Yrsa Sigurdardottir makes her first contribution to a group blog with an international flavor and charms everyone with her modesty and humor. She says,
If you are wondering what country I do call home, imagine a tiny island way up north where the only banking institution not humiliated and disgraced is the national blood bank. If this does not help, imagine a country obviously named by someone intent on keeping people out. If still at loss, imagine a war with no prisoners and absolutely no opportunity of placing landmines as it was fought at sea, on fishing boats, over cod. There will be no more clues.
But a commenter adds some additional hints:
It’s also a country with the oldest parliamentary system in western europe–and probably the longest continuous one in the world. It’s a country that keeps adding to its territory without war. And it’s a country with one of the most moving collections of epic literature, poetry and prose.
I’ve tried to create main characters who are drastically different from the types who generally appear in crime novels. Mikael Blomkvist, for instance, doesn’t have ulcers, or booze problems or an anxiety complex. He doesn’t listen to operas, nor does he have an oddball hobby such as making model aeroplanes. He doesn’t have any real problems, and his main characteristic is that he acts like a stereotype ‘slut’, as he admits himself. I’ve also changed the sex roles on purpose: in many ways Blomkvist acts like a typical “bimbo”, while Lisbeth Salander has stereotype ‘male’ characteristics and values…..
The article that Maxine links to by Val McDermid is well worth a read. In “The Man Who Died Too Soon,” she concludes,
It’s a tribute to Larsson’s skill that he never allows his political concerns to dominate his desire to tell a cracking good story packed with dramatic incident and brimming with quirky insights. But without his personal commitment to taking a stand in support of what he believed in, I’m convinced these three novels could never have had so powerful an impact among readers.
Forty years ago, with their Martin Beck novels, the Swedish writers Sjöwall and Wahlöö blazed a trail that proved the crime novel provides the perfect vehicle to write stories that shine a critical light on the society we live in. Stieg Larsson demonstrated that this works just as well for present-day concerns, and his example should give aspiring writers the confidence to put their own beliefs at the heart of their work. Books like The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest remind us all that we ignore the wider world at our peril.
Glen Harper at International Noir Fiction reviews Gunnar Staalesen’s The Consorts of Death (and promises to say more about the Norwegian television series):
Staalesen shows great skill in keeping a very complex story coherent: characters and events weave in and out, with personal and metaphorical connections among them all along the way. There are some surpises at the end, as well, when Varg finally discovers what’s been going on in the several murders and in Johnny Boy’s life. Staalesen’s novels take on social issues, but there are many passages in this book that are right out of classic noir (though Varg isn’t the usual noir hero, he has too much hope for his clients’ fates). There’s a lot more Varg Veum in Norwegian, and I for one hope for translators and publishers to fill in the gaps in what has been translated.
There’s an article in The Prospect about the Stieg Larsson phenomenon that seems peculiarly off-base in almost every particular. The author says the Sweden portrayed in crime fiction “is the modern equivalent of the library in the country house of classic English detective stories: the conventional stage in which to find corpses surrounded by a selection of intriguing and sinister eccentrics. . . . The crimes are all solved by amateurs, and usually the punishment is dealt out by amateurs too.” Salander is a witch, and Blomqvist is “Philip Marlowe without the failures or the inner life.” He considers Sjowall and Wahloo as part of the same fantasy genre, and refers (quite snidely) to the “domestic Swedish detective novel, which Scandinavia women journalists in their thirties write instead of chicklit.” My favorite comment on this article comes from a friend at the FriendFeed Crime and Mystery Fiction room, who feels the author was “jumping on a bandwagon and driving it into the nearest vacant column inches.” Really, it’s difficult to compete with the depth of knowledge and the sheer wit of the residents of this online community.
*The country in question is Iceland, if you haven’t guessed.