The Devil’s Star, out in hardback in the United States from HarperCollins, brings to a conclusion a confrontation between one of those characters and Nesbø’s protagonist, Inspector Harry Hole.
In the first part of an interview with Detectives Beyond Borders, Jo Nesbø talks about his fascination with Jim Thompson, his early attraction to ghost stories, and Norway’s shaky national identity. He also answers a question posed in a scene long a favorite here at Detectives Beyond Borders: Are the Rolling Stones the world’s greatest rock and roll band?
(Read Part II of the Detectives Beyond Borders interview with Jo Nesbø here.)
Jo Nesbø: The enemy within is always more scary than when you have the defined enemy. I’m a fan of Jim Thompson and his title The Killer Inside Me, which may be a somewhat cheesy title, but it’s a title that grabs me. To me it’s a scary idea that the killer is inside you, behind you. Also, I like to write about closed milieus, where you have a society within a society.
Like the Salvation Army (A key setting in The Redeemer)?
Right. That is parallel to the police force. Loyalty is very important, and you have certain rules that enable people to get power over other people. … You can have more dramatic conflict than in open societies.
You liked to write or tell ghost stories when you were young. Is there a connection between The Snowman and that earlier preference for ghost stories?
I didn’t come up with the stories, I told traditional ghost stories, then added a bit.
I think the reason why they asked me to tell the stories, I thought for while it was because I was a great storyteller. Later on, I think it was my big brother who told me the reason why he wanted me to tell the stories was because when I told them, they could hear the fear in my voice.
Are the Rolling Stones the world’s greatest band or the most overrated band?
The Rolling Stones are a great band and the world’s most overrated band.
Why do your novels include so many prominent and thematically important references to music?
People use music in so many ways, to say who they are. … You use a T-shirt to tell the world `I’m the kind of guy who listens to the Doors,’ and that is interesting to me because it’s just sounds, but it isn’t just sounds. They project ideas, basic values. I don’t really like Joy Division, but I wish I liked to listen to Joy Division.
Myself, I like jazz, and I like rock, but I like pop, the smoothest pop music, easy-listening pop music. I love that. [But] I thought it would be too confusing for people to have [Harry] like pop music. You’d have to explain it, so I put in some references. I try not to do it too much.
For example, you read George Pelecanos; to me, sometimes it’s on the verge of being too much. Everybody, every single character, is listening to a special radio channel. Well, they don’t. But then again, I love the references.
Talk a bit about some of the satirical fun you poke at Norway.
We’re a young and, in a way, an insecure nation. … It’s a very young nation, and it is trying very hard to find itself. Like any nation, it needs pillars to build an image of a nation on.
In Norway the most important things are probably the explorers of the South and North Poles, and Thor Heyerdahl, and the war, the myth about the resistance movement during the war.
Up until 1917, Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe. In the Seventies, we found oil, or the Americans found oil, actually, off Norway. In the Eighties were booming times, and Norway quickly became one of the richest countries in the world. It’s like a guy with an inferiority complex that has suddenly had some success and who can’t quite cope with it.
Norwegians are so focused on what's going on in Norway now. If you read the newspapers, it's all local news. So many of the stories are `What do they think about Norwegians?'
It’s pride and insecurity going together. You see that in many countries. Norway has always had the same relationship to bigger countries, Sweden especially, Denmark, maybe the same way that Canada feels toward the United States, like a bigger brother. Canada is a nicer country, but that’s not enough.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010