Northern lights of crime fiction

As everyone surely knows by now ;-), I was given a subscription to The Bookseller for Christmas, even though I am not of that trade. The magazine has a website, much of which seems to be free. Some content from the printed magazine is not on the website (visible to me), which I find surprising, given that the magazine I work for is less than half the price of The Bookseller, has about twice as many (or more) pages per week, and gives you not only full access to the magazine online, but also lots of additional online-only information. This preamble is to say that I finally got around to finishing an article in last week's (6 February) issue, pp 24-25,  "Northern Lights", introduced thus: "The latest surge of Scandinavian novels is leading a crime-in-translation boom from across the continent. Roger Tagholm puts the new trend under the microscope and looks at why murder from Europe is so appealing".

It is a good, solid article (despite the lazy if understandable choice of a big picture of Kenneth Branagh as Wallander), leading with Danish author Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow in 1993 (so good until the last quarter, in my view) and the critical role of Christopher MacLehose (interviewed for the feature), then of Harvill, now with his own imprint at Quercus (most famous for Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, but publishing many other excellent titles). The article touches on Henning Mankell, and other Swedish, Icelandic, Italian, Greek, German and Polish authors familiar to readers of Euro Crime.

Authors who get particular shout-outs include Simone van der Vlught, whose novel The Reunion is published in the UK in March, and who is compared with Ruth Rendell; Mari Jungstedt, Stieg Larsson, Yrsa Sigurdadottir (whose second novel My Soul to Take is coming out in April, and who will be at Crime Fest and Harrogate this year), and K. O. Dahl.  Other authors are mentioned, too. Scandinavia, and Sweden in particular, is said to dominate the UK's taste for European translated crime fiction, and the article addresses some reasons for this – the assassination of Olaf Palme and the "disappointed" society that emerged – epitomised by Hakan Nesser (another 2009 Crime Fest attendee). Pleasingly, Christopher MacLehose awards credit to Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo as "the mother and father of the Scandinavian crime resurgence……They had a detective who was the original melancholy, alcoholic, divorced, music-lover, just like Morse, just like Wallander."

Arcadia books, publisher of award-winning Dominique Manotti, are also covered in the feature, as is Andrea Camilleri, author of the much loved (by me and fellow-European crime fiction fans) Salvo Montalbano books. (The article does not dig a little deeper and discover the"father" of those Italian books, the Spanish author Manuel Vazquez Montalban, after whom Camilleri's main character was named.) The success of all these novels is attributed by MacLehose to "an increasingly globalised world due to the internet and the greater number of people travelling and working abroad". National bodies such as Norwegian Literature Abroad play a significant part. But, above all, these books are "wonderfully good stories", says MacLehose. "Do I think that books, or crime in particular, will defeat the recession and come out on top, more than fur coats and caviar, as it were? Yes I do."

If anyone is interested in reading the whole two-page article, please drop a line in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Northern lights of crime fiction

  1. Thanks, I’ll see what I can do on Monday! Martin – I am looking forward to The Reunion – I have a premonition that it might be a competition prize at Euro Crime soon, in which case it is definitely one I am going to enter.

  2. Hi Maxine,
    Please send a copy of the “Northern Lights” article.
    Thanks so much.

  3. I do wish magazines offered more of their content online–I can certainly understand that they don’t want to give it away for free, but even teasers of new books would be appreciated. As an alternative, I just look for new books on blogs. I’ve just started reading Yrsa Sigurdadottir’s first book and will look for her new one as well. Anything compared to Ruth Rendell will be something I look for as well–thanks for the heads up as that’s a new one to me. Thanks for the suggestions. If there is anyway I could read that article, I’d love it. And I must give Andrea Camilleri a try as well….

  4. Thanks, Peter. Your blog looks very interesting too, happy to add it to the blogroll next time I update it.

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