Tag Archives: Håkan Nesser

Handsome in Hemsöborna

Sven Wollter is dead. For anyone not in the know, this actor was the most handsome man in Sweden, or so the saying went. Back in the day, which was quite a while ago. 86 is a good age, but I’m sure Sven had plenty more life in him, had it not been for that bloody virus.

I was first aware of him in August Strindberg’s Hemsöborna, some time in the 1960s. The whole country watched. The young Witch thought he was very good looking, and it seems she wasn’t the only one.

I know. I shouldn’t go on about something as unimportant as looks. In Sven we had an excellent actor and a good communist. It always felt as though you could trust him.

Living in exile like I do, I have missed most of what he did in later years, but I do remember trying to tell Adéle Geras about his good looks, when she borrowed my Van Veeteren DVDs, about Håkan Nesser’s detective. And I was always pleased to discover he was still alive. Until today.


The Gothenburg book fair has joined forces with Crimetimes, which I believe used to be its own separate book festival. And here, well before the main book fair programme, is the programme for crime fans, for the Saturday and Sunday, 29th and 30th September.

They have both the full seminars, as well as the shorter 20-minute sessions, into which it is possible to pack a surprising amount of book stuff. I know, because the ones I’ve been to have used their time really well, and small is at least as good as big.

You can also buy a crime pass, which will work like the book fair pass, except covering only the crime, and being a little cheaper.

Most of the authors are Swedish, but since they are all the rage right now, that should make it all the more exciting. Except possibly for the fact that you will need a crash course in the language first. You have four months!

(For apostrophe purists, there is an event on “do’s and dont’s…” It’s so hard.)

Jessica Fellowes and Donna Leon are among the English language authors, and among the Swedes you get Håkan Nesser, Camilla Läckberg, Lars Kepler and many more. You also get some very capable chairs/moderators.

It’s never too early to plan ahead. Well, it could be, but now is not it. I hope you already have a hotel room booked, because if not…

Shetland Noir, only once removed

I’m the kind of witch who can recognise Denise Mina from behind, out of context (i.e. not at some book festival). On the other hand, my Shetland Noir representative, Helen Grant, had no idea who this ‘tremendously likeable’ woman was, gorgeous black furry boots and all. They travelled on the same plane, which despite it being Friday the 13th suffered no mishap, which is lucky for Scottish crime and its future. Helen did know the other crime writer at the airport, though, as she had been at Oxford with MJ McGrath.

Ann Cleeves, Helen Grant and Doug Henshall, by Dale Smith

Helen was on her way to Shetland to receive the Jimmy Perez Trophy for writing the winning short story – The Beach House – from, as it turned out, the very hands of Jimmy Perez, aka actor Doug Henshall. Not bad for a simple misuse of a kitchen utensil. (I can just see how he stands there muttering, ‘not the cheese grater. Please not the cheese grater!’)

Ann Cleeves, Helen Grant and Doug Henshall, by Dale Smith

Strangely (!) Helen was quite keen to see a bit of beautiful Shetland while she was there, so apart from the grand reception and award thing on the Friday night, she ‘only’ went to two events, but they both sound really good. Also very female, because as we know, women scare and kill best. Just look at Helen herself.

Donald Anderson, Jacky Collins, Mari Hannah, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves and Alexandra Sokoloff

There was a panel on the benefits and pitfalls of screen adaptations, with Alexandra Sokoloff, Ann Cleeves, Denise Mina and Mari Hannah, chaired by Jacky Collins. It’s apparently a bit like adopting a baby, and learning to step away. Ann Cleeves had Vera Stanhope adapted after the producer picked up a copy of her book in Oxfam.

According to Alexandra, who has a past as a screenwriter, in America television does sell books, whereas Ann recognises that viewers might not be readers. Denise has had a very successful adaptation made from her book, totally authentic down to the 1980s Irn Bru sign on Central Station.  And on the benefits of adapting a book, Denise said that we love books – ‘That’s why we’re all dweebing out when there’s a perfectly good craft fair on.’ The book is the real connection with another human being.

Jake Kerridge, Laura Wilson, Helen Giltrow, MJ McGrath and Louise Millar

The cheerfully named Killer Women is a London-based group of female (obviously) crime writers, which started as a social group, but now meet to discuss murder as well. In Lerwick Laura Wilson, Helen Giltrow, MJ McGrath and Louise Millar spoke to Jake Kerridge about women in crime, both as writers, detectives and victims. Apparently if the victim is male he must suffer as a spy or at war, and not in a domestic setting.

MJ McGrath enjoys turning things round, like having a female detective instead of just as the sidekick. Her male detective breeds lemmings, in order to replace those who jump off cliffs… Louise Millar has interviewed people affected by crime, several years afterwards, to learn of the long term effects. And MJ interviewed some Hell’s Angels after a murder. She felt that being a woman was an advantage in that situation: ‘Either they want to impress you or they don’t take you seriously.’

Women are ‘equal opportunities readers’ and will read books by both women and men, but men are more likely to read men. Helen Giltrow, who works in a male dominated sector, espionage, has been told ‘you write like a man.’ MJ commented that ‘I have been told with great sincerity and as a compliment, I write like a brunette!’

On sex and violence Laura said that she has heard male writers say that women can go further because if a man writes about sexual violence people will think that he is a pervert who really wants to do it! Louise added that there is also the issue of having to write ‘likeable’ women, which is very constraining.

(I’ve never noticed any ‘constraining’…)

On the gossip front the latest news from Ann Cleeves seems to be a non-crime (I’m guessing non-fiction) book about Shetland. Because she loves it. Alex Gray is incredibly nice, and she and Helen talked about Bloody Scotland. Valerie Laws’ sleep was not helped by waves breaking against the hotel wall right beneath her window. (At least the sea stayed on the outside.) Marsali Taylor wins [Helen’s] prize for best dressed crime writer, with a stunning fuchsia silk fitted dress with gold embroidery and matching trousers.

After a weekend like this, Helen can almost see herself having more of a go at adult crime. It was ‘inspiring.’ And next time she flies to Shetland, her woolly hat will be in her hand luggage.

Doug Henshall and Helen Grant, by Dale Smith

Super Thursday

How super is it? I’ve been considering having a good long moan about this for a while. About today, and all the books that are published on this one day. I suppose it’s rather like moaning about your family; you love them, but something is driving you demented.

Even while being ruthless about what I want to read – and let’s face it, that’s hard to be – Super Thursday has got me on my knees, and they weren’t very good knees to begin with. For weeks I’ve been muttering a prayer that ‘surely after early October there will be only a very small number of books being published for at least three months’. Please?

They started arriving in early summer with Jacqueline Wilson in the lead, and at that point I felt there was plenty of time. Just a few August and September books to read. Not too bad. Months turned to weeks and then there were days and then there was nothing.

Anyway, if I don’t end up reading a particular book, that doesn’t mean it’s bad or that I wasn’t interested. A large number of books lie waiting; either for a little love and attention a month or two late, or maybe hoping to become the surprise read next summer, or at the very least that I will love it in my retirement in the far off future.

As I didn’t start this blog just to review books, or to write exclusively about new books, I feel the time has come to have rules about how I read. On the basis that many books will have to wait for me to read while baby-sitting the great grandchildren one day, I will allow myself to read old books, and books for purely personal pleasure on a more regular basis. I just can’t decide whether to have a monthly plan, or whether to go for four of one category followed by two from another?

This way I could soon be reading I Capture the Castle and Harriet the Spy and Nesser and Theorin and all the Adrian McKintys. I have three interesting looking story collections by Chris Priestley sitting looking hopeful. Plus all the rest. Oh yes, I understand I must read The Secret Garden. Black Beauty. And one or two more.

Shorter and less frequently published books will always be appreciated.

Håkan Nesser

It was very much a “shall I, shan’t I?” kind of debate, until I had this odd dream on Tuesday morning about Håkan Nesser being annoyed with me, and me scrabbling round my handbag to find my business card to hand over. Then I knew I had to go. Håkan did a signing in one of the Halmstad bookshops yesterday, and as his name is on the rise in (English) translation, I felt it might be a good idea to attend.

Unlike the rest of the world, I have not read any of Håkan’s numerous crime novels. We do have a copy in German somewhere, but that’s not much use to us. Adèle Geras recently read a couple of his books, so I sent her two Nesser DVDs. The detective, van Weeteren, is played by Sven Wollter, who’s been described as the most handsome man in Sweden. Adèle reckoned he looked like Jimmy Carter, so that’s that.

Håkan Nesser

(Photo of Håkan Nesser by H Giles)

Since my youth the Halmstad bookshops have renamed themselves, so I’m never sure which is which. To me they’ll always be Larsson’s or Meijel’s. The witch once had a holiday job in Meijel’s shop. The signing, however, was over at Larsson’s, where I understand the business is run by the third generation of Larssons, whereas I still think of the second generation as the “young Larsson”, since he’s a former pupil of Mother-of-witch. Time flies.

Anyway, they did coffee for Håkan, and he chatted very nicely with his fans, and did not get angry with me, and my card was duly handed over. Now that he’s left New York after a couple of years, and has moved to London, I might run into him again.

I now own two novels from Håkan’s new series of books. There was some confusion in the shop as to whether I wanted hardbacks or paperbacks, so we were back at the perennial snobbery of paperbacks not being proper books. I got one of each, but when will I find the time to read them?

Och, Hej Håkan, om du läser det här.