Saturday, August 30, 2008


The Great Northern War I refer to is not the one that ended with the Battle of Poltava and the defeat of Charles XII of Sweden in the first of three great failed expeditions into the wastes of Russia, but an argument that has broken out between crime writers. Thanks to Scandinavian Crime Fiction for the link to the Earth Times article here.

Two young attractive female crime writers are criticised by some not as successful older male writers. 

Camilla Lackberg was attacked by G.W.Persson, a 62 year old professor of criminology and prize winning author, for planning her novels like kitsch novellas for equestrian events and writing in the style of stupid children's books. 
Camilla struck back by saying 'this is just the piss of an elderly gentleman who feels somehow left out.'

Bjoern Ranelid 58 has been attacking attractive blonde Liza Marklund 44  by saying 'One million Swedes can write like Liza Marklund' and complaining about her photo being placed on all her book covers! Read the article here.

Do these 'elderly gentlemen' [what does that make me] think that male crime fiction readers are so shallow that we would buy books just because the female author is attractive? 


Blogger Barbara said...

It all seems pretty silly, doesn't it? That said, I happen to find Jo Nesbo pretty swoon-worthy.

I wonder if part of what's going on is a reaction not just to women selling more books and getting more kudos than the male old guard but to a new kind of marketing. I'm not sure, but I suspect that the bestselling books today are marketed much more commercially than before, and the "branding" of authors is perhaps a distressing cultural shift toward a more American-style way of promoting books. I know from speaking with Arnaldur Indridason after the Madison Bouchercon that he found the marketing frenzy to be very strange.

It would be interesting to know how Sjowall and Wahloo were marketed. They were both committed socialists and critical of capitalism's inroads into Scandinavia - but they were certainly popular.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I too think the whole thing is a bit of a joke but the controversy might improve the sales of all the authors involved.
I think the author has become more important in the marketing of books with tours and crime festivals and multiple award ceremonies. We after all live in the age of communication and an author with the gift can sell many more books.
Ian Rankin is an example of a male author who has enhanced his career by being an excellent interview. Grumpy old criminology professors just cannot compete in the modern world.
I love Jo Nesbo's books but on the 'swoon-worthyness' ratings I would prefer another Norwegian Karin Fossum who I had the pleasure of meeting at Bristol's Crime Fest this year. ;0)
I will dig out some older Sjowall and Wahloo editions and check the covers and blurbs.

6:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norm, I think it is an excellent idea to read swoon-worthy authors, if they are of the calibre of Marklund, Fossum and co. Really these critics are so pathetic, they remind me of all those people who criticise JK Rowling, just so they can get the attendant publicity. Let readers be the judge!

Incidentally, having seen both Jo Nesbo and Johan Theorin in the flesh (so to speak) at Harrogate, I found it remarkable how similar to each other they look. In fact I had trouble telling them apart.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Am in a tearing hurry here, but will come back with more soon. Anyway, I just heard Lackberg speak at Edinburgh and was very impressed (though yes, she did look good). Moreover, she was spoke very interestingly about situating her work within existing crime fiction traditions (she mentioned Wahloo and Sjowall specifically.) And she was partnered with KO Dahl in the talk, who is hardly a youngster, and they seemed to complement each other very well - and be dealing with many of the same themes.

2:51 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Have a brief moment to comment again - I *have* read two books by GW Persson and found them fairly dull. And, honestly, those I read were unremittingly masculine to an off-putting extent.

I really don't care whether an author is swoon-worthy or not, as long as the writing is good. And if it is, and the author is attractive - so what?

I've only read one Liza Marklund novel, and I can't remember it well enough to comment (it was some time ago.) But I have read three by Lackberg, and speaking as a young-ish female reader, she covers a lot of things I recognise or know about - relationships; domestic violence; post-natal depression - that are not always covered elsewhere. Just as Helene Tursten has brilliant snippets about family life. I'd hate to think such things were roped off as 'women's themes' (or heaven help me, 'childish'!), but they are the sort of topics the 'old guard' hasn't often written about. And I suppose someone frustrated could view this different approach as a problem, instead of, well, just different.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Lauren for your comments.
I agree with you and I am an old-ish male. OK old male.
I think these subject are certainly not just women's themes after all men are involved in most of these in one way or another.
I have just finished The Hidden Assassins by Robert Wilson where he boldly tackles the subject of domestic violence and post abortion depression and I have to admit I can't think of another male crime writer who has dealt with these subjects.
It is the quality of the writing and the plot that matters to me and the fact that the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger has only been won by women is a sign that they can write just as well and in many cases better than men.
I think it is obvious the older male writers were jealous of the young women's sales figures and their publishers were trying to stimulate interest.

9:16 AM  

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