catching up and a backlash of sorts

News from Norway: The Cockroaches (Harry Hole #2) and Headhunters (stand alone) has recently been sold to Harvill Secker in the UK, according to Jo Nesbo’s agency.

Nancy O reviews The Stone Murders by Matti Joensuu published in English by St. Martin’s in 1987. She gives it high marks, particularly as a first in a series.

The Stone Murders is not really a mystery, because the criminals are revealed right away to be young men from extremely dysfunctional families and backgrounds.  It is more of a police procedural, but at the same time, Joensuu interweaves into the story a brief look at the problems of 1980s Helsinki: child abuse, alcoholism, prostitution, and teen gangs that have no respect for anyone (especially the police, who fear them), to name a few. There’s also a look at the police force itself — the ridiculous bureaucracy, the lack of officers to handle the ongoing crime problems, and the ineptitude of a few who are supposed to be in charge of others. Joensuu also offers a look into Harjunpaa’s personal life, which as things get worse for this particular case, becomes his safe haven. . . . Readers of Scandinavian crime fiction will enjoy this, as will anyone who likes a good police procedural.

Norm (aka Uriah) does some deducting of his own while analyzing the International Dagger winners over past years. Pretty charts included.

“Euroman” complains that Scandinavian crime fiction writing associations – the folks who award prizes and promote the genre – seem to be less excited about the popularity of the success of their compatriots than everyone else and have sadly neglected Websites.

And finally, the Larsson reports:

The National Post is one of a bazillion news outlets reporting that we can soon buy a boxed set of the Millennium Trilogy, a book about the books, and e-mail exchanges between author and editor. What next, Salander-themed towels and sheets?

This week court must be in session; a number of dissenting opinions on Stieg Larsson are being handed down. Two come from the Huffington Post. Ilana Teitelbaum finds it boring, poorly structured, and thinks the violence against women is exploitative thriller business as usual – and suspects the violence itself is what makes it so popular. Lev Raphael agrees, but acknowledges he’s not a fan of Scandinavian crime fiction (“they just haven’t been my beer, as the Germans say in general”) and is skeptical of books that are packaged by publishers and reps as blockbusters. And Tiger Beatdown’s columnist “the rejectionist” takes issue with the level of violence and questions whether Larsson really was a man who hates men who hates women or if he’s just a typical thriller writer making use of violence against women in a tried-and-true way.

Reading Salander as a feminist icon for our times is a pretty challenging endeavor. About the best thing you can say about her is that, unlike Larsson’s other characters, she at least has some depth.

People who write about dead ladies make a shit-ton of money (see: Patterson, James; Cornwell, Patricia; Koontz, Dean; &c ad nauseum). Even more people want to read about dead ladies than want to write about them; which, as a lady, stresses me out. I like murder mysteries and I like thrillers. But I am getting fucking tired of those stories revolving solely around rape and torture. Packaging that nastiness up as feminist is icing on an ugly cake. There are men who hate women: I am aware of this. Anyone who has ever tried living as a woman is aware of this. I don’t need a ten-page explicit rape scene to bring this point home; I need only to leave my house.

I am certainly curious, as I think are many ladies, as to why some men hate women so much; that, I believe, is a question worth exploring. And since ladies have had little success so far in answering it, perhaps it is time for the gentlemen to start doing some of the heavy lifting around here. But here’s a hint, fellows: writing a story about a father-son pair who dismember hundreds of women in a “private torture chamber [contrived] with great care” is not a successful answer to this question . . . The worst thing about this book is that it seems to be saying the only violence against women that counts is the kind that ends up with us dead. The rest of us, I guess, are just complaining.

The Mail has an excerpt from a book, Stieg Larsson, My Friend, by Kurdo Baksi, which includes the claim that Larsson was haunted by an event when he was a teenager: he witnessed a rape by a group of boys he knew, but didn’t intervene and was dogged by guilt. He also writes “Stieg’s global success has changed my life. I am often invited to lecture about him throughout Europe. It feels almost as if, in a most bizarre fashion, I have become an ambassador for Stieg. But I do it willingly and am happy to have him in my orbit in this way.” I’m not sure who is in who’s orbit, but never mind.

8 thoughts on “catching up and a backlash of sorts

  1. I just read this review, pretty casually, but writing down new authors, (to me), that I want to read about and search for their books, when LEV RAPHAEL’s comment hit me full force!
    “Why do some men hate women so much”.
    I, too, would like to know, especially in cases, where the killer and victim do not know each other. Random acts? Wrong place at the wrong time?
    What pushes men to violence and sadistic tortue? I guess the answers are complicated and would fill tomes, but such a short, simple statement from Mr. Raphael has my mind reeling and full of distrust for mankind. Working in an emergency room also enforces these feelings.

    • I wonder too, though as much about the non-stranger violence, because it’s so much more common. I once tried reading up on this – psychological research on rapists, specifically – but quickly decided I actually didn’t want to know what might be going on in their heads. It was almost as if I was backing away from any chance I would empathize, and though I generally am in favor of empathy, I decided I didn’t want any part of it. I can be petty that way. [g]

  2. I am relieved that people are beginning to talk about the books in this way. I have refused to read them because of the subject matter. I have read Henning Mankell, Helene Tursten, and Arnaldur Indridason and they do not seem to be at this same level of anti-women subject matter. Though there are some ‘gross’ details, I don’t feel that any of the ones I’ve read are exploitative, and full of ‘violence for violence’s sake’. As for the boring adjective, I did read 60 pages of the first book and thought it poorly written and yes, boring. Everyone said it picked up after that but did it pick up because the violence picked up?? I just feel very uncomfortable that so many men and indeed, so many women are finding the trilogy so compelling. Thank you for this post.

    • While I think everyone has a right to read what they want and to avoid that which they don’t want to read (Daniel Pennac has a nice “readers Bill of Rights” that includes this and many other principles with which I agree) I don’t think the violence for the most part in Larsson’s books was gratuitous (though I thought the big reveal in the first book was both over the top and an unfortunately Pattersonesque scenario that distracted from the moral claim made by the trilogy. In short, sensationalistic rather than realistic.) I think he really was not engaging in violence for its own sake, but as a critique. In fact, I just wrote about this over at Spinetingler. Fair warning, it’s a little BSP-y because I was talking about my own writing, too.

  3. I shan’t enter into the Larsson debate again but on the broader issue I often wonder if it isn’t nearly as simple as some men hating women so much. Part of it is that it is easier for those men who have hatred and violence in their harts to target women rather than other men as there is much less chance of them being fought equally in a physical sense. But there are lots of men being violent towards other men (in the real world, not so much in crime fiction I admit) – it’s reported differently (or not at all) but it happens. And men don’t have a monopoly on being bloody horrible, some women are equally abominable in their behaviour towards men but they tend to do their torturing in non-physical ways – and again it’s under reported. I guess it’s harder to end up dead through psychological torture but you can certainly be pretty damaged. All of this is by way of saying that there are some pretty screwed up horrible people in the world – men and women – and they take out their sadistic pleasures in whatever ways they have available to them. All of it is bloody awful for the victims and I wonder if by seeing it as a gender issue we’re missing part of the point.

    • Hi Bernadette.
      I agree with all of your points. You stated them perfectly, especially about men being violent towards women because they can physically defeat them instead of an equally strong man.

  4. Maybe some of you ‘ladies’ should read all 3 books before judging Stieg’s intentions. Unfortunately we can’t read all 10 he had planned. And don’t forget that Eva Gabrielsson was probably a co-author at least.

    • I think his feminism is pretty clear, both in terms of what he quite bluntly says, but also in the way he treats the violence, which I think is handled more subtly and more effectively with the second and third books. I love that so many people love Salander. And she gets better with each book as we get to know more about her.

      All that said, nobody should ever read a book just because everyone else is. There are plenty of good books to suit any taste.

      Reg, do you have any thoughts about that excerpt from the Kurdo Baksi bio? I have heard some grumblings that he may have exaggerated the depth of his relationship with Larsson and that what he right should be taken with a grain of salt, but maybe that was just my stomach telling me it’s time for breakfast.

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