Archive for January 25, 2009


Posted: January 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

There is an interesting post at Scandinavian Crime Fiction that refers to a discussion by Mike Carlson here as to the reason why Nordic crime has attracted all this current attention from UK journalists.

The key section selected by Barbara at Scandinavian Crime Fiction  is “But it remains puzzling to me why, that when contemporary British writers have done so much to move their genre into more challenging territory it takes two Swedes [Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson ?] to get British critics to notice.” 

I think the answer is simple, the media pick on something as the flavour of the moment, and in the process they drain the story of every drop of vitality they can and then they abandon it and move on. 
In their view British crime fiction has been around a long while, it has been on television in various guises for many years and therefore is not as newsworthy as something new such as Swedish crime fiction. [I have noted that two of my first creaking blog posts back in September 2006 referred to Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo]
The critics think here is a ‘new TV series’ with a ‘new detective’ Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh, and which is set in a beautiful location, so we must write about it. The fact that the televised Mankell books were published in English between ten and six years ago is irrelevant. 

In the case of  Stieg Larsson the interest has undoubtedly been stimulated as a result of three factors: he died tragically young, the advertising campaign, and the unique character Lisbeth Salander

Will the professional journalists/critics move on to all the other Scandinavian crime writers who have not been televised and who have not been the beneficiary of a Stieg Larsson like marketing campaign [well deserved on the evidence of The Girl Who Played with Fire] ? 
I very much doubt it as the media are quite fickle, but unfortunately the problems dealt with in the books concerning the breakdown of society, single parenthood, gangs, abuse, immigration and drugs are with us for the long haul. 

In 1990 when Sweden was probably a more homogeneous population a Sami, who was very drunk, started a conversation with us on a train from Uppsala to Stockholm. He complained that he was a ‘Swedish Apache’, a depressed and oppressed minority in his own country. We were rather shocked because that winter we had seen a beautiful country, which appeared snow white in more than one sense, a country where even the bag ladies dressed smartly. We were relieved that this was a short journey because he was very drunk, but as we were about to leave the train he said “if you are going to be oppressed this is the best country in the world to be oppressed.”

Perhaps a lot of the interest in Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson is caused by the fact that the liberal media still believe that Sweden is some sort of socialist utopia and are intrigued by the concept that it is a ‘real’ country.