Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nesbø in my newspaper

My review of Jo Nesbø's The Snowman appears in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. I had a bit of fun writing this one, and the headline writer picked up the fun rather nicely.

Here's what Nesbø had to say about that fun topic in my interview with him:
There's a big wave of Nordic crime fiction. Do you consider yourself part of that?

I am part of that whether I consider myself part of it or not because it's sort of a commercial label. It doesn't necessarily have much to do with Scandinavian writers having the same style. When I've been asked what I think are the similarities between Scandinavian authors, I would say that they were either from Denmark, Norway or Sweden.

I think my style is probably closer to some of the American writers — Bukowski, Hemingway — than to other Scandinavian writers. Then again, I write from Oslo, so the atmosphere would probably be similar to Stieg Larsson or Henning Mankell.


For me, my inspiration doesn't come mainly from Scandinavian crime writers. It comes from Scandinavian literature, like Knut Hamsun, Henrik Ibsen, lots of other Norwegian and Danish and Swedish writers.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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37 Comments:

Anonymous kathy d. said...

Very good review of The Snowman. It sounds like Nesbo has once again written a riveting and intelligent thriller, which means my life will be on hold for the days in which I'm reading it.

And I learned a new word: parlous. At first I thought it was a typo and should have been perilous, but then thought that you wouldn't allow such a mistake. So I looked it up -- and there was the definition. Dare I use this? I'm going to try.

Agreed: No, Jo Nesbo is not the next Indridasson. No one is. Hypothermia has still not been surpassed, in my opinion. (I still think he should have won last year's Dagger, but that's just me.)

On a related topic, the NYTBR today has four ads -- in color -- for The Hypontist, by the writing team known as Lars Kepler. The top headline for each ad is "Life after Stieg"

Will this madness ever end? I guess it will once publishers find they've conquered the European and U.S. markets with a Scandinavian author.

June 26, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

No, I don't think the Nordic madness is going to end soon, but I don't really see any reason to complain about it. It's a very talented pool of writers and even though there is of course much to differentiate them, there's also a similarity that means its not absurd for people who've liked one to want to try others. Something of the same can be said for the current crop of Irish crime writers, even though their work is very different from each other's as well. Maybe it's something like a school of painting.

I too was going to say nice use of parlous, but then, I would.

June 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, here is the first of several discussions of parlous, courtesy of your fellow commenter.

If you wish to use parlous, suggsted subjects are newspapers, book publishling, the working and middle classes in America, the United States' position as a first-world country, and newspapers.

The constant invocation of Larsson is a mark of desperation in book publishing. It reminds me of the early 1970s, when the Bay City Rollers were promoted as the next Beatles.

June 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the fine Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, put out a table a few months back with copies of Larsson's books, a healthy row of books by other Nordic crime writers, and an "If you like ... you may also like ... " sign. So yes, Larsson can serve to stimulate interest in other writers. That's all to the good.

I don't think people complain about the Larsson comparisons as much as they roll their eyes at some of them. It's not at all absurd to suggest that people who like Larsson may enjoy Nesbo or Henning Mankell. But it is stretching a point to compare Larsson and Hakan Nesser. At least I've never seen anything referred to as "in the tradition of" Stieg Larsson.

I've appended some comments by Nesbo on this subject to this post. You might also enjoy this timely post on the Crime Scraps blog.

June 26, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Well, a rising tide lifts all boats, as they say. Interestingly, Nesser did not seem to be lifted here by the Larsson phenomena but with his latest book coming out, all of a sudden all the backlist is sought again. Maybe he was one of those boats that the rising tide caught last.

Personally, if I didn't seem to keep getting snagged by Irish crime fiction, I would be more than happy to spend all my free time reading Nordic crime fiction. It's wonderful stuff.

June 26, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Okay, I just have to double post because of the v word that just appeared: delector.

June 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

if I didn't seem to keep getting snagged by Irish crime fiction, I would be more than happy to spend all my free time reading Nordic crime fiction.

Save some time for Australia. And South Africa.

I suppose if I were an author from the Nordic countries not named Stieg Larsson, I'd grin wryly at the Larsson comparisons and enjoy whatever extra sales they might bring. Of course, I'd hope I wouldn't disappoint too many readers who discovered my work was nothing like his.

June 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's a v-word worth double-posting for. I had a good one earlier today, title of a project about a a white, ethnic doo-wop singer in a wheelchair:

dionside

June 26, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Dionside is great.

I haven't really noticed anybody complaining about trying other Nordic writers after Larsson and finding them lacking. I think if they aren't just obsessed with Lisbeth Salander, they often find them better.

I do try to leave time for other countries, but it's kind of a case of 'way leading on to way'.

June 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Phenomena like Larsson are always a mystery, so who knows what qualities of a Larsson will also beguile readers when they try Nesser who, to me at least, seems far removed from Larsson.

My current v-word is pretty good, too: compow

June 26, 2011  
Blogger Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

I have no taste for fear.

Nice review. Well written and to the point.

As for "evil", it seems to be much over rated in contemporary literature.

Most nasty events seem to be the result of some misfortunate mistake or other.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Scared of fear, are you?

Thanks for the kind words. I share your unease with "evil" in contemporary literature. Calling something evil is like calling someone a monster. It's too easy to do.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger lisa_emily said...

Hi, I confess, I’m one of those lame-os who have come to reading mysteries again after encountering Larsson. Because of those novels, I have been intrigued enough to check out other international crime novels, and yes, even some from Scandinavian countries- I’m currently reading Mankell. When I have read these other Scandinavian writers- I’m not looking for another Lisbeth, but rather, I enjoy reading about another place and another experience. This year, I’ve read novels taking place in South Africa, Palenstine, Vienna, etc. In fact, I can even say that Larsson led me to this blog- and that’s great!

June 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lisa: Thanks for commenting and for proving Seana right. You're always welcome here provided you never again call yourself a lame-o!

Let me guess which authors you allude to: Matt Rees for Palestine and J. Sidney Jones for Vienna? South African offers any number of possibilities.

OK, since Stieg Larsson attracted you strongly enough to get you reading other authors from outside North America, what attracted you about his work? He has become such a phenomenon that no one talks about his writing anymore.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger lisa_emily said...

Yes on Rees and Jones, but I actually like Frank Tallis’s series a little more than Jones’s. For South Africa, I read McCain and Malla Nunn’s debut novel. I look forward to reading my around the world.

Re: Larsson- I don’t recall that the writing is that stellar, I might even venture that it veers towards being dull and over-explanatory at times. Plot and character really drive these novels for me. Salander’s a familiar type- she’s very much someone I could have known while I was in my 20s. The combination of her social marginality and her cunning and resourcefulness are appealing to me. It’s funny though, I have also read the first Cara Black Paris novel and the main character has some similar traits: hacker skills, tough chick persona- and yet I did not feel as enamoured. So… sometimes I guess it gets down to chemistry or something. Also Larsson's plots hooked me in, I read the first two books within a couple of days- good escapism. I did like the various layers- the plot on the surface and the plots that are alluded to.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Who's McCain?

You have much good reading ahead, and not just from the Nordic countries, either. I like what you have to say about Stieg Larsson's writing. Much of the gush overlooked that he was a first-time novelist and was thus prey to ills that plague many inexperienced writers. I have heard the suggestion, too, that his literary executors barred rigorous editing of his manuscripts. I don't know whether this is true, but I would not discount the possibility.

June 27, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Rest assured, Seana, that I like Nordic noir very much, and I could stay in that region for months, except that I am also attracted to settings in Italy, France, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, India, Brazil--and, of course, Australia, source of many good writers, but unfortunately, many of their books don't get to the States.

My objection to the Stieg Larsson comparisons or advertising slogans, is that often other authors are compared to him, whose writing does not resemble his one iota. The other thing the writers have in common is country or region of birth and citizenship.

The comparisons get ridiculous, when the writing styles are oceans apart.

So I say let each writer stand on his/her own and be appreciated for their own merit.

And I do like Hakan Nesser, have read two of his books and plan to read the rest, but I have a huge TBR list and a pile of books to read. And I have become seriously hooked on Nero Wolfe right now and have to get my fill before I move on back to Scandinavia or move to France to read Fred Vargas' new books or to Italy to read another Camilleri.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Lisa_Emily, you are certainly not a lame-o. Well ahead of the game, I'd say.

I'd say that the amount of crime fiction coming out of the Nordic countries is just a tad overwhelming to me. Seems like there's a new hot or at least hyped author every week. The latest being Lars Kepler's Hypnosis. Although 'Lars Kepler' turns out to be a duo writing under a psuedonym.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I called Nesbo a more plausible next Stieg Larsson than some of other writers but because his writing at least resembles Larsson's in some respects. Nesbo was, of course, right when he called "Nordic crime fiction" largely a marketing label.

As Seana suggested, there's probably no harm in that, especially if it gets people reading authors they might not otherwise have noticed. I don't really feel like a part of the Larsson discussion, probably because I'm not in the book business. Some day, at some distance from the hoopla, it might be interesting to read a convincing account for why the Larsson books are so popular.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I actually think Lisa dissected the phenomenon very well.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I agree, though I think Cara Black's Aimee Leduc is more of a clothes horse than Lisbeth Salander.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Even I am more of a clothes horse than Lisbeth Salander, so that's not saying much. Though maybe Lisbeth changes in that regard after the first volume, which is all I read.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, Salander is no Aimee Leduc, then. Aimee likes clothes, though she is a savvy shopper.

June 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

My memory of the dedication to fashion on the part of Parisian women is encapsulated in an image I retain of one of them riding around on her bicycle in high heels in the rain. And carrying it off.

June 28, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Aimee rides a scooter!

June 28, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

That's good, but the bicycle pedalling is a little bit harder to pull off.

June 28, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd agree. Hmm, how hard was it raining, anyhow?

June 28, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Hard.

v word is good: ingully

June 28, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ingully is where her bicycle will wind up if she keeps riding in the rain. Her reply to a police officer's question could be the v-word for my previous reply to you if she caught a cold from all the riding in bad weather (or could be if she spoke English, that is):

itingso

June 28, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Very good.

June 28, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Itingso, too. Thanks.

June 28, 2011  
Blogger lisa_emily said...

McCain?- I meant McClure- doick!

I need to read more of the Cara Black series- I think I may not of given it a good chance- plus I love Paris.

June 28, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

McClure is becoming easier to come by in the U.S., thanks to Soho, which is reissuing all the Kramer and Zondi novels. My favorite of the four I've read: The Gooseberry Fool.

June 28, 2011  
Blogger Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

I have to admit that having grown up with Bergman's films, I quickly lost any taste for Nordic experiences.

A Finnish friend explained the extreme seriousness of people from northern cultures by saying that "they have to appear to be serious".

The extreme gloom of the books and films that have such a wide audience simply leave me cold.

Give me Somerville and Ross any day.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"They have to appear to be serious." That's a remark worth exploring.

I remember that Hakan Nesser came across like a positive cut-up by comparison with his fellow Swedish crime writers when I met a bunch of them at an event. I wonder if this had anything to do with the time he'd spent living in New York.

June 29, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Nesser's books have a lot of wit, which comes up in unlikely places -- seemingly out of the blue in the midst of a harrowing investigation or day.

Then Inspector Van Veeteren will say something or have a thought that is very funny and the reader will wonder where that came from.

I've been reading a book of his when suddenly there is a bold bit of humor and I ask where that came from and have to laugh out loud at the intelligence of it, while I'm torn between shock and awe.

July 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nesser will also have Van Veeteren's colleagues -- or their spouses -- come up with funny remarks at unexpected times.

July 01, 2011  

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