Best-selling Swedish crime author Arne Dahl opened the Wells Festival of Literature last Friday, discussing the secrets of Nordic noir. Perfect timing; the fourth novel in Dahl’s Intercrime series, Europa Blues, has just been published in English and the second season of the TV adaptation starts next weekend on BBC4.
As his regular readers might’ve guessed from his writing, in person Arne Dahl is intelligent, affable and self-effacing. His easy-going manner and off-the-cuff quips disguise the author’s underlying serious nature, and one of the things he talked about during the evening was balancing humour with some grimly horrific aspects of life through crime fiction. The conversation also considered the social problems of modern society, particularly Sweden’s ‘loss of innocence’ since the assassination of its prime minister in 1986.
It all added up to a thought-provoking, fascination evening, accessible and entertaining for long-time AD fans and newcomers alike. Look out for AD at other crime and literary festivals – it’s most definitely worth travelling to attend. Here are just a few of the things we discovered…
AD ON PSEUDONYMS: earlier in his writing career, Jan Arnald felt he’d painted himself into a literary corner. He wanted to write crime fiction in a different style, and felt hemmed in by the constraints of the more formal genre. Hence ‘Arne Dahl’ was born when he submitted the first Intercrime manuscript. Apparently, this causes so much confusion at airports and hotels that Jan/Arne is unlikely to repeat the process!
AD ON INSPIRATION: as you might expect, AD cited the Beck novels by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö as one of the inspirations for his crime writing. Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series influenced the ensemble nature of the Intercrime series – which also owes much to TV programmes like Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect.
AD ON VIOLENCE: although crime-thrillers and murder-mystery novels inevitably, almost by definition, include an act of violence, AD abhors such behaviour. He believes that people write and read crime fiction, not ‘because you like violence, it’s because you hate it. It is more about liking justice and being against murder and crime.’
AD ON TRANSLATION: the ten Intercrime novels were written between 1999 and 2007. They’ve now been translated into 30 languages and JA/AD has sold over three million books worldwide. Yet the first Intercrime novel, The Blinded Man, wasn’t released in English until 2012. Why the delay? Well, it turns out that the publisher which bought the worldwide English language rights also had another Scandinavian series on their shelves – and they presumably didn’t want to the two to compete. Hence the English speaking world was given Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy first. Shame! Still, the pace of translation seems to be speeding up…
AD ON TV: the Intercrime book series was already pretty much complete by the time the TV production began. So unlike some authors, AD wasn’t overly influenced by the actors and style of the televisual interpretation of his ‘children’. In fact, he revealed that the two versions are entirely separate to him. If he thinks of the TV series then he’ll visualise the actors; but when he considers the characters from the books then their faces are always slightly obscure, always in shadow, and never fully realised.
AD ON KILLING YOUR CHARACTERS: Viggo Norlander was supposed to die in the opening novel, The Blinded Man, where he ends up nailed to the floor in an unwise Estonian escapade. AD revealed that he actually attempts to kill Viggo three times in the book series – obviously, on two occasions the character lives to fight another day. You’ll have to read all of them to find out if AD actually goes through with it…
AD ON GENRES: he’s already swapped from ‘straight’ contemporary literature to crime, and has written two full series (ten Intercrime novels and the Opcop quartet). Writing in a different genre very definitely has its temptations – AD seemed really keen to have a crack at science fiction. We say: can’t wait!
Europa Blues by Arne Dahl is out now: come back in a week or so for our full review.
Here’s our review of the third Intercrime novel, To The Top Of The Mountain.