CrimeFest, Day III, Part I: Interviews
Dour Swedes may be, Nesser said, but not cripplingly so: "We're not that depressed, but we don't talk a lot. That's good for a crime story. You keep things inside for thirty years," and then they just come out.
Ten of Nesser's twenty-two novels have featured Inspector Van Veeteren; four of these have been translated into English. The remaining six would likely change Nesser's image in the English-speaking world. The books translated thus far have featured villains with whom the reader may sympathize deeply. But that changed: "There are two really bad guys in numbers nine and ten." After the fifth in the series, Nesser said, Van Veeteren retires from the police and opens a bookstore instead.
Nesser also discussed his series about a character with the whimsical name of Gunnar Barbarotti, a series as yet untranslated into English, a series whose premise seems an odd mix of whimsy and Ingemar Bergman: "It's a thing between [Barbarotti] and God, and God has to prove he exists. ... If the prayer is fulfilled, God will get one point, or, in more important cases, one or two points."
So I'll take a tentative stab at charting some tendencies of British crime writers: They love Austen, they love Wodehouse, and they have a decided position, yes or no, on whether their novels have fundamentally moral concerns. At least this was true of some writers here, and the penchant for Austen and Wodehouse is by no means restricted to writers of what Americans call cozies or to any other type of mystery. Not should it be. Austen and Wodehouse are towering giants, a Hammett and a Chandler of English writing.
One remark was sufficient to get me interested in reading Taylor, who is English and this year's recipient of the CWA Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement: "Until ... 1934, it would have been utterly possible for us to slip gradually into being a Fascist state."
Oh, and he offered a valuable tip for beginning crime writers: "With the first novel, I had a corpse, and I went on from there. Corpses are good."
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© Peter Rozovsky 2009