Ohio Connection: Born in Cincinnati suburb of Lockland
Deemed "one of the 20th century's most important writers in the English-speaking world" by the Times Literary Supplement, Thomas Berger was born in Cincinnati on July 20, 1924. Having enlisted in the Army in 1943, Berger served in Europe and was stationed with a medial unit in the first U. S. Occupation Forces in Berlin. On his return, he enrolled in the University of Cincinnati and graduated cum laude with a B.A. in 1948. In 1951, Berger left graduate school for a staff job at the New York Times Index. He also worked as an associate editor at Popular Science Monthly for a short time before committing himself enitrely to writing.
It was in 1958 that Berger channeled his wartime experiences into a semi-autobiographical novel, Crazy in Berlin. A coming-of-age tale, Crazy in Berlin features the exploits of Carlo Reinhardt, a Jewish-German-American Army medic stationed in postwar Berlin. During his deployment, he becomes acquainted with an anti-Semite who protected his Jewish wife from the Nazis; a Russian army deserter who became a capitalist and a Russian intellectual turned fascist. In three subsequent books (Reinhart in Love, Vital Parts and Reinhart's Women), readers follow the many challenges that Reinhart, now back home, faces as he struggles to cope with the new problems of suburbia.
Perhaps the best known of Berger’s novels is his 1964 book, Little Big Man. Making use of a large volume of overlooked first-person primary materials, Berger crafted a work that was praised by New York Times critic R. V. Cassill as "the best novel ever written about the American west." Little Big Man is a tale about Jack Crabbe, an 111-year-old man who regales a gullible writer with harrowing tales of daring-do. Raised by both a white man and a Cheyenne chief, Crabbe has a duality to his nature that prevents him from totally embracing one part of his heritage over the other. On, at one point or another, drinking—or shooting terms—with such folk heroes as Sitting Bull, Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and George Armstrong Custer, Crabbe holds his audience—and the reader—captive with a plethora of stories.
Two of Berger's most recent novels include Best Friends (about two life-long friends and the woman who came between them) and the Adventures of the Artificial Woman (about a technician at an animatronics firm who builds himself the “perfect” woman).