Tag Archives: Jo Nesbø

Who will sell a book?

I have been a bit naïve. After all these years I still don’t know ‘everything’ there is to know about bookshops, and the politics between publishers and shops, or chains. I’d know more had I realised that there was stuff to learn and find out about, rather than me believing in common sense in the book trade.

For all the mutterings I’ve done over the years about ‘the buyer from Waterstones’ and how they might not like a cover, say, so the publisher bends over backwards and makes a cover that will please ‘the buyer from Waterstones,’ I hadn’t understood that not all books get ‘accepted’ by – shall we say – Waterstones.

In fact, I still don’t know whether the non-acceptance of a new book by ‘John Smith’ means that you can’t even go into the shop and ask them to order it for you. I should try and find out.

If you can’t, then it seems that there is only Amazon and other similar online shops. If you want ‘John Smith’s’ book, that is. 999 Nuances of Grey and books by comedians are obviously always an option.

I used to think the hurdles you had to overcome were a) write book b) have book accepted by agent c) agent sells book to publisher d) publisher publishes book and sends it out into the world, where e) you hope someone will buy it. Perhaps f) read it. I just had no concept of the gap between publishing a book and it being available for buyers to find.

It appears that if you have a Land’s End novel and a John O’Groats novel, you shouldn’t – necessarily – expect bookshops at the opposite end of the country to stock it. This is just so weird. It’s sort of the continuation of the situation where if you are a white Londoner you must only write a novel about white Londoners, and now you should only expect to see it for sale in a London bookshop.

I can see the reasoning happening. I just don’t understand it.

Most bookshops in the UK probably stock Jo Nesbø’s novels. They were written by a man in a country with five million inhabitants. The population of Scotland is the same, but it seems Scottish books don’t necessarily make it to bookshops outside Scotland. (Because it can’t be that smaller publishers are discriminated against, I hope?)

Many shops are also likely to stock the crime novels by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, who hails from a small country with a population less than Cornwall. I actually have no idea if Cornish novels are treated differently, but if they aren’t, I wonder about the Scottish apartness. The referendum (the first one, about going it alone) was full of people saying we are the same and belong together. If so, what’s happening with books?


No Jo for me

There is what I consider to be a standard line at the bottom of most book press releases, which generally goes something like this: ‘For more information, review copies and interviews, please contact A Publicist.’

If it’s missing I reckon the author is too grand, too busy or possibly too dead for interviews. However, when I see that line, I take it to be mostly true.

Which is why I jumped a little on receipt of Jo Nesbø’s fifth Doctor Proctor book, which this time is about Christmas. I’ve read one Doctor Proctor, and consider that to be quite enough. And some of you might remember what my opinion of Jo is. (Based on one event and some gossip about him, like most prejudice.)

My brain went ‘no, I do not want anything to do with him. But maybe? After all, he’s really famous. Could be “interesting.” Nah, don’t be silly. Anyway, he wouldn’t be available. Except, it says so. And remember that time a few years ago when the man even set up a signing event on the Virgin train taking him from Manchester to Scotland? Clearly desperate for attention. He wouldn’t mind talking to a Bookwitch. I could do a bespoke version of my Profile questions. Maybe grill him a little on why he thinks he should write children’s books.’

That, roughly, was my thought process. So I asked. And not surprisingly, he wasn’t going to be available.

Which is fine. I just don’t feel the line should have been there.

He’s obviously not [that] desperate. In fact, as Pippi and I found at our recent Afternoon Tea, we had both read the magazine snippet where someone asked Jo if he’d notice if ten million kroner went missing from his bank account. He seemed to be shocked at the mere notion of this. Of course he wouldn’t be able to tell!

(If you follow the above link to book one, you will discover that I liked it. I have no reason to believe that Can Doctor Proctor Save Christmas? will be any worse. I just lost my enthusiasm somewhere.)

Daring to thrill

COUGH, cough, hrumph, cough! Pardon me…

You might recall me mentioning that I once thought Jo Nesbø was a woman. And Danish. I can still just about visualise the Danish Jo, but this image has half disappeared with the rather charming publicity photo of the handsome male and Norwegian Jo.

People frequently tell me they like my honesty. I frequently worry about being too dishonest at times. I shall worry no more.

I was a bit surprised at the news that Jo was having an on-train signing session as he travelled from Manchester to Glasgow and Stirling on Saturday. Fans on the 09.41 Pendolino from Preston could just toddle along and get their books signed. But why not? He was on his way to sign at Waterstones in Glasgow, before coming to Bloody Scotland, where he was the star attraction of the evening. Why not cover a few more angles of that stardom?

Jo filled the Albert Halls, with fans sitting upstairs as well as down in the stalls. He had Peter Guttridge as his chair, so it was all set up to be the perfect evening. Bloody Scotland’s Lin Anderson was sitting in my row. Peter began by listing all the impressive things you might say about Jo, before the man himself came on stage for his superstar reception.

He used to play football. I think Jo even claimed to have played in Inverkeithing (although that could be my hearing), before he got knees like mine and had to give it up. The team didn’t like him. He just scored goals. Now that he’s more famous they praise him for having been a really good player.

Jo Nesbø

(Here I thought it was getting a little boring with all the background. Peter clearly heard my thoughts, because he promised we’d get to the books. He just didn’t say when.)

After the football came the rock band career. The band got better and better until at some point venues and audiences actually wanted to hear them play. The others in the band played full time, while Jo had to have a day job. So he stock-brokered. He did his money job by day, and flew out to gigs by night.

My thoughts at this point was that book tours must seem like a holiday compared to that.

Henning Mankell was name-dropped. Harry Hole got a mention. Or at least we were told how to pronounce the name correctly. But we still didn’t seem to be quite ready for book talk.

I did some calculations. Assuming the hour was to be divided up in the normal fashion, we’d used half the time on the non-book background, mainly being told what a fantastic person Jo is. I suspect that most of the audience agreed. It could be why they’d come. If they were readers/fans they probably also knew a lot of the background already, so it was a waste of time.

Peter Guttridge is one of my favourite chair people, and I admire his work a lot. I don’t know what happened here, but it suddenly seemed to me I could use my evening better than fawning over this surprisingly un-charming writer. So I left.

Not sure if I was alone in my cantankerous-ness, I compared notes with one of Jo’s fervent admirers, to see what he thought of his hero ‘in action.’ I apologise for his language, but the words ‘arrogant’ and ‘t*t’ appeared very close together. I would never say anything like that, obviously, but this was one disappointed reader, who has resolved never to try to meet a hero ever again.

Thinking back, I rather miss the Danish woman I called Jo Nesbø. She was friendly, and a happy sort, despite being a professional killer.

(If you’re near Dublin, you can form your own opinion tonight, when Jo talks to Bookwitch favourite Declan Burke.)

A Bloody Scotland Saturday

Stirling Highland Hotel

Through the archway we went, studiously trying to remove ‘I wanna be like youuuu’ from rotating forever in our minds. My driver had a childish fondness for the archway at the Stirling Highland Hotel (one of the venues for Bloody Scotland), so was very pleased she could take me there. She unwisely confided in me that she had had the song from the Jungle Book running through her head all morning. That sort of thing is contagious, it is.

Stirling Highland Hotel

Anyway, I got my tickets, handed a few back as the good little witch I am, was given another by the kind Lisa, had a pre-event sandwich on a bench in the sunshine, watched authors coming and going, and couldn’t help noticing the twins we tend to see at every Scottish book event.

Stirling Highland Hotel

Went to hear Linda Strachan and Sophie McKenzie talk about ‘Breaking the Boundary,’ which was pretty good. Sex, arson, that kind of thing. (More of that later.) Briefly said hello while they were signing books afterwards, and then I had to run, due to this extra ticket which changed my whole afternoon.

Linda Strachan and Sophie McKenzie

It's all downhill

I hobbled downhill. With some difficulty, but you ‘always get down,’ don’t you? One way or another. Did I ever mention how steep it is around Stirling Castle? Made an assumption that Arne Dahl would still be signing at the Albert Halls after his event (which I missed), and I was right and he was, so I took more photos.

Arne Dahl

Left to go hunt for a salad or something in M&S, which I then ate sitting outside in the sunshine on another bench. Very nice. Went inside for some tea. Went outside again. Yes, I yo-yoed in that lift, up and down, up and down. It was so warm in the sun that my knees, which wore black jeans, almost self-ignited. Such a relief that the forecast for Sunday is rain and winds; ‘it was a dark and stormy Sunday…’

The Albert Halls

Went back in to buy a book. Yes, actually to buy a book. They didn’t have it. Got another instead. Chatted to Colin Bateman who’d just arrived, and apologised for not buying his first book, which they didn’t have. We worried a bit about his lost event partner, Eoin Colfer.

Then I spied Arne Dahl again, and went over to introduce myself. As you do. (We had already facebooked a little, so I wasn’t totally out of the blue.) ‘Do you fancy..?’ he said. ‘Yes, I do fancy. But I no longer have time for anything,’ I replied. So that was that. Nice while it lasted.

Colin Bateman

By then it was time for Good Craic (which I will never be able to pronounce properly!) with Colin and Eoin’s replacement James Oswald, which was great fun. (More of which later.) At the signing after the event I asked Colin if he had more of those books that came from under the table. He did. And then he did that very nice thing and said I could have a copy for free for being such a lovely witch. (Actually, that’s not how he described me, but it was very kind of him. Jolly good thing he writes crime and not romances.) Colin had read from his Dublin Express, so I knew I wanted to read it. James did some of his signing standing up, which looked polite, but uncomfortable.

James Oswald

Val McDermid

I swigged some water and then it was time for Craig Robertson to keep Val McDermid and Stuart MacBride in order in The Great, the Good and the Gory. It was most enjoyable, but not in the slightest orderly. (You know the drill by now; more about this later.) Caught them at their signing afterwards, before I elbowed my way into the room for one final Saturday sitting; the Jo Nesbø event.

Stuart MacBride

Daring to Thrill, where Jo chatted to Peter Guttridge, was planned to be the highlight of the day, and they even used the balcony for people to sit to fit them all in. After which I had a family dinner to go to, because the Hungarian Accountant was in town, so I never got the opportunity to see if I could have sneaked in to hear who won the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year at the fancy dinner they had. I couldn’t quite fork out £40 to eat with these lovely, but murderous, people, but would not have been averse to the odd bit of sneaking.

Peter Guttridge and Jo Nesbø

And as I’ve said, there will be more details of the day as soon as I have recovered. See you later!

Bateman, Dublin Express

Programmes, programmes everywhere

They just keep coming. I am almost beyond even a quick browse. But I will persevere and do my utmost.

First came the Gothenburg Book Fair programme. The full one, in Swedish, which was rather a treat after years of having to get by on the abridged English language programme.

And I find I have changed. I used to look only for English language events, and then preferably children’s authors. There’s been less of them in recent years, and I’ve had so many festivals closer to home, to feed my obsession.

This time I noticed lots of talks on other, related, things. Children’s reading, libraries, stuff in general. Maybe I’m growing up? Anyway, I could see myself going again this year. There is the small matter of cost, not to mention my stamina (hopefully not my lack thereof) and the annoying fact that you have to decide all this well in advance.

But a programme with an event like ‘Dewey – could libraries in 138 countries be wrong?’ It’s tempting, isn’t it? I suspect the answer is ‘yes,’ they can be wrong. After all, 9 million Swedes can’t possibly not be right.

The next programme to pop up was Bloody Scotland. And luckily for this exhausted reader, it’s a short one. I was about to say it’s because it’s only on for three days, but Gothenburg is only four. It’s because it’s a fledgling festival, and anyway, size doesn’t matter.

I found lots of good events in it, and the funny thing is that Daughter, who was most definitely not going to mess up her fresher’s week by attending this year, called to tell me about what she can’t possibly miss. So I might not be as lonely as I had been counting on.

Although,  you can’t go wrong with the lovely Eoin Colfer. (What is so Scottish about him??) Or the very Scottish and lovely Linda Strachan. And then we have all the Swedes and other murderous ‘Nords’ who are also not terribly Scottish. Bloody, though. Lee Child. I don’t know what he counts as, but the ladies will swoon.

My mouth is watering, and I will have to be strict with myself to make sure I don’t attempt too much, again. They’re only two weeks apart, and I can tell already I will be ‘less keen’ when the time comes.

Restraint, witch. Restraint!


The snake on the cover of the proof should have been a hint. So should one or two other things on the same cover. Did I look properly? No. Felt uneasy about snakey, but that was after he’d turned up inside the cover as well. David Almond has come up with a cover blurb that goes like this; ‘bold, beautiful, terrifying’. And I thought I’d be safe after that!

Janne Teller, Nothing

This is going to be one of my most incomplete book reviews ever. I rarely write about books I’ve not finished. I rarely read books I have had bad feelings about well before the book even gets to me. As soon as I heard about Janne Teller’s novel Nothing I knew I didn’t want to read it. Didn’t help that everyone raved about it. I was not going to read it.

But, you know. Keith Charters at Strident Publishing raved about it. I warned him. Then it turned out Janne Teller isn’t a Norwegian man. She is a Danish woman. And she’s coming to the Edinburgh Book Festival. And I did need a Danish book for my foreign challenge. And Keith had reserved a rare (?) proof for me. With a snake on the cover.

Nothing is 206 pages, of which I read the first 128. Had this been thirty years ago I would have been on the floor by page 128. I’m much better now, so I simply went off to make dinner, thinking I might return. After dinner I knew I was never returning. Never. Moaned to the Resident IT Consultant, who offered to sacrifice himself, so took the book and read it in one sitting in the bath. (That’s one long bath, albeit a shortish book, which is easy and fast to read. As long as you don’t stop halfway, in which case it’s faster still.)

Fable, he says. Very good. Interesting. Allegory, says Keith. OK, even I could tell that a 14-year-old boy who sits in a plum tree for a few months is not part of a normal, straightforward sort of plot. But even so…

Pierre decides life is nothing, so goes to sit in this plum tree. How this will help, I don’t know. And not even his having a father who is a commune hippy explains this kind of behaviour.

But it’s Pierre’s classmates who really take the biscuit. In order to get him out of the tree, they each have to sacrifice something. Each thing worse than the previous one. (Consider my first paragraph.) It quickly escalates into bullying of the worst kind, which I found really bad even at the snake stage.

I don’t care how allegorical it is. It’s still horrible. I understand it has been banned. (In Norway?) It has also won awards. I can understand that, too. I can condone lots of violence in books, and bullying and what have you. This was something else.

(Lord of the Flies, she whispers.)

But I recognise that many of you will like this book. Love it, even. So if you are not the fainting type, do try it. As the Resident IT Consultant said, it should spark plenty of discussion in classrooms and elsewhere. As it did here.

I will do my very best to meet Janne Teller later this month. I have tickets for her event. That might turn out to be a lying-on-the-floor-from-the-start kind of event. With earplugs.

(At least Janne is Danish. And a lady. Unlike Jo Nesbø, who really is male and Norwegian. Also in Edinburgh.)

The translator is Martin Aitken, who has done a good job. Some surprising Americanisms, which personally I find makes the book feel less Danish. But it reads well, as people keep saying.

A few days after the interrupted read, the dinner and the long bath, I’m thinking maybe…


Probably not.

Guaranteed Norwegian

Nordic Noir on BBC4 on Monday was a lesson in many things, but pronunciation was not one of them. The Resident IT Consultant (who fell asleep towards the end) fondly imagined that the Danish Mariella Frostrup would cope well with the Nordic names. Not even the Norwegian-born Mariella could do anything but sound British, though at least she did so in that sexy voice people go potty over.

The programme didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, so was one of those I sometimes moan about, which assumes the customer is new to the topic, and there is no need to take it further. Quite fun to tick the number of people who took part who I’d met. Poor souls.

The wise participants, like actor Krister Henriksson (Wallander) and author Maj Sjöwall, were interviewed in Swedish. It must be tempting to say yes to requests to do an interview in English. When you can. But it’s worth remembering you ‘can’ less than you think. Krister and Maj came across as intelligent, rounded people because there was nothing to stop them from saying exactly what they wanted to say.

Val McDermid

Val McDermid, likewise, sounded good, Scottish accent and all. She knows her stuff when it comes to Nordic crime. And OK, Jo Nesbø speaks good English. But it’s not as good as his Norwegian, I’d guess. It was he who mentioned some form of music (Norwegian metal?) and CDs in Latin America labelled as being ‘Guaranteed Norwegian’.

Karin Fossum sounded somewhat less bloodthirsty in English, so it might have been a blessing she didn’t speak Norwegian after all. After hearing Karin in Bristol I remember having a good look at her books, and coming to the conclusion I wasn’t up to reading them.

They rather skirted past Arnaldur Indridason and Iceland. Some nice scenery. Though speaking of scenery, I wonder whether much of any of it was of what they talked about. Ystad is always Ystad, of course. Even when it’s Yshtad.

That wasn’t the only disappointment. I can see that a non-native speaker may choose to put the stress on the first syllable only. Or the second syllable. You’re allowed to get it wrong (though I have said before that most people would try to get a French name correct, and you can always ask around if you are presenting for the BBC). But how come the stress-on-the-first-syllable words invariably got stressed on the second and vice versa? Wallander and Sahlander rhyme. Stress-on-second-syllable names. Mankell is a stress-on-first-syllable name.

Henning Mankell

With Wallander the programme went a little tabloid over the suicide of an actress. Sad but irrelevant. And Stieg Larsson was fat. Really? Maybe Stieg lived off junk food and smoked himself to death, but I wouldn’t call him fat.

His friend John-Henri Holmberg would have come across much better in Swedish. He was obviously in a position to say a lot about his friend, but could have said more. I dare say he’s saving it for the book about Stieg he’s writing with a few others.

In fact, this whole programme confirmed why we often think foreigners are idiots. They are not. And it’s time British television interviewed more people in their own language. In this case we had a bunch of interviewees who make a good living off their mother tongues. I’d have liked more considered facts, spoken by people who were comfortable with what they were saying.

But other than that, I enjoyed my hour on Nordic Noir. It confirmed why I don’t read more of it, though.