It was a toss-up between my pasts; Nordic Noir or Brighton Rocks? I went with the Nordic boys, but didn’t admit to having been to Öland when Johan Theorin asked. It was a long time ago and I prefer to remember it as a summer paradise, and not one of Johan’s bleak crime settings.
Chair Miriam Owen did a good job, only slightly dishing out criticism at men who eat yoghurt with cinnamon, which apparently no Scottish male in his right mind would do. Well, maybe not.
They are all bleak, in their own way. Apart from Johan’s Öland, we have Gunnar Staalesen’s Bergen and Ragnar Jonasson’s northernmost town in Iceland, where the sun never appears in winter, and the tunnel in might become blocked by an avalanche. Although, he professed to being an Agatha Christie fan – as well as being her translator – so he’s probably all sweetness, really.
It seems that 50 years ago there were no murders in Iceland. They only arrived with the crime novels, so we know who to blame. Johan is hoping there will be a trend that brings new Nordic crime from recent immigrants, and he mentioned how humorous they’ve become in Sweden… (That’s not why people like you, you know!)
Apart from Gunnar’s Spanish translator who felt he had so little food in his novels that he added some for him, there is food in them books. Ragnar does pizza a lot, both for himself and his characters, but his UK editor required more Icelandic fare, so he had to edit his food. Johan tried to explain kroppkakor, but I think we do well to stop at slaughtering the right pig.
Do they work closely with their translators? Well, Ragnar was sure he knew how to translate a book, so helpfully corrected a friend’s work, all in red. Johan’s translator corrects his mistakes, not vice versa. Gunnar has the excellent Don Bartlett, so finds he has to go back to his Norwegian original and alter things he’s got wrong.
And there’s an explanation to the cinnamony yoghurt. It’s not yoghurt at all, but filmjölk, in which case the cinnamon makes sense, and any man should be proud to eat it.
Gunnar had been incensed by ‘his’ films. They put an actor speaking in an Oslo accent to play Warg, who has a very strong Bergen accent, and believe me, even a foreigner like me can tell the difference. Johan feels it’s like sending your child out into the world. You just want to go along and hold their hand.
The Norwegian Easter crime trend was explained. Everyone goes to their second home for ten days at Easter. Everyone wants to read crime when they do. So, lots of published crime, easy to carry up that mountain to your cabin. In Iceland you get your books for Christmas instead. Everyone has to read a book on Christmas Eve. Gunnar said it’s those dark night which make Nordic readers such prolific readers.
Asked if they have anything like Bloody Scotland, they said of course they do. And of course they do. There is Crime Time Gotland, and Iceland Noir and there might even be a Bloody Bergen one day.
Gunnar likes red herrings, and in case his readers see them coming, he then adds a green herring for good measure. Johan had been in danger of making his books into tourist brochures, but his translator pointed out they were not. And Ragnar feels it’s best to write for the Icelanders, and offer no explanations. The reason Nordic crime on television has been so successful is that they are very well written.
Who would they themselves go and listen to this weekend? Gunnar likes Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Philip Kerr. Ragnar goes for Peter May, while Johan extolled the writing of James Oswald.
And I simply cannot explain the bloodstain which appeared on the last page of my notebook during the last few minutes…