war (of words) breaks out

Sweden may be a peaceable, neutral country but it hasn’t always been thus. Gustav Adolph and Charles the XII were not averse to mixing it up with the neighbors. Apparently, some of the old combative spirit lives on.

The Earth Times is reporting a war of words has broken out, a spat of crankiness coinciding with the summer holiday season in Sweden.

In interviews, older writers have disparaged younger writers, with the battle lines drawn by both genre and gender. From a US perspective one has to wonder – what’s new about this? Sisters in Crime, of which I am a card-carrying member, has been promoting women in the genre for decades, and it still has its work cut out for it; genre wars are a year round event, not an occasional outbreak of hostilities. But in Sweden, it’s newsworthy.

Round one:

G W Persson, 62-year-old professor of criminology and successful author of murder mysteries, said in a recent interview that Camilla Laeckberg, a colleague 30 years his junior, planned her novels like “kitsch novellas for equestrian magazines,” and was writing in the style of stupid children’s books.

The victim of his attack drastically paid him out in his own coin, countering, “This is just the piss of an elderly gentleman who feels somehow left out.”

Round two:

Ernst Brunner, 56, who is the author of not very commercially successful, high-brow novels, has compared the actually enormous flood of Swedish murder mysteries even with “the shit of the seagulls who ruin my island on the Stockholm archipelago.”

His colleague Bjoern Ranelid, 58, has mainly been attacking Liza Marklund, 44, who managed to sell 9 million copies of her book in a country that only has 9 million inhabitants. “One million Swedes can write like Liza Marklund,” he said. Ranelid considers the systematic self-marketing of the attractive blonde Marklund on all her book covers as a danger to his own business. “If things continue like that, fiction will perish,” he said.

And a diplomatic elder statesman tries to broker a truce:

The only one of the guard of ageing best-selling authors to agree with her is 63-year-old Jan Guillou, whose books – like the secret service series Coq Rouge – have also been selling 9 million copies.

“This is about envy,” he says. “With added sexism,” the Dagens Nyheter daily added in a leader

Perhaps this war of words is being blown out of proportion, but it’s a good sign that the health of one branch of book publishing is so successful it makes some writers in other branches nervous. When you have authors who can sell as many books as their are citizens, and that pattern is not unique to one author, surely something is not rotten in the state of Sweden, where literacy and book culture are alive and well.

Via The Local.

how great is it?

Uriah has kicked off an interesting discussion of the ballyhoo surrounding Steig Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. This “international sensation” is just reaching the US, and it will be interesting to see whether it will receive the popular attention it has in other countries.

For extremes, sample this suggestion that it deserves the Nobel Prize, and this hostile review that calls it “easily one of the worst books I’ve ever read.”

But quite a few people seem to love it; over 6 million copies have sold worldwide.

to whet your appetite

Karen Meek has a couple of tasty treats at her Euro Crime blog – first, an excerpt from the next volume of Steig Larsson’s trilogy, this one titled The Girl Who Played With Fire. You can probably tell from the cover art which character has captured most readers’ interest.

And she’s started a list of forthcoming Scandinavian publications, building the list at Amazon UK. In some cases US readers will either have to wait for some of the publications or indulge and order from abroad.

humor and the Scandinavian mystery

Karen Meek has a review of Hakan Nesser’s The Mind’s Eye – the first in the Van Veteeren series, but the third to be translated – at Euro Crime and points out that it’s not only slightly surreal, thanks to its fictional bouillabaisse of a setting that incorporates bits of several northern European countries, but it’s also great fun. “You can dip into almost any page and a line will make you smile.”

Often Scandinavian crime fiction is characterized as being dour and gloomy, but as Peter Rozovsky pointed out in an issue of Mystery Reader’s Journal devoted to Scandinavian crime fiction, it’s not entirely without humor. And Nesser is his exhibit A.

He also cites a scene opening Arnaldur Indridason’s Silence of the Grave in which a young medical student realizes that the object a baby is chewing on is a human bone. (Okay, it doesn’t seem all that funny – you had to be there.)

Also new on Euro Crime is Maxine Clarke’s review of Arnaldur’s The Draining Lake – and she picks up on the humorous interplay among the detectives, the smug Sigurd Oli and the self-absorbed Elinborg, all caught up in publishing a cook book while they investigate a murder from the past.

And another vote for …

. . . John Theorin’s debut, this one from Crimeficreader. I think it’s safe to predict this book will be making a big splash. Interesting that, like Steig Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, the story involves a cold case – and a rather similar one, with a child who went missing long ago from an island. But a great many mysteries from Scandinavia seem to deal with cold cases.

For writers like Arnaldur Indridason, it’s almost a necessity. When you set your series in a country that has a homicide rate so low that years can go by without a single homicide, you need to find realistic alternatives. But other writers are exploring the past through crime fiction. Certainly that’s happening in Norway, with the Nazi occupation and its reprecussions finding its way into works like Jo Nesbo’s Redbreast. (Come to think of it, fascist leanings that some held in Sweden during WW II surface in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.)

UPDATE: yet another rave from offmytrolley. I am seriously bummed to have to wait until it comes out in the US. Except that I have huge piles of books that are demanding to be read.

New Reviews – Theorin and Tursten

Two Swedish authors get the nod at Eurocrime. Maxine Clarke (aka Petrona) has good things to say about HEchoes from the DeadeleneTursten’s The Glass Devil, saying it lives up to the high bar set by the previous two novels in the series.

Both she and Norman Price have had their socks blown off by first-time novelist Johan Theorin’s Echoes from the Dead, set on the Baltic island of Oland. She says “I can only advise that if you read one crime-fiction novel published this year, make it this one.”

Guess what’s just gone on my “must read” list? (Full disclosure: I’ve already read The Glass Devil.)