There were lots of lovely things about being at CrimeFest for a few days – but for me there were three special highlights. First was spending time with the friends I have made online: Karen of Euro Crime, Norman of Crime Scraps, Michelle of the University of Leeds (an old friend and now Euro Crime reviewer), and the very charming Martin Edwards and Michael Walters – two authors who have addictive blogs and gamely participate in our online shenanigans. There is something rather special about meeting online friends and associates in real life.
Second was the marvellous interview with Michael Connelly, which exceeded any expectations I might have had in advance, and if possible increased my admiration for this superb author. For me, the meeting was worth attending for that alone. What an inspiration, in so many ways.
But here I want to talk about a third highlight, the 'crime in translation' session, ably moderated by Ann Cleeves. It was wonderful to hear Ros Schwartz, Tiina Nunnally, Steven T. Murray (Reg Keeland) and Don Bartlett talking about their art. Tiina translated the book which started the English-speaking people's interest in Scandinavian crime fiction in a serious way – Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, by Peter Hoeg, which I vividly recall reading many years ago. Since then she's translated books by Karin Fossum and Mari Jungstedt, among many others. It was a delight to hear her intelligent analysis of the translator's work, which she likened to that of an interprative actor or a musician. She has just translated The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard, which she recommends. Steven T Murray has translated Henning Mankell, Helene Tursten, Camilla Lackberg, Karin Alvtegen and others, perhaps most famously Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy. He and the audience had fun with the "holes" in Larsson's books. But certain Euro Crime representatives in the audience rapidly admitted to being extremely taken with the fourth member of the panel, Don Bartlett, who translates Jo Nesbo. Don held us enthralled as he spoke about the challenges of translating Nesbo's books out of order, and the problems with continuity – he and the book's editor have a large chart and spend much time ensuring that the names, dates and seasons all work. Why are the books translated out of order? The publishers like to start with the one that does well in the home country, wherever in a series the book sits. This is particularly sad in the case of Nesbo, who has written a tragic trilogy nested in his main series, and which was spectacularly marred for English-language readers by its bizarre publishing order.
Hakan Nessar, the Swedish author, told us fascinating stories and provided sharp insights about his writing life. In person he is as funny as his books – a dry, definite and slightly impatient humour which pervades his Van Veeteren series (also translated out of order!).
Hakan, Don, Steven and Tiina were all such a pleasure to listen to, and were so generous with their time outside the sessions. It was a delight for me to hear and meet them, and I hope very much that more translators and "authors in translation" will feature at future crime-fiction festivals.
Thanks to Adrian, Myles and their colleagues for organising such an enjoyable meeting.