Dexter is yet another of the current crime authors who wrote introductions to the (relatively) recent editions of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Martin Beck mysteries (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard in the U.S., Harper Perennial in the U.K., at least in paperback).
The Fire Engine That Disappeared (1969) came fifth in the series and, writes Dexter, "My first preconception was that this husband-and-wife team, with a political stance well to the left, had become rather too bitterly cynical in the sixties and seventies of what they saw as the betrayal of many of their Socialist ideas and ideals."
We took care of that here two weeks ago; Detectives Beyond Borders readers know that strong political sensibilities do not preclude acute observation and sensitive, entertaining storytelling.
We also know about Sjöwall and Wahlöö's wit, though I am pleased to add such a distinguished witness for the defense as Dexter against the canard that Scandinavians aren't funny. "What struck me" about The Fire Engine That Disappeared, writes Inspector Morse's creator, "was the gently underplayed humour of the writing."
One of Dexter's preconceptions involved Ed McBain's influence on Sjöwall and Wahlöö, and I'll save that matter for another post. Another was his belief that anything coming out of Sweden in the 1960s must be saturated with explicit sex.
Instead, he writes, "Sex plays only a very small part in the novel; and what sex we do find is handled with an almost serene simplicity." And if that isn't a beautifully sane (and accurate) assessment, I don't know what is.
Thanks, Colin; and goodnight, readers.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011