Perutz, the son of a Prague industrialist, lived in Vienna as a free-lance writer after World War I, in which he served as an officer. After the Anschluss in 1938 he emigrated to Erez Israel. In his vivid historical novels Perutz displays the visionary power and technical skill of the born storyteller.
His works which have a fantastic and eerie quality, include one about Hernando Cortez, Die dritte Kugel (1915); Zwischen neun und neun (1918; From Nine to Nine, 1927), set in Prague; the prizewinning Der Marques de Bolibar (1920; The Marquis de Bolivar, 1926); Der Meister des juengsten Tages (1923; The Master of the Day of Judgement, 1929); Turlupin (1924), on Richelieu and his age; Wohin rollst du, Aepfelchen? (1928; Where Will You Fall?, 1930), set in postwar Vienna and Soviet Russia; and Der schwedische Reiter (1936). The last novel published during the author's lifetime, Nachts unter der steinernen Bruecke (1953), evokes the Prague of Rudolf II; Der Judas des Leonardo, set in the Milan of Ludovico Sforza, appeared in 1959. Perutz' short stories were collected in Der Kosak und die Nachtigall (1927) and Herr, erbarme dich meiner (1930). His plays such as Die Reise nach Pressburg (1930) and Morgen ist Feiertag (1936), were less successful.