Saturday, November 29, 2008


When I have found an author and read them quite happily for many years I don't like it when they become mainstream. 
Is this intellectual snobbery [probably] or is it that the movies or TV on occasions make a complete mess of  adaptations?
John Hannah as Rebus, and Lou Diamond Phillips [born in the Phillipines] as Navajo policeman Officer Jim Chee spring to mind as casting errors. But I really get irritated at the exposure of my favourites to the attention of media people who know nothing about the subject but have become instant experts.

Now Henning Mankell, Kurt Wallander, and Sweden have become victims of instant  punditry and reviewers who seem to have never read a crime fiction book, or possibly any book.

How long did it take to think up the Radio Times headline 'Inspector Norse'

The Daily Mail weekend review goes one better with 'Inspector Morose', who is ' Swedish, scruffy and makes Morse look like the laughing policeman'. 
I suspect the writer has not read the Sjowall and Wahloo novel of that name, because they go on to say 'Swedish and witty: now that's something you don't often see.'

Why do the media employ a critic who on their own admission states:

I must be honest, I hadn't been optimistic about the prospect of a Swedish detective. My only knowledge of the country came from watching Bjorn Borg playing tennis at Wimbledon, and reading about Ulrika Jonsson's latest baby/divorce/lover.

If I had my grumpy old way no one would be allowed to review the Wallander series unless they could identify the two people in the portraits above. I am going to record the 'Wallanders' and save them to watch when the media hoopla has died down. The first episode is on BBC at 9.00 p.m. tomorrow.

I have decided to lighten my mood before I read Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdadottir and therefore I have started reading The Burglar who liked to Quote Kipling by Lawrence Block.    


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hated it when a TV series (an awful one too with a most implausible Lynley and a simply ridiculous Havers) was made out of Elizabeth George's books and suddenly people who'd never read one of the books were claiming to be fans of "my" Lynley and Havers. How dare they!

I confess I'm late to the Wallander party though. I only read the first book in the series this year (but at least I started with a book not a TV show). But I'm struggling with your portraits. The chap with the beard is, I think, Gustav Adolphus who I know from studying the mess that was the thirty years war but I don't know the other one.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks for you comments Bernadette. I have never read any Elizabeth George and have to plead guilty and apologise in that I am a fan of 'Barbara Havers' as played by the delicious Sharon Small. I know that is pathetic and my excuse is my age. ;O) I hope Philip in BC who is another admirer will come to my aid.

A good effort on the portraits it is not Gustavus Adolphus but you are in the right period.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Dad was similarly disappointed when Morse was televised and he became so popular, as he was nothing if not an individualist who did not like to be one of the crowd.
I too read the Morse books when they were first published, as at the time I had a student vacation job working in Blackwells, and the first book was promoted as by a local author. I did enjoy the books and read them all as they came out, but I did not see much if any of the TV series.

The one series I did see a few of, and felt ruined the books, was Frost. The character is "loveable rogue" compared with "grumpy old, unreconstructed, very funny but scatalogical and sexist" character in books). Well, the couple of episodes I saw, could not see any more after those.

I have not seen the Lynley TV series but have read a lot of discussion on Dorothy L a few years ago about the divergence between the books and the films. The books are very uneven, though - because the author wants to go into a different particular issue in-depth for each book, the characterisations are disjointed between titles. And some are a lot better than others. Norm, I don't know if you will ever read them, but one aspect is that they are unintentionally hilarious about the picture of Britain, and British policing, they portray, eg the chief forensic scientist being a guy with a butler who has a personal laboratory on the top floor of his fancy house in St James's park (or somewhere) - they are full of stuff like that, an amalgamation of Peter Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes, grafted on to modern crime "slice of life" stories.

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS No clue on the portraits I am afraid, but I have read all the Wallander books, Linda included, apart from the most recent one, The Pyramid (collection of short stories).
Linnaeus is the Swede I know of best, but neither of these gentlemen looks much like him.

2:07 AM  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

I am here, Norman and Sharon, rushing to your rescue in the teeth of this fiendish and scurrilous attack. I think that Bernadette has just not had enough opportunities to witness the astounding thespian skills of Ms Small. When she has had a chance to study her as closely as I have -- and I have studied her very, very closely indeed -- I am sure Bernadette will come to appreciate the wondrous nature of her art as we ourselves marvel at her assets.

On a far less serious note, the portraits are Christina and Axel Ostentierna, the latter being the power behind a couple of thrones.

3:03 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Maxine.
These 'gentlemen' are with the beard Axel Oxenstierna Lord High Chancellor of Sweden 1612-1654 [throughout the Thirty Years War] advisor to Gustavus Adolphus and his daughter Queen Christina.
The other picture is Queen Christina who was famously mistaken for a boy at birth, and after her abdication in 1654 rode through Denmark dressed as a man, so you were not that wrong! I have seen more flattering portraits of her.
I was being grumpy frivolous and vexatious to make the point that this is just a symptom of a general dumbing down of standards. I still can't believe there was a US Presidential candidate who thought Africa was a country! If I was invited to write an article about subjects I knew very little, and there are a lot of those, I would either say no or ask my wife to do it for me.
The Elizabeth Georges do sound hilarious fun but the Wimsey/Holmes/Cotswolds view of England is held by Americans because of TV and trips that go to York and Stratford and leave out the Old Kent Road and Peckham.
You have to get lost, off the beaten track, as frequently as we did on holidays to get a real picture of a country!

3:15 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Philip I have frequently marveled at the depth of your knowledge and your intellectual prowess. This has now been once again confirmed by your accurate assessment of Ms Sharon Small's abilities.

You were OK on the Swedish questions as well.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Thank you, Norman. Coming from you, a true mensch of remarkable mental acumen, polymathic range and unerring good taste, that is a compliment to be prized.

Now, while we're dishing out the compliments, I do think your post and all the comments thus far on this are right on the ball. Something in this has always rather baffled me: British television is justly renowned for its adaptations of all sorts, but when it comes to crime fiction series, things tend to go wonky. The only real successes I can think of off-hand are Rupert Davies as Maigret, Joan Hickson as Miss Marple, Jeremy Brett as Holmes, John Thaw as Morse, and David Suchet as Poirot. I think Maxine is quite right about Frost and about the Lynley novels. The adaptations of the latter wisely play down the more risible aspects of the books -- I read two and that was enough. Wimsey and company were starting to look plebeian by comparison. One other thing about the adaptations, and one I suspect Bernadette had in mind, is that Havers, the best character in the books, is very different -- in the books she is unattractive, angry, resentful, and, I seem to recall, lives a life of misery in a council house with truly woeful parents. Then there was George Baker as Rendell's Wexford, sounding as if he was on his way to Widdecombe Fair. The first Dalziel/Pascoe adaptation was famously catastrophic, but there was something very much lacking in the second also. With favourite characters, the way we have them in mind must play a part in our disappointment, but I don't think it's just that. Perhaps the best characters are just too finely drawn on paper to withstand the demands of adaptation to the screen, and that says a lot for the best crime writers.

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe this is just what happens to all TV series. For example, I did see the first one or two Crackers (with Christopher Eccleston as well as Robbie Coltrane) and I was blown away - how refreshing to have such an awful man as the main character. But, after it became popular and they churned out more, Cracker became, guess what, "loveable rogue with heart of gold underneath gruff exterior" and I stopped watching. Formula, formula.....

Norm, the funny thing is that some of E George's books do feature lowlife street crime in deprived London - and Havers is quite downmarket - but this is grafted on to gilded Lynley and his ilk. Very odd.

9:28 AM  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

The comments in the Mail, summed up, simply say "Hey, I am not qualified to write an article on this topic, so read it at risk of a rise in your blood pressure, if you know more than I do".

I shall be watching it at my leisure, later in the week. Which means that I am unlikely to read Mankell now. I simply can't mix books and TV/film. It's one or the other for me and if I see a screen version before reading the novel, I can't manage the book later. But that's me. It might save me some disappointment too.

12:46 PM  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

Norm, a PS: I think that Yrsa's book will also lighten your mood. There may be some dark stuff in there, but there's also lovely humour and a great take on family life, the mix of which I consider to be a great achievement. I think if you start out on a novel trying to achieve this, it may prove to be very difficult. But somehow, Yrsa has achieved it with a feeling of the "natural" coming through and never forced.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks, crimeficreader I looked at the review in the Telegraph and I am not sure that the reviewers understand that Sidetracked was published thirteen years ago. The first Wallander, Faceless Killers, was published as long ago as 1991. It was a different world back then in the UK we even had an incompetent government who could not manage the economy.

I will be starting the Yrsa Sigurdadottir in the next few days and am really looking forward to that.

10:25 AM  

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