Ann Cleeves has the knack of drawing out the best from her subjects, and as last year when she interviewed Karin Fossum, this Hakan Nesser interview was a definite highlight of the convention.
Hakan Nesser has written 22 novels of which ten comprise his award winning Van Veeteren series. The reason he set his Van Veeteren books in an unnamed Northern European country was that he had not done the geographical research to set them in Sweden, and was worried if he did this his German fans would pick up on incorrect details when they read his books. With his dry humour you never quite know whether Hakan is joking or not but it makes a good story.
The Van Veeteren series features in two of the first four books sympathetic murderers with very good motives for killing their victims, but we were told that by books nine and ten some suitably nasty murderers turn up.
The grumpy chess and badminton playing Van Veeteren retires from the police in book five and opens an antiquarian book shop, but his former colleagues continue to consult the intuitive master detective in the remaining books, while Van Veeteren becomes less abrasive because he finds a woman. Unfortunately so far we have only four of the ten books translated into English.
Hakan and Ann went on to talk about the new series, the neatly named Barbarotti Quartet. Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti's parents could agree on nothing except they wanted a divorce, which meant his Italian father and Swedish mother battled over his name and luckily mother won because the books are set in Sweden and he became Gunnar rather than Guisseppe Barbarotti.
The Italian Swedish detective seems to be a captivating character who makes a bargain with God in which Barbarotti keeps score marking God's performance. This all sounded such promising stuff that after the interview was over I did go over to Tiina Nunnally and suggest that with so many Van Veeterens and Barbarottis still to be translated into English Hakan Nesser needed a team of translators to quicken the process for the sake of us older readers.
Earlier in the interview a much more serious Hakan, when discussing the sympathetic murderers in his earlier books, had said that he had told his daughters that if they were ever being assaulted or raped to tell the perpetrator that "my father will seek you out and kill you".