Frank Heller and England

1st June 2021 (18:00 - 19:15)
Zoom London W1H 2AG

Frank Heller in England

Frank Heller was the pen name of the Swedish writer Gunnar Serner (1886 – 1947), who wrote adventure books, many of which were set in England. Gunnar had a chequered past and Professor Wilhelm Engström, a member of the Anglo-Swedish Society in Gothenburg and of the Frank Heller Society, will give a talk about the man who was considered Sweden’s foremost adventure writer in the 1920s and 1930s. Prof. Engstöm is the editor and co-author of a new collection of stories entitled “Frank Heller and England”.

Please use this Zoom link to access the Talk (6pm UK time):

Gunnar Serner (1886-1947), better known under his pen name Frank Heller, was a promising academic with high aspirations. At the age of 23 he obtained his PhD in English literature at the University of Lund. However, he had expensive habits and was fond of partying – which was common among students and younger academics in Lund at that time – and this left him in debt and hounded by banks and creditors. In a desperate attempt to solve his financial problems he cashed two forged cheques and fled Sweden. His first port of call was London but he was soon recognized by a former acquaintance and fearing the long arm of the law, he again made a run for it at great haste, this time to Monte Carlo. His dreams of financial independence through spinning the roulette wheel were however brutally crushed by the casino.

Impoverished and staving, he contemplated suicide as a way out of his difficulties. He desperately tried one last possibility – to make use of his pen and his command of written language. His first, rapidly produced, short adventure story was set in Monte Carlo. A Stockholm based publisher liked it and Gunnar started to earn a living. He had at last found a way to make an honest income. Other short stories, as well as a full-length novel – “The Grand Duke’s Finances” followed. By 1914, he had established himself as a reputable author whose books were well received by reviewers. Some of his best plots were set in England. His first collection of stories, “Mr Collin’s affairs in London” was made into a film and remains one of his bestsellers.