bordering on brilliant

Somehow (“d’oh!” to quote the philosopher Homer Simpson) in my last catch-up post I left out several links I meant to include to Peter Rozovsky’s Detectives Beyond Borders, which consistently offers thoughtful and interesting commentary on crime fiction from around the world and kicks up equally interesting conversation with smart readers.

So to make up for that omission, here are some recent posts from his blog that strike a Nordic note:

Scandinavian Crime Writing Goes to School – a heads-up about a recently published book (which is on order at our library thanks to a previous heads-up from the folks who bring us the immensely valuable Euro Crime.

Were Sjöwall and Wahlöö the Last Romantics? – in which Peter proves that it is possible to ask deeply probing and exciting questions in the humanities without resorting to speaking in secret codes and parsing peas to their atomic state. I wish the state of humanities scholarship were generally so fascinating and worthwhile. Not to mention fun.

The Hero in the Bathtub – in which Peter spots a reference to Chandler in a Martin Beck story (with cognac) and answers a question previously asked with the statement (suitable for framing): “If you know what a character likes to read, he’s your protagonist.”

Colin Dexter on Sjöwall, Wahlöö, and Swedish Sex – in which Peter spots a particularly insightful pair of comments in the smart introductions to the republished Martin Beck series, that they are surprisingly funny and that “sex plays only a very small part in the novel; and what sex we do find is handled with an almost serene simplicity.”  To which Peter adds, “and if that isn’t a beautifully sane (and accurate) assessment, I don’t know what is.”

In Adverbs of Gloom, or Humor in Nordic Writing Peter again points out that the  reputation for characters acting gloomy, dour, despairing, or depressed, with every associated adverb signaling their existential angst, there is an equal amount of understated humor. And, after much study, Peter has discovered one thing that Martin Beck’s creators did not do well: routine description in the case of Beck’s trip to Budapest (“potted history and travel-guide boilerplate”) – which made me think of the excessive and sometimes Wikipedia-toned explanations found in Stieg Larsson’s work.

Bread, Butter and Crime – in which Peter spots a mention of a margarine advertisement and annotates its appearance in The Man on the Balcony. And makes me think that, though the new introductions to the Martin Beck books are brilliant, I would love to have a Crime Fiction Annotated collection of everything Peter has ever read. I learn more from his riffs of a few lines of a book than from a dozen full-scale book reviews.

Which finally takes me back to Who is the Hero in a Sjöwall and Wahlöö Novel? – which I did note in a previous round-up as a typically smart and thought-provoking post. All of which is to say you probably should be reading Detectives Beyond Borders if you’re interested in Scandinavian crime fiction, or crime fiction from any part of the world beyond US borders – or simply in intelligent commentary on the genre.