Archive for September 11, 2011

The concluding part of my interview with Don Bartlett.

14] What factors do you think are responsible for the popularity of Nordic crime fiction? 

The UK has been slow to pick up on foreign writers, but perhaps it took Peter Høeg’s  “Miss Smilla” to act as the catalyst. That became a million-seller and allowed the door to be opened.  It was the first book to counter the deeply-held view among some publishers that translated fiction does not make serious money. Yet it took more time, entrepreneurial spirit, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, to prove the case. All eased by a willingness on the part of Scandinavian Arts Councils to part-fund translations, support translators and promote authors. Now the door is well and truly open. 

Nordic crime, in general, does offer something different though: 

First of all, breath-taking scenery and dramatic climates, which are not just a backdrop to the plot but can be deeply intertwined with it. Snow, ice, precipices, fjords, dense forests, geysers, volcanoes, sea. A real sense of place. 

Then, societies which are smaller, more egalitarian, in many ways more liberal than our own, facing their own demons: extreme beliefs, the Past, drugs, alcohol, etc.  

With strong literary traditions and a variety of crime-fiction models to build on, writers have come up with enough intelligent plots, innovative characters and memorable scenes to provide a serious challenge in a competitive market. 

15] Why do you think German crime fiction hasn’t become as popular in the UK and USA? 

As for good German-language crime fiction, I can only say there is a lot, some on my shelves at home and much of it un-translated. There doesn’t seem to be a very big name, as yet, and perhaps this is what is needed? Or is there a lack of state support to promote German-language literature abroad? Pass. 

16] Can you tell us what you are translating now, and what work is in the pipeline? 

I have just finished Gunnar Staalesen’s COLD HEARTS, the follow-up to THE CONSORTS OF DEATH, published by Arcadia Books. Now I am working on Jo Nesbø’s GJENFERD (Ghosts), number nine in the Harry Hole series.  Then I change tack, with Ida Jessen’s CHILDREN, followed by the second of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six volumes. And a break.

That is very good news. 

Many thanks for this interview and for giving us so many interesting insights into both your work, and the success of Nordic crime fiction. 


Posted: September 11, 2011 in USA


I took these photos near the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky on 11 September 2003, the second anniversary of the devastating attacks on New York, and Washington, and the sacrifice by the passengers on Flight 93 at Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Perhaps it was a form of escapism that we had arranged our itinerary to be somewhere very peaceful on that particular day.