Sunday, March 06, 2011


I recently treated myself by purchasing brand new copies of the ten Harper Perennial Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo Martin Beck books that I did not have in my possession in order to make a complete set.
They certainly look rather smart on my bookshelf, and the pages are readable unlike the miniscule font in some of my battered 1970 editions. The introductions by some famous authors should be an interesting diversion, although I immediately spotted a error in Henning Mankell's intro to Roseanna, the first book in the series.

'They were influenced and inspired by the American writer Ed McBain.'

Not true says Maj Sjowall in this article by Tom Nolan.

'When we started writing the series we didn't know about Ed McBain.'

My real purpose in these purchases was not the aesthetics of my shelving, but my plan [health willing] to do a marathon ten Martin Beck read later this year. I have read these books out of order, spread out over a period of nearly thirty years, and it is clearly time to go back and re-read them in the intended order.

At the moment I am about half way through Hakan Nesser's The Inspector and Silence, the fifth book in the ten book Van Veeteren series to be translated into English by Laurie Thompon.
With its chess playing, music loving detective, idiosyncratic characters, ironic humour and intelligent thought provoking plots this series is in my opinion rapidly assuming a premier position among police procedurals.

Hakan Nesser looks to me more like the heir to Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo than any of his rivals?

They had spent several hours together on subsequent evenings, and the lasting impression Van Veeteren had of his rescuer was that he was a rather untalented crackpot holding a series-more or less seriously meant-ideas and principles about practically everything.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - What a lovely set of books! I'm so happy for you that you're taking the time to re-read that excellent series :-). I had a similar experience last year when I replaced some of my very battered Agatha Christies with new copies...

5:40 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

Happy reading, Norman! Thanks to you, as you were the first to tell me about these authors, I've really enjoyed these books. Some of the intros are better than others (one or two books don't have them). I agree with you about Mankell's mistake.

I also agree that Hakan Nesser is worth considering as the heir to S/W, though his books don't have the political dimension.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Whoopie! How exciting! You now have a new set of the Sjowall/Wahloo series. I'm envious, especially if they're the one with Manning and other writers' introductions.

I must get these!

I do like Hakan Nesser, each book I've read, I think two I liked, but I want to crack open the other two in my library, and grab the new one when it arrives.

There is so much to his writing. He is not the next Stieg Larsson. But he has a damn good police procedural with a brilliant, quirky police inspector, who is right in the end--and is a dry, quick wit--important to me. All good, as my colleagues say.

But who is the next Stieg Larsson? Here's an original thought: NO ONE. They are all their own unique style of writer.

Every writer is different, although I think some of Henning Mankell's and Stieg Larsson's books stem from Sjowall/Wahloo books.

I'll keep reading; the tests could go on infinitely. Maybe publishers can find different ad themes for the newer books, rather than dragging Larsson's name out.

And I think Kjell Eriksson is a fine writer, maybe the next "Stieg Narsson," or next "Henning Mankell." He's really good.

6:02 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

I agree that Nesser´s books are of the same excellent quality, and Van Veeteren is also a thoughtful and quiet protagonist, but though he may have a pessimistic view on his job, he strikes me as a more positive person on the whole.

And I have noticed the same view on life in his new Barbarotti series. In some ways it may be compared to Karin Fossum´s psychological thrillers, but while her characters seem very dark, there is a more optimistic note in Nesser´s books (a belief in the positive sides to mankind, I think).

7:37 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Margot.
After i went to the Christie festival event with John Curran and Mathew Prichard back in September [it seems a long time ago now] I bought a few Harper PBs of John's selection of the best of Christie. They have a nice large print font and this makes them a pleasure to read.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Maxine.
I may have introduced you to S&W but you are responsible for my TBR shelf creaking. ;o)

7:42 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Kathy.
I agree the wit in the books is captivating, and there won't be the next Stieg Larsson.
I enjoyed the Larsson trilogy, but the two main factors in their phenomenal success were the fantastical bisexual heroine and the brilliant marketing of the books. To be the next Stieg Larsson you would need a very unusual protagonist and huge expenditure on a marketing campaign.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Dorte.
I do like the idea of Van Veeteren retiring to a book shop. That was my original idea when we moved to Devon in 1987!
When Hakan Nesser discussed his Barbarotti series at Crime Fest 2009 I went over to Reg Keeland and Tiina Nunnally, and suggested they translated these while Laurie Thompson finished the Van Veeterens.
I shall have to learn Swedish or wait for the Barbarottis.

8:07 AM  

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