Sunday, January 31, 2010

SCANDINAVIAN MYSTERY



It is nice to get back on line, nearly 24 hours without any electronic contact with friends and relatives is a harrowing experience.

There have been numerous articles about the appeal of Nordic crime fiction in the main stream media some of which have been quite funny.
Thanks to Barbara Fister and Maxine of Petrona [who both produce superb blogs that are required reading for anyone with the slightest interest in Scandinavian crime fiction] for pointing out an article where the writer's examples of British crime fiction were 'Conan Doyle and Christie and more recently P.D. James and Ruth Rendell'.
Ruth Rendell 'more recently' first brought us Reg Wexford in the days when I could walk up Bristol's Park Street [Crime Fest visitors will know what I mean] without needing a team of paramedics.
Obviously some of these main stream media writers need to get out more.

So many articles ask the question: Why is Scandinavian Crime Fiction so popular?
This always reminds me of the history exam question set to students in a high school in Atlanta:
Why did the South lose the Civil War?
Most of the class wrote reams and reams on the military, economic, social, political and demographic reasons, apart from one student who answered with one sentence.
'I think the Yankee Army had something to do with it'.

Scandinavian crime fiction is popular because it features good writing, usually excellent translation, well thought out plots and interesting characters.
The difference in location is merely an extra bonus to these basics in my opinion.
The main stream media seem to still regard Sweden as some sort of bizarre mixture of fictional Midsomer, and scenic Stow in the Wold, with snow, and absolutely no real life crime.
This despite the fact that in the real world Sweden has the distinction of having had two major politicians assassinated in fairly recent times; Olaf Palme in 1986 and Anna Lindh in 2003.

They also try and link all Scandinavian crime fiction under one 'gloomy' banner, when in reality Karin Fossum, Hakan Nesser, Stieg Larsson, Leif Davidsen, Liza Marklund, Camilla Lackberg, Helene Tursten, Karin Alvtegen, Jo Nesbo and K.O.Dahl for instance are all very different writers, and write very different books.

Looking at The Local Sweden's News in English just over the past week gave me an insight into modern Sweden as I discovered these headlines.

Married couple fund dead in cellar
Taxi driver charged with raping customer
Politician caught with chid pornography stash
Fatal shooting in central Malmo
Tourist wounded in Malmo shooting
Ex-Police Chief remanded in sex ring probe and Ex-Police Chief arrested for rape
Police shoot student at Swedish college

I am being little unfair quoting all these, but globalization increasingly means that all major cities have similar problems whether they are in the USA, Scandinavia, Australasia or Asia. Crime fiction writers will have to rely less on supposedly exotic location details and concentrate more on plot and characters.
The successful ones already do this, but add in the extra details of history and culture in an almost seamless fashion.

4 Comments:

Blogger Maxine said...

All excellent points, Norman, and I only wish that journalists and pundits writing these pieces in the papers (and being paid for it?) actually did this minimal research before embarking on their opinions- it isn't that hard to find out this sort of information after all.

That student with the one-sentence answer was not you by any chance was it? ;-)

9:50 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Maxine.

I was not that student, and the story might be apocryphal but I can't remember where I heard or read it. Probably on one of my battlefield tours.

1:26 PM  
OpenID bookwitch said...

Surely it's just as easy to commit murder surrounded by IKEA furniture, as it is in that charmingly quaint vicarage after tea?

12:58 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Your commonsense answer reminds me of why I found the recent Wall Street Journal about Scandinavian crime ficiton vaguely disappointing. It was at least as good as most, and it mentioned the dark humor of some of the writers. But there was nothing fresh about it. Why write reams about the appeal of Nordic crime fiction when the easy, accurate answer is "I think Arnaldur Indridason (or Jo Nesbo or Karin Fossum or ... ) have something to do with it."?

(You'll no doubt have been pleased to see that "Nemesis" is up for a best-novel Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America.)
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

1:25 AM  

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