Thursday, May 21, 2015

CrimeFest 2015: Lee Child Interviews Maj Sjöwall

Lee Child interviews Maj Sjöwall.

[Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö wrote the highly influential ten book Martin Beck series (published in English 1965-1975).]

LC read the books in the '70s and hoped he wouldn't come over too fanboy-y in his interview.

Does she mind talking about a ten year period which happened about 50 years ago? Not at all as in this situation she is crime writer.

She was aged between 4 and 9 during WW2, everything stopped during the war. Jazz smuggled in, in '40s' and rock and roll in '50s, smuggled in via England, eg Cliff Richard and then the Beatles.

LC: Image of Sweden at the time as a paradise, all the girls were pretty and would sleep with you! What was wrong with Sweden?

MS: You're right about the girls!

Sweden was turning from social democratic country to a more right wing country. They wrote books during the time the Vietnam war was on. Olav Palme – a great pr man, painted picture of idealistic society but we didn't see that – country more and more right wing and capitalistic. Police were portrayed as more militaristic than civil.

Met Per, both working in same publishing house and MS needed a translator of two Father Brown stories and was introduced to Per. Met again and again.

Per had written 3 political novels (inc 1 about football) and wanted to write something entertaining and bake into it what they wanted to talk about. At the time there were no police novels in Sweden.

Both fond of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Simenon. But didn't want to write like someone else. It was hard to get information about the police then. Our idea was to have not just a single hero but a team.

LC: Introduction to Roseanna is pages of admin about organising the dredger – radically different approach.

MS: Crime novels in Sweden were very bourgeois, wanted it to be realistic – people say their books are slow – but it is realistic. Started series before they had read Ed McBain even though they are often compared and went on to bring McBain books to Sweden.

Book 1 did ok, not fantastic, got good reviews, after books 2 and 3 young people began to react.

Martin Beck is a typical civil servant, rather boring, dutiful, has empathy (Lee Child said he is lovely).

LC: Is she pissed off that people are doing the same as what they did?

MS: Not pissed off that people are doing the same but can't they find some other way to write about society? Books are now half about romance and private life and this stems from Martin Beck as he had a private life - MS said we didn't mean to do it! They won an Edgar for book 3 – only non anglo-saxons to win an Edgar.

Every year there are 10 new Swedish authors...publishers buy at Frankfurt because it's Swedish, Scandinavian noir. Has no explanation for's not that fantastic is it?

They decided on a ten book series, no more no less. One novel, split into ten: Novel of a crime. Wouldn't have carried on for anything.

LC: Here you have integrity on legs.

PW: Per was to planning to write next about modern warships.

Didn't want to write 300 pages on own – too lonely so wrote short things, poetry.

Sat face to face with Per working over a table. Talked a lot about the story and the language and for the first book – the characters.

In Roseanna, a US character was not chosen to open up another market but just to show how Swedish, Swedish police were, and how they could hardly communicate with the US.

They did the voyage through Sweden for fun and there was a beautiful American woman on the trip, Per was watching her, so I said we'll kill her!

Books don't change the world very much but can change thinking. S & W opened the market – half the population writes crime fiction now! Doesn't read much but likes Leif GW Persson who sticks close to real life.

When asked about the Matthau film - said we needed the money!.

Her favourite is The Locked Room.

Doesn't do much writing for publication, though will write for friends, as publishing means things like CrimeFest – ok in England but not in Sweden. Doesn't want to talk about self, or be looked at.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: Arab Jazz by Karim Miské tr. Sam Gordon

Arab Jazz by Karim Miské translated by Sam Gordon, February 2015, 304 pages, MacLehose Press, ISBN: 0857053116

Reviewed by Lynn Harvey.
(Read more of Lynn's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

"....So, to recap: we've got three Salafists, one Hasidic Jew and a family of Jehovah's Witnesses... That is one holy hornet's nest!"

Paris, 19th Arrondissement.
Ahmed the Dreamer is on the balcony of his tiny apartment, watching the clouds. Dreaming. Poetry. Books. The second-hand, English-language thrillers stacked four deep around the walls of his room. Dreaming. The mountains, rocks, water and sand of his ancestors. He glides above their land, a man-vulture, suddenly plunging down towards a dark and terrible shape. His fellow vultures force him up and away. Banished. Ahmed feels the first drop of blood on his upturned face. He opens his eyes and looks upward, sees the foot of his neighbour Laura hanging from her balcony, blood gathering on the toes. Ahmed has crashed to earth.

9.15 pm. With keys to Laura's flat, for Ahmed looks after her orchids while the young air hostess is away, he goes upstairs. But her door is ajar, the window wide open. A bottle of wine on a table, two glasses and – on a white platter – an uncooked joint of pork bathed in blood and stabbed with a kitchen knife. The horror is out on the balcony. Laura, bound and gagged, T-shirt crimson, one enormous gash from the belly down. Ahmed returns to his flat, changes his stained djellaba and gets back into bed. Sleep. Dream.

3.45 am. Lieutenants Kupferstein and Hamelot, back at headquarters after having examined the murder scene, written their reports, eaten sushi and drunk beer – now sit apart, in their own worlds, distancing themselves from the savagery.

5.25 am. Ahmed gathers his blood-stained clothes and jogs along the canal for the first time in three years. In the undergrowth he burns the clothes. He feels again, he is alive. Back at his flat, carrying morning croissants and baguette, Ahmed finds two police officers. They tell him that his neighbour has been murdered. This time he allows himself to feel the shock. And invites them in. There are questions and it seems that for now detectives Kupferstein and Hamelot tacitly agree that Ahmed is not their man. Do you have a job, Monsieur Taroudant? Sick leave? For what? Depression? Before that, your job? Night-watchman. Thank you. Here are our contact details. Do not leave the arrondissement. But Ahmed never does. He closes the door behind the detectives and later, listening to the iPod that Laura gave him, loaded with her favourite music, he weeps. He will find the killer.

Meanwhile the detectives exit the lift and come face to face with the concierge. who tells them about Laura: her unrequited love for Ahmed, her three girlfriends – Bintou, Aicha and Rebecca. Rebecca is no longer in the neighbourhood but the other girls live around the corner. You can find them every evening at Onur's, the kebab place. Laura's parents? She wouldn't talk about them....

Karim Miské is a Franco-Mauritanian writer and documentary film-maker born in Abidjan but raised in France. ARAB JAZZ is his first novel, winning the 2012 French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. Its title is a tribute to James Ellroy's WHITE JAZZ and its translator, Sam Gordon has made a vivid, natural telling in his own first novel-length translation.

Central to ARAB JAZZ is Ahmed, the son of a woman confined to a psychiatric hospital and himself a depressive undergoing psychoanalysis. (Or is he some kind of displaced shamanic dreamer?) Ahmed lives in the same arrondissement as Miské himself at the time of writing ARAB JAZZ. The 19th – a quarter made notorious by the Charlie Hebdo killings earlier this year. It is a setting used by other French writers and I think back to the books of Daniel Pennac with the 1980s-90s Belleville of his "Malaussène" series with its lively hotchpotch of immigrant cultures. But the warmth and diversity of Pennac's Belleville has taken a colder, darker turn by the time of Miské's "19th". The neighbourhood's religions still co-exist but each is moving towards born-again extremes. Miské started writing this novel around 2005 after having made a documentary about Judaism and Islam. He was aware of the growing extremism amongst some of these local communities but the Kouachi killings of January 2015 still shocked him. In a "Reader Dad" blog interview he says of his own feelings:

"I had been reading about the trial of the survivors of this [earlier] jihadi group in 2008 …. and the self-proclaimed imam of that group inspired one of the characters of the book. It was this imam who recruited one of the Kouachi brothers. When the Charlie Hebdo attack happened, I was, like everybody, horrified by the murders but also really disturbed by the way reality had re-entered my novel."

With two strong police characters, Kupferstein and Hamelot, a psychotic murderer, brutal corruption and the advent of a little blue pill that delivers a messianic high – we have a very potent brew and a plot that spans the Atlantic, Paris to New York. If you love the distinct flavour of French crime-writing and can take the misogynistic crime (and let's face it there is plenty of misogynistic crime in thrillers) this is a gripping, rich and wonderful book. With the writer's plan to develop a trilogy... start now with ARAB JAZZ.

Lynn Harvey, May 2015.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Petrona Award 2015 Announcement in Pictures

Last night at CrimeFest.

The three Petrona Judges: Sarah Ward, Dr Kat Hall and Barry Forshaw who asks Maj Sjowall up to the stage.

Concentration as the shortlist is read out and Kat clutches the trophy in its box.

Sarah announces the winner....

and Yrsa makes her way to the stage.

and gives her speech thanking firstly her translator Victoria Cribb.

Petrona Award 2015: Winner Announced

Last night at CrimeFest, Petrona Award judges Barry Forshaw, Dr Katharina Hall and Sarah Ward announced the winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

And the winner is Yrsa Sigurdadottir for THE SILENCE OF THE SEA translated by Victoria Cribb and published by Hodder and Stoughton.

The trophy was presented by the Godmother of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, Maj Sjöwall, co-author with Per Wahlöö of the Martin Beck series.

As well as the trophy, Yrsa Sigurdardottr will also receive a pass to and panel at next year's CrimeFest.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

CrimeFest 2015: Euro Noir

Moderator: Barry Forshaw
Panel: Roberto Costantini, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael Ridpath, Jorn Lier Horst

RC: an engineer, Italians surprised that an engineer can write. Used skills to plot. Big diagrams on the wall.

GS: Bergen people quite satisfied with themselves so when they got a successful detective they were quick to put a statue up.

JLH: Wisting pronounced Visting named after a hero who went to South Pole. No plans to stop writing after ten books.

GS: First book tried to do a typical PI in Norway in '70s in the model of Ross MacDonald, Chandler. Didn't really work so second book was different.

RC: Series character Michele is awkward, conflicted so half the audience won't like him, other half love him. Michele is a policeman who acts as a PI which you can do in Italy.

MR: Learned a lot about writing not just Iceland in writing about something new.

GS made Varg Veum quite different to himself but sees him as a best friend, knows him well after 17 books.

GS - Don Bartlett is a great translator; GS read a couple of chapters of new book and recognised his own jokes!

JLH: Translator Anne Bruce has been over to Wisting's town

RC: Books translated into both English and separately into American. Latter was 50 pages shorter.

Friday, May 15, 2015

International Dagger 2015 - Shortlist

Tonight at CrimeFest, the shortlist for the International Dagger was announced. From the CWA's website - with links to Euro Crime reviews:

The International Dagger

Falling Freely, As If In A Dream by Leif GW Persson (tr Paul Norlen)
Camille by Pierre Lemaitre (tr Frank Wynne)
Cobra by Deon Meyer (tr K.L Seegers)
Arab Jazz by Karim Miské (tr Sam Gordon)
The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo (tr Isabelle Kaufeler)
Into a Raging Blaze by Andreas Norman (tr Ian Giles)

The CWA Dagger Awards will be presented on 30th June, to mark the end of Crime Reading Month (, at a gala dinner in central London.

CrimeFest 2015: Nordic Noir: Borders

Nordic Noir Panel: Crime at the Borders of the Arctic

Moderator: Quentin Bates

KH's The Hummingbird is set in a northern, unnamed, Finnish town which doesn't exist. It has sea, mosquitoes, cold in winter.

GS: Bergen is a noir place - rains 250 days a year! Weather is very important to Norwegians - in their genes from being fisherman, peasants.

CC: Wrote from memory, Orkney Twilight is set in 1984 summer when the sun doesn't go down. Going back soon with daughters, daughters are the age she was when she was there. Orkney is a mysterious place full of secrets. She started writing it when she was in the US, longing for home and cool.

CR: Had no intention of writing in Nordic tradition – original plot had a body washed up and it was a girl from Tallyn – but Peter Robinson beat him too it. So had to find another place. Faroe has 300 days of rain. In an  day research trip, stopped raining twice snow. Wind can prevent driving – lift up car if on high points.

GS: Dark winter, light summer so plot during dark winters, write it in summer, publish in autumn. KH agreed.
West Norway has north sea climate like part of UK.

Varg Veum actor speaks with Eastern dialect though book Varg Veum has a western dialect – GS says it is very hard to act naturally with such a different dialect. Varg Veum can keep going past 70.

CC: Next book is set in southern England. Might go back to Orkney. Originally intended to be a one off but publisher wanted a sequel.

CR: Next book is in lower nordic region…Glasgow.
No muder in Faroes for 26 years until half way through writing The Last Refuge when there was a murder. No body has ever been found – Serbian husband convicted of killing his wife on evidence of a frying pan with her blood on it.

KH: Fekete means black in Hungarian. Next book The Defenceless is set in spring and is about drugs and immigrant gangs.

CC: Wove Norse mythology though the story.

GS: Crime just a way of writing about our times in a popular way. Bergen is very safe. The new book about a wind farm. The latest four Varg Veum books are translated in order and all by Don Bartlett.

KH: The village where she lives – she doesn't lock doors, car doors or lock up bike.

KH: Finland is a very racist country. She is the only crime writer writing about immigration. Policy: don't let immigrants come, don't give them houses, jobs etc.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall

Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall, April 2015, 304 pages, Legend Press Ltd, ISBN: 1910394599

Reviewed by Susan White.
(Read more of Susan's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

A ten-year-old boy, Noah, falls from the Humber Bridge while out with his friends. His friend, another ten-year-old boy, is found guilty of his murder. Eight years later Humber Boy B, or Ben as he is called now, is paroled from prison and relocated to Ipswich. For his own safety he is told that he is not allowed back to Humberside or to be in contact with his own family and the Noah's family. Cate is the probation officer assigned to the task of re-introducing him to society. Ben is very ill-prepared for life on the outside after spending so long institutionalised, and Cate seems to be the only person who senses the lonely and confused child within the young man.

Meanwhile Jessica, Noah's Mother, has set up a Facebook page asking for people's support in finding her son's killer and a follower on the page, Silent Friend, is determined to help her get justice.

The author has worked with young children that have been committed to prison for similar crimes that form the basis for this story and this experience shows through in the writing. The boy at the centre of the story comes from such an emotional and physically deprived environment that, while making no attempt to provide excuses for Ben, the author manages to generate a degree of sympathy for him, that took me by surprise.

As the story of Ben's life is disclosed, we learn more about the circumstances leading up to the dreadful event and also more about the missed opportunities by various adults who could have intervened and prevented the death.

HUMBER BOY B is a very sad, disturbing read that raises some really uncomfortable truths about the impact on children raised in poverty with parents who cannot or will not care for them and also the difficulty for prisoners of any age who have been jailed for a long time, to assimilate into society without being taught up to date life-skills and receiving massive support.

The subject and the writer's treatment of it reminds me to a degree of Sophie Hannah. Recommended as a thought provoking and good read. This is only the third novel by this author and I will be looking out for more in the future.

Susan White, May 2015

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Awards News: Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015 - Longlist

The press release revealing the longlist for the Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year 2015 (with links to Euro Crime reviews):


Giants of the genre are pitted against a clutch of new voices in one of the most prestigious crime writing prizes in the country.

The longlist for the 2015 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award sees stalwarts Ian Rankin, Lee Child and John Harvey in the running.

Rankin and Child battle it out, each with their 19th novels in the iconic Rebus and Reacher series. Lee Child’s number one global bestseller Personal takes on Rankin’s Saints of the Shadow Bible, which brought Rebus back from retirement.

John Harvey’s Darkness, Darkness could be a swan song for the gong with Resnick’s last case, 25 years after the Detective Inspector’s first appearance.

2014 winner Belinda Bauer is back on the list with The Facts of Life and Death, a chilling story where lone women are terrorised in a game where only one player knows the rules.

Taking on the old guard is the debut that threatens to be “as big as Jo Nesbo”. The electrifying serial killer thriller, Eeny Meeny from M.J. Arlidge features the tough, determined and damaged DI Helen Grace.

Other debuts include the TV and film scriptwriter Ray Celestin’s The Axeman's Jazz, a stunning atmospheric crime thriller set in 1919 New Orleans, inspired by a real life serial killer, and Sarah Hilary’s compelling first thriller, Someone Else's Skin, which received critical acclaim for being superbly disturbing, twisty and tricksy.

Disappeared is Irish journalist Anthony Quinn’s first novel, set in a dark corner of Northern Ireland where the Troubles have never ended. And Antonia Hodgson’s debut, The Devil in the Marshalsea also makes the list with her medieval murder mystery.

Child 44 author Tom Rob Smith appears with his fourth novel, Number One bestseller The Farm, an utterly riveting and hypnotic psychological thriller part-set in Sweden. Scottish author Louise Welsh delivers with her first apocalyptic thriller in her Plague Times trilogy, A Lovely Way to Burn.

Now in its eleventh year, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award was created to celebrate the very best in British and Irish crime writing and is open to crime authors whose novels were published in paperback from 1 May 2014 to 30 April 2015. The 2015 Award is run in partnership with T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith, and Radio Times.

The long list, comprising 18 titles, is selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee and representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd and WHSmith.

The longlist in full:

Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge, Michael Joseph
The Facts Of Life And Death by Belinda Bauer, Black Swan
The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal, Bloomsbury
The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter, Fig Tree
The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin, Mantle
Personal by Lee Child, Bantam
The Killing Season by Mason Cross, Orion Fiction
Bryant & May - The Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler, Bantam
The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths, Quercus
The Telling Error by Sophie Hannah, Hodder & Stoughton
Darkness, Darkness by John Harvey, Arrow
Someone Else's Skin by Sarah Hilary, Headline
The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson, Hodder & Stoughton
Entry Island by Peter May, Quercus
Disappeared by Anthony Quinn, Head of Zeus
Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin, Orion Fiction
The Farm by Tom Rob Smith, Simon & Schuster
A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh, John Murray Publishers

From 21 May to 17 June, longlisted titles will feature in a four-week campaign across all 600 WHSmith stores and 80 library services, representing a total of 1645 library branches. The longlist will be whittled down to a shortlist of six titles which will be announced on 15 June. The overall winner will be decided by the panel of Judges, which this year comprises of Executive Director of T&R Theakston Ltd. and title sponsor Simon Theakston, Festival Chair Ann Cleeves, Radio Times’ TV Editor Alison Graham, Head of Fiction at WHSmith, Sandra Bradley and Producer of the Radio 2 Book Club, Joe Haddow, as well as members of the public.

The public vote opens on 1 July and closes 13 July at

Previous winners of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award include Denise Mina, Lee Child, Val McDermid, and Mark Billingham.

The winner of the prize will be announced by title sponsor Simon Theakston at an award ceremony hosted by broadcaster and Festival regular Mark Lawson on 16 July on the opening night of the 13th annual Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. The winner will receive a £3,000 cash prize, as well as a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakstons Old Peculier.