If there is a
first division for crime writers who are part of the current
Jo Nesbo must surely be at its forefront. There's no template for a
Norwegian crime writer, but Nesbo does look a bit like the rock star is
in his native country, a mix of influences which reflects the cultural
of a small but intensely literary nation. His novels starring the
maverick Oslo police detective Harry Hole,
of which five have been published
in English, have been incredibly popular in Britain. Possibly this is because
they occupy a sort of middle ground
between the image of the depressive detective as pioneered by Sweden's
and Wahloo, and continued by Henning Mankell or Iceland's Arnauldur
and British variations on the theme, particularly Scots detectives like
Rankin's Rebus or his TV cousin, Jim Taggart. But I also see a lot of
comparison toMichael Connelly's detective Harry Bosch. Jo was in town
to promote The Snowman, the fifth Harry Hole novel published in
here. It's a book which reminded me very much in tone of John Connolly,
began by asking about his influences, and if he sees the comparisons...
Actually, I never read much crime fiction, so I can't really say. I've
catching up the last few years; I didn't set out to be a crime writer,
wanted to write stories. My biggest influences from English were
Anthony Burgess, Hemingway and Charles Bukowski.
THAT'S AN ECLECTIC MIX
think so? And a couple of crime writers, because they were good
Thompson, Lawrence Block, James Lee Burke.
VERY INTERESTING, BECAUSE I CAN SEE
A DIRECT LINK
BETWEEN THOMPSON AND
BUKOWSKI, WHO COULD HAVE BEEN A THOMPSON CHARACTER, OR MIGHT HAVE LIKED
TO BE! AND A LITTLE BIT OF BOOKS LIKE POP. 1280 IN HARRY HOLE
is a very moral character who fails terribly. Morally, though, Harry
on his own feet. I just saw Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant, which is
hard-edged, but there's a lot of that moral redemption in that.
YOU SEEN THE ORIGINAL, ABEL FERRARA'S
BAD LIEUTENANT, WITH HARVEY KEITEL?
this is the first I've heard about it. Is it as hard-edged?
I'll have to watch it. (INFORMATION IS EXCHANGED THEN THE INTERVIEW
And I was influenced more by film and graphic novels. Frank Miller's
The Godfather films, Scarface. But I grew up in the Sixties and
when I came to those films I thought of them as old rather than
pace is so slow, but still it is so good. When you're young you get
you don't realise that you're seeing the origins of what you love. It's
young people today saying The Beatles are not that interesting. They
Michael Jackson invented rock and roll!
AND YOU SHOULD KNOW BECAUSE YOUR
GROUP, DI DERRE (English translation: That There) WAS BIG?
our peak we were probably the biggest band in Norway, apart from Ah Ha.
THEN SIDETRACK OVER A LONG DISCUSSION OF A HA'S MAGS, WHO WORKED WITH ME IN OSLO
A TRACK MEET BEFORE HIS BAND BROKE, AND WHO HAS WORKED WITH
NESBO—THEN GET BACK TO DI DERRE)
still play 50-60 gigs a year. Just me and a bass player, except in
the full band gets together to play festivals. It's a hobby now, I do
fun. My music is sort of folk pop, not Norwegian ethnic folk, a bit of
influence, and the songs are telling stories.
MUCH MUSIC INTO THE HARRY HOLE NOVELS
playlists! I try to be careful about that. I don't want to be one of
writers all giving you their top fives!
AN INTERESTING MIX OF INFLUENCES, BUT IT IS REFLECTED IN YOUR BOOKS, A
COMBINATION OF BLACK AND
WHITE MOVIES AND
I try to create an original image, not ready-made movie stories. Milan
said the novel has the right to exist only to the extent of its being
do so. I don't know if this is totally true, but I look at books like
McCarthy's No Country For Old Men, which doesn't need adaptation,
seems to reflect a movie, or the movies, yet it works both ways, as
film. You try to use the tools you have, but they come from everywhere.
example, you can let the criminal speak without seeing him, and you do
movies too, especially in horror movies.
MAKES FOR A CLASSIC ANTAGONIST IN THE LATEST HOLE NOVEL IN ENGLISH (AT
POINT, NOT HAVING THEN FINISHED THE LATEST HOLE NOVEL, THE SNOWMAN, I
WHO THE VILLAIN ULTIMATELY WILL TURN OUT TO BE, BUT JO ISN'T
OUT I WAS RIGHT) BUT AS USUAL, THE BIG CONFLICT IS BETWEEN HARRY AND THE POLICE BUREAUCRACY
everyone is in conflict, and that's where suspense is. The criminal
police, and the conflict within the police—not just whether
the crimes will be
'solved' but in what WAY they will be solved, what compromises will be
How much is the hero willing to pay to get the job done? It's the
within himself which is almost always of more interest than the
against the villain. It has to do with salvation, will the hero get his
salvation in. That's why we're interested in The Bad Lieutenant, will
he do the
right thing in the end? And then there's a third level, which is that
conflict, especially in the work place, are something anyone can relate
work place is unique in that it's where colleagues both cooperate and
WHAT MADE TOM
WELLER SUCH A COMPELLING ADVERSARY FOR HARRY
Many readers say they miss him.
YOUR BOOK HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED OUT OF SEQUENCE IN THEIR ENGLISH
is the only place that happened. Devil's Star was the book they'd read
in the UK, and they liked it, and
were sure it would be well received, so they started with that. We
them the first two novels, partly because the quality of Devil's Star
higher, but mostly because the first one is set in Australia...
AND REFERENCED IN THE LATER BOOKS
but it's less about the serial killer and more about seeing Australia
through the eyes of a Norwegian. And the second is in Bangkok. Because I wanted more
to look at Norwegian society, and because that's probably of more
Hole's perceptions of Australia,
we started in English in the middle. The Redbreast was a bit heavier,
such a good place to start, so that was the second book, and they've
order from there.
AND WE'LL LOOK FORWARD TO THE NEXT ONE!
THE HARRY HOLE NOVELS
Redbreast (2000—English translation no. 2,
(2002—English no. 3, 2008)
Devil's Star (2003—English no 1, 2005)
(2005—English no 4 2009)
Snowman (2007—English no 5, 2010)
to know more about Jo? Visit his website here