Linkfest

Time to catch up on what has been happening while my nose was to the grindstone at work.

Bill Ott reflects on Henning Mankell’s tenth and final Wallander novel. So does translator Anna Patterson in The Independent, Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times Book Review, Andrew Brown in The Guardian (more of a summary-cum-parody than a review) and a proper review by Karen Meek of Euro Crime.

Declan Burke goes one better by interviewing the author. So does John Preston in The Telegraph.

John Lloyd of the Financial Times looks at Mankell’s Troubled Man, the Danish television sensation The Killing and the appeal of dark Scandinavian crime in general.

Maxine Clarke reviews Gunnar Staalesen’s Yours Until Death, first published in Norwegian in 1979 and showing its age, though still an interesting read.

Bernadette reviews Liza Marklund’s Red Wolf – and enjoys the commentary on politics and the press as much as the mystery.

The Scotsman has an interesting interview with Jo Nesbo, who goes rock-climbing in Thailand to relieve the pressure of being a wildly successful writer, musician, and former footballer. Seems when talent was handed out one Norwegian got a bit greedy.

Keishon reviews Nesbo’s The Leopard and thinks it’s better than his last, and another good entry in a great series.

The Telegraph has an interesting essay by Anne Holt about a crime that changed the way Norwegians looked at violence; crime can be banal, brutal, and not clearly solved.

With the popularity of the complex television series The Killing in the UK, the Guardian catches up with Danish culture – food, style, couture, travel, and yes – crime fiction. Added to the usual Nordic noir lineup is a bit about Jussi Adler-Olsen, whose first novel in a cold-case trilogy will be released in English in May.

More on The Killing from Areopagitica. Note the Pamphleteer’s final sentiment: “There also a new US TV version of this drama. We can ignore that!” That’s how I feel, though you can read this Wall Street Journal analysis and see if you are tempted by the Seattle-set version. Glenn Harper is intrigued, but he’s watching the original first.

Read this with your eyes closed if you haven’t caught up with the series. Only Mrs. Peabody actually doesn’t give away the end, but says there will be a series two. Really? Now if we could only get the real deal here in the U.S. …

A writer in the Wall Street Journal thinks Scandinavian crime fiction is all political and Marxist and stuff. Also it’s not Strindberg. No comment.

A travel piece in The Guardian on “Larsson-land” talks about how literary tourists should check out northern Sweden but somehow fails to mention the other Larsson – Asa Larsson – or Liza Marklund, whose Red Wolf happens to be set in the town being profiled.

The Random Jotter likes Jo Nesbo’s series.

Hersilia Press thinks highly of Nesser’s The Inspector and Silence.

Mike Ripley talks about crime fiction in general – his own and his reflections based on his long-running column for Shots magazine – at The Rap Sheet. Once again, he goes on record to say the current crop of Scandinavian crime fiction (and Stieg Larsson in particular) is overrated. He thinks they lack heart and generosity of spirit and believes that Lisbeth Salander is not all that original:

Call me old-fashioned and patriotic (or just old), but I reckon Lisbeth Salander owes an awful lot to feisty, kick-ass, computer-literate, sexy heroines of British crime fiction of the late 1980s/early 1990s created by writers such as Val McDermid, Sarah Dunant, Denise Danks, Lesley Grant-Adamson, and Stella Duffy.

NancyO reviews Sjowall and Wahloo’s Murder at the Savoy at her Crime Segments portion of her literary blogging. Though she thinks it’s a bit less intense than previous entries in the series, she gives it high marks and writes:

As with the other books, there are memorable moments of humor during a serious investigation, and the characters continue to grow and change, acting very human all of the time. And another hallmark of this series continues here: the crime, the investigation, the characters’ lives and the social commentary all occur succinctly within a relatively short amount of space with no superfluous distractions.

NancyO also reviews Sjowall and Wahloo’s Cop Killer, and is sorry that having read the ninth, she’s nearly at the end of this fine series.

Sarah Weinman addresses in her Dark Passages column for the L.A. Times what she calls “post-misogyny” – cultural demonstrations of male responses to waves of feminism. (As I write this I am musing over the presence in this morning’s New York times front section 1) a front-page story on how middle-school sexting affects girls, 2) a harrowing story about a woman who finds reporters in Libya and tells them she has been gang-raped by pro-government thugs and is dragged away for more and 3) a story about how rape is becoming a common occurrence in India at the interface of traditional and modern societies. Which is to say “post” does not mean “over”.)  Anyway, here’s how Sarah frames the essay:

I speak, of course, of Stieg Larsson. No introductions are necessary for his now-iconic, soon-to-be-Fincherized-heroine Lisbeth Salander. As I’ve said elsewhere, the key to why the books have sold close to 50 million copies worldwide is that the hyperkinetic, Asperger-esque, quasi-sociopathic amalgam of archetypes that is Lisbeth leads the reader through teachable moment after teachable moment of violence against women until the culminating, and cathartic, trial sequence in “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” — and we, the readers, are redeemed by and are complicit with Lisbeth’s resultant triumph.

She goes on to review some new books by women that play with similar tropes. At least a couple have gone on my “to be read” list.

Joan Acocella has a different explanation for the popularity of the trilogy: “cheap thrills.” In this analysis in The New Yorker, Larsson is an unskilled writer, but “a very good storyteller.” And yes, The Girl is at the center of Larsson’s success.

The woman warrior has become a beloved feature of the movies, from Nikita to Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft, and beyond. It is also, reportedly, a sexual fantasy popular with men—something else that may have helped to sell the books… [but Larsson is not merely trading in cliches because Salander is] a complicated person, alienating and poignant at the same time . . . She operates outside society but not outside morality. She is an outlaw, or a sprite—a punk fairy.

Speaking of L.A., I’m going to be part of this – squee!

(Sorry for the random placement of italics in this post – WordPress is suddenly sprinkling ems everywhere when I try to tilt a title, so some are italics and some are not.)

more reviews & news from Scandinavia

As part of the Scandinavian Challenge, Karen Russell reports on Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö at her blog, How Mysterious! She reports something that I have also noticed when reading books in the classic Martin Beck series.

The most interesting thing about this book is its pace. There are exciting moments, particularly the finale, but it’s mostly Martin Beck smoking endless packs of cigarettes, avoiding his wife and wracking his brain for other ways to approach the puzzle, then dispatching more junior officers to search for information. The authors don’t try to mask the frustrations of police work, but rather highlight it– although I should mention that I was never frustrated with reading about it; in fact, at only 200 pages the book flew by in little more than an afternoon.

Norm (aka Uriah) is also participating in the Scandinavian Challenge. He reviews The Killer’s Art by Mari Jungstedt, the fourth in the Inspector Knutas series set on the island of Gotland.  He finds the relationships among the series characters nicely developed and the shifting points of view increase the tension. In sum, he concludes, “the police work in The Killer’s Art may be a little slapdash but the characters, the background information, and the setting on the island of Gotland kept my interest.”

Beth reviews Hakan Nesser’s Woman With Birthmark at Murder by Type. She found it gripping and thinks it may be the best in the series.

At Eurocrime, Karen Meek reviews Karin Fossum’s Bad Intentions, the sixth book in the Konrad Sejer series, which she is “a typical example of her thought-provoking, uncomfortable and melancholic reads.” Well put.

In other news, Camilla Lackberg’s US publisher is hoping to scoop up millions of Larsson fans on the rebound (though honestly, I don’t see the connection other than Swedish and popular). The paperback sale has even made news.

The Wall Street Journal provides a look at covers that didn’t go on the US edition of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. (I was sent an arc with the white cover spattered with blood and was surprised to see the final version was so different – but definitely an improvement, to my mind.)

marketing mysteries in Scandinavia

Uriah picked up on the Earth Times story mentioned previously here on channel SCF. As I looked at his jacket art illustrations, it struck me that part of what might be going on is a shift in marketing practices. Not too long ago I suspect the hard sell of authors as celebrities that is so common these days would have appeared unseemly to Scandinavians.  (There are lingering traces of that in Minnesota culture, as my college’s PR folks can attest; we’re bashful about our strengths and hesitant to call attention to them.) Some portion of the old guard’s ire may be an inarticulate discomfort with American-style book marketing, not just with young and attractive women writers who write massively popular books.

And that made me wonder how Sjowall and Walloo, authors of the Martin Beck series, would have felt if their names were huge on the cover, with glamor pics of the two of them on the back. They were committed socialists, critical of the inroads that capitalism was making into Swedish society; I doubt they’d stand for it. So Uriah checked it out and provides two illustrative covers.  Yup. Very different marketing styles.

Which seem to endure. Fortuitously enough, a new review of their classic, The Laughing Policeman, has just been posted at Euro Crime. Maxine Clarke calls it “another example of the controlled brilliance of this superb set of novels.” Originally published in the 1960s, they are being reissued by HarperPerennial – with covers that have the focus on story and series character similar to the old days.

Compare that to this cover image of the original 1967 Swedish edition, found at Abebooks. In both cases, the authors’ names are relatively small; the title larger. They both have a period look, but the original has the painterly, dramatic and slightly pulp artwork typical of the times.

In comparison, most contemporary Swedish writers seem to have their names ever-so-slightly larger than titles on current publications – as seen in this teeny-tiny thumbnail of a massively popular book – by a male author.

In general, the covers found at this Scandinavian bookseller’s site seem positively modest by US standards.