Saturday, July 30, 2011

Television program examines Nordic crime fiction

If you have a television handy, MHz Networks will examine the question of what makes Scandinavian crime fiction so popular. The show will be telecast tomorrow and then repeated severval times over the next few days.

I'd call modern Nordic crime writing's birth in Naj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Martin Beck novels spectacular, rather than humble, as the program notes say. But that's a quibble. Here's the information

Lone Wolves & Dragon Tattoos: How Scandinavian Crime Fiction Conquered The World
Air: Sunday, July 31, 9:00 pm on MHz1 WNVC-DT 30.1
Future Airs: 08/01/11, 12:00 am MHz1 WNVC-DT 30.1; 08/02/11, 9:00 pm MHz1 WNVC-DT 30.1; 08/03/11, 12:00 am MHz1 WNVC-DT 30.1
  Broadcast In: OTHER
With Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy topping the bestseller lists and Kenneth Branagh starring as Henning Mankell's Detective Kurt Wallander on TV, Scandinavian crime fiction has never been hotter. But what is it about these characters and the worlds they inhabit that hold such universal appeal?
Lone Wolves & Dragon Tattoos traces the evolution of Nordic crime fiction, from its humble beginnings with Sjöwall-Wahlöö's Martin Beck novels of the 1960s straight through to the worldwide phenomenon of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, featuring interviews with some of the genre's brightest stars — authors Henning Mankell (Wallander), Gunnar Staalesen (Varg Veum) and Håkan Nesser (Van Veeteren) — as well as the actors and producers who bring these mysteries to life on-screen.

Produced by MHz Networks and Nordic Blast Entertainment. In English, Swedish and Norwegian with English subtitles.

Run Time: 02:00:00

Rating: TVPG Format: SD Source: MHZ

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Anonymous kathy d. said...

Agree on Sjowall/Wahloo's Martin Beck novels. They are spectacular.

If only some crime fiction writers followed their example -- no over-writing or verbosity, a good, quickly paced plot, interesting protagonist who thinks, but is not boringly introspective, the right touch of social/political commentary and dramatic -- but not overly so -- denouements.

Just about perfect on all counts.

First of all, they could write. They did not substitute gratuitous violence or absurd action scenes, coincidences or accidents (i.e., earthquake at crucial moment, villain falls or his gun falls into crack in the earth or lightning bolt fells bad guy(s) or gal(s)).

Well-done all the way around. Their books should be taught in classes on how to write a mystery, as Exhibit A.

July 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know how the Martin Beck novels were received on initial publication, but from the perspective granted by time, their achievement is huge -- far outstripping the hype surrounding Stieg Larsson or just about anyone else. I forgive the MHz folks for their bit of hyperbole. Their programming has done much to promote international crime fiction. I think I first learned about Harri Nykanen's Raid through them, for instance.

July 31, 2011  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter-I do think readers realised they were a bit special. I read some of the Martin Beck books back in the 1970s, and the blurbs read something like "the best police procedurals ever written" or words to that effect. The Laughing Policeman did win the Edgar in 1971, and was made into a film with Walter Matthau in 1972 or 1973.
I was nervous about reading them again after a gap of about 15-20 years and the joy of discovering they were just as good as I remembered. Good plots interesting characters, humour and the smug Swedish society dissected apart with forensic care, made them great reading.

July 31, 2011  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

As also Norman, it seems, I have been rereading the Martin Beck series, starting with The Abominable Man, simply because that was the first to turn up in the library in the new edition. I think it perhaps seemed to me even more splendid than I remembered. All the vital ingredients I look for in crime novels were there in abundance, something to which Norman also alludes. Compulsively readable -- I went through it in a sitting. And, something made much of now -- as it should be -- but hardly thought about by reviewers et al. when I first read it in 1971: a superb translation.

A personal point and a bit of trivia for soccer fans: I had forgetten that one character is addicted to trying to get rich via the football pools, and in one scene is anguishing over Millwall's chances on the coming Saturday. At that very time, the daughter of Millwall's chairman was in one of my history courses. A thoroughly nasty pile of protoplasm, teaching her gave me about as much pleasure as running into a couple of dozen Millwall supporters while wearing a West Ham scarf. Forty years later, I gather Millwall's supporters are still the champions when it comes to wreaking havoc on anything in their path.

July 31, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN, I think, is the one where a busfull of people get shot in the first scene, and the two bumbling policemen show up, ironically because they'd been hiding from work. That beginning is among the best for hooking a reader. Yes, S&W were certainly tops, and we can learn from them still.

July 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Uriah, perhaps I was too indulgent of the promotional hype. I read several of Marton Beck novels earlier this year -- for the first time -- and was hugely impressed. The books hold up beautifully and are far more than "humble beginnings."

July 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, I may have read something similar about the destructive tendencies of Milwall supporters. I don't think the team have been world beaters in recent seasons, either.

I like the introductions to the new editions, as well. Nice to see current writers acknowledge Sjowall and Wahloo as something more than humble beginnings.

July 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I can't think of a better beginning or of a better answer to anyone who says humor has no place in crime fiction.

July 31, 2011  

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