Sunday, October 10, 2010

Icelandic crime update

A post I made at Bouchercon 2009 is just as relevant on the eve of Bouchercon 2010 — more so, perhaps, because I made a prediction then, and in a few days, I may find out if it has come true.
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At Bouchercon 2008 I asked Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and her husband whether they thought the collapse of Iceland's banking system could mark a turning point in the country's crime fiction. Too early to tell, they said.

At Bouchercon 2009, when the topic turned to Iceland's low crime rate and the challenges this poses to crime writers, Yrsa said that crime had risen in Iceland — financial crime. Her matter-of-fact regard of financial manipulators as criminals was refreshing.

Later, after our panel, Yrsa's husband said burglaries were on the rise in Iceland. Not a great subject for crime writers, one author observed. So, here is my prediction: Some time in the near future, an Icelandic crime author will write a noir novel of a simple burglary, due perhaps to the burglar's economic hardships, that goes wrong and turns into a murder.

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(Yrsa Sigurðardóttir will be a member of my "Stamp of Death" panel at Bouchercon 2010 in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 14, at 3 p.m. The room is Seacliff C, should you happen to be in the neighborhood. Walk-up registration is available.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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14 Comments:

Blogger Dorte H said...

I can see the idea of burglary going wrong. As long as you don´t envisage a ´financial crime´ trend. Some of the world´s best crime writers might just be able to add excitement to such a plot, but hardly your average writer.

October 16, 2009  
Blogger Maxine said...

This has recently been done in a nearby country, Sweden, by Johan Theorin in The Darkest Room. The book was exciting because this was one of several interleaving plots.

October 16, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I still say it will have to be fantastical. There are no murderers in Iceland. In fact the entire criminal population is minute:

"In the year 2003, prison conditions generally meet international standards. Most of the country's prison population of less than 100 inmates are held at Litla Hraun Prison, which includes a state-of-the-art detention facility."

October 16, 2009  
Blogger R. T. said...

Pass on your prediction to Arnaldur Indridason. If anyone can pull it off, he can. I can already imagine Erlendur and his team tracking down the culprits who plan to hide their stolen stash in a Keflavik fisherman's boat; then, when Erlendur finds the dead body of a woman on the boat, all the evidence turns uncomfortably toward the former mayor of Keflavik who has also suddenly disappeared (perhaps on the most recent Icelandair flight out of the Keflavik airport). In the end, though, Erlendur will track the now dead mayor to an abandoned building on the former NATO base, which might leave too many loose even for Erlendur. You may tell Arnaldur that I expect no compensation for the plot outline but only a brief acknowledgment when the book appears.

October 16, 2009  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Yes, crime fiction, not detective fiction.

Who knows, if it's from the burglar's point of view people may call it literature...

October 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dorte, I don't necessarily envision financial-crime thrillers becoming a trend. I agree that it would take an especially skilled and sensitive writer to make such a story work. My guess is more that finance and financial misdeeds might increasingly form part of the background to crime stories as they seep into Icelandic life in direct and direct ways.

October 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maxine, I shall take a look at The Darkest Room. Thanks.

It will be interesting to see how Theorin deals with a burglary-gone-wrong plot, especially how badly the killing shocks those affected by it and those who investigate it.

October 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, substitute imagination for fantasy, and I agree with you. Your observation spurred my question to Yrsa about the challenges and opportunities of writing about crime in a low-crime country. I'd planned all along to ask the question. After you made your comment about fantasy, I amended the question to include a suggestion that the low-crime write poses a test to Icelandic authors' imaginations.

Yrsa's first novel is rooted in Icelandic history as well as in motives of greed and jealousy. Arnaldur's add recent Icelandic history to the mix. Icelandic crime writers probably have to ask themselves "What if?" more than other writers do.

October 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., you plot more ambitiously than I do. I could imagine something as simple as Erlendur, Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli musing upon economic and social uncertainty as lower-level officers rush out to handle a burglary call. Financial worries and their attendant miseries become a part of Icelandic crime writers' repertory, perhaps for the first time, at their disposal for any number of purposes: main plot line, subplot, red herring, a consideration for officers as they search for motive. One could imagine a story strand of older and very young officers reacting to these new (to Iceland) crime in different ways, for example.

October 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, such a story could be told as a detective story, too, I think. The detectives have new kinds of crimes and new motives for old kinds of crimes that were not there before.

October 17, 2009  
Blogger Solea said...

If the crime ventures into WikiLeaks territory, it could be very intriguing and relevant to what is going on now. According to news goddess Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, more secret docs are coming out in a few weeks. Lots of international tie-ins there.

October 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, I'll try to work WikiLeaks into the discussion. Thanks.

October 10, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Hey, if Emma Lathen could wring 24 books out of financial crime using a senior banker as her detective, I see no reason why an author in Iceland couldn't do the same thing.

October 11, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suspect that finance has been a subject of fewer crime novels than one might expect because its workings are so complicated. The basic motives of greed and evil are there, but they manifest themselves in ways that few crime writers, much less readers, are prepared to master.

I see that the two authors who formed the Emma Lathen team were businesswomen, that one was an economic analyst, and that they based their mystery novels on industries with which they had worked. Not many crime writers have that kind of knowledge. It's easier to write about the victims of financial crime that it is to write about the perpetrators.

Not that Yrsa could not master a technically difficult subjects. She's a civil engineer whose work includes geothermal power plants.

October 11, 2010  

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