observer, May 14, 1989, p. 50; December 6, 1992, p. 57; April 25, 1993.

People, June 3, 1996, p. 36; March 1, 1999, Cynthia Sanz, review of The Second Angel, p. 43.

Publishers Weekly, June 9, 1989, p. 56; August 16, 1991, pp. 49-50; April 25, 1994, p. 60; February 5, 1996, p. 75; April 8, 1996, pp. 43-44; March 23, 1998, review of A Five-Year Plan, p. 74; December 7, 1998, review of The Second Angel, p. 51; July 29, 2002, review of Dark Matter, p. 49; November 24, 2003, John F. Baker, "Kerr Shifts to Kids's Books," p. 10; October 4, 2004, review of The Akhenaten Adventure, p. 88; April 18, 2005, review of Hitler's Peace, p. 44.

School Librarian, summer, 2005, Joan Hamilton Jones, review of The Akhenaten Adventure, p. 90.

School Library Journal, December, 2004, Sharon Rawlins, review of The Akhenaten Adventure, p. 149; March, 2005, Jane P. Fenn, review of The Akhenaten Adventure, p. 86.

Spectator, August 28, 1993, pp. 32-33.

Sunday Times (London, England), January 2, 2000, Phil Baker, "Leaving No Fingerprints," p. 44.

Times (London, England), June 3, 1989; May 17, 1990; May 19, 1990; April 18, 1991.

Times Literary Supplement, June 29, 1990, p. 704; December 4, 1992, p. 32; June 9, 1995, p. 29.

Wall Street Journal, September 20, 1990, p. A12; May 17, 1993, p. A14.


KidsReads.com, http://www.kidsreads.com/ (October, 2004), interview with Kerr.

Philip Kerr Home Page, http://www.pbkerr.com (March 2, 2006).

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dan Jacobson Biography - Dan Jacobson comments: to Barbara Knutson (1959–2005) Biography - Personal