Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Night falls on the Berlin of the Roaring Twenties

Night falls on the Berlin of the Roaring TwentiesNight falls on the Berlin of the Roaring Twenties by Various
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My initial desire to read this comes out of a snail-mail roleplaying game project that I am currently undertaking (using the De Profundis RPG rules, among others). The idea is to immerse myself into the Berlin of 1933, triangulating this book with Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu supplement, Berlin: The Wicked City (speaking of which, I need to buy myself a hard copy of that one!) and the Trail of Cthulhu supplement Bookhounds of London. I am just starting the actual play of the game, so we shall see how it goes. Getting people on the same page (so to speak) for a snail mail RPG is like herding cats, especially when you have several talented people with wide ranging interests and responsibilities. But I want to game with interesting people, so I sometimes have to deal with the "stop and start" a bit.

Whether you RPG or not (and if not, why not?), Night Falls on the Berlin of the Roaring Twenties is well worth your time and hard-earned cash. It is a Taschen book, which already qualifies it as "good," and it's one of the better Taschen books I've read, which is saying a lot. It is part graphic novel, part educational text, like the old Dorling Kindersley books, but for adults. And it IS only for adults! Nothing is held back in this expose of the roaring '20s. Nothing. So, please, don't let your kids go thumbing through this unless you want them asking "Mom, what's BDSM?" or "Dad, why are they all naked?"

On the other hand, with nothing held back, there's a lot to like here. There are several one page (or sometimes longer) biographies of notable people of Berlin from Marlene Dietrich to Max Ernst to Bertolt Brecht to Albert Einstein and a slew of others you've never heard of, from the police to the underworld, composers to criminals, politicians to prostitutes, it's all here. There are sections on the movies, hotels, traffic, airport, festivals, and brothels of Berlin, noting their features and, oftentimes, events that unfolded at each.

But this is not just a history book, it is a book of cultural unfolding, decadence, and collapse. Its scale is epic, for a work about one city in one decade. This focus provides an immersive experience for the reader. The inclusion of a CD with several recordings of songs from the period help in the immersion, an unholy baptism into the wicked city. You may come to this volume an agnostic, but you'll leave a believer!

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