Urban Noir panel: Aslak Nore, Ruth Lillegraven, Stefan Ahnhem and Elisabeth Norebäck
#KrimFestivalen in wonderful #Oslo: 65 writers (20 from outside Norway), 50 events between 21st and 23rd March 2019. In attendance were the stalwarts of Scandinavian crime fiction and writers who are on their way to world fame. I won’t list all but here are the names of some of my literary heroes from Norway: Gunnar Staalesen, Torkil Damhaug, Anne Holt, Jørn Lier Horst, Kjell Ola Dahl, Thomas Enger, and Hans Olav Lahlum, and from Sweden: Arne Dahl, Stefan Ahnhem, Camilla Grebe, Camilla Läckberg, Anders de la Motte and Viveca Sten. I feel quite privileged knowing that I have read their books and discovered their distinctive styles of writing, and looking at the world and society through the prism of own unique creativity.
I had a pleasure to attend only a handful of events and it was fun. Hence a snapshot, rather than a full report. The eighth crime fiction festival organised by the publishing house Cappelen Damm was a huge success, attended by crowds of all those who have one thing on their minds. Livestream of all panels ensured that everybody had to chance to see and hear the conversations, never missing a witty remark, a good joke or an insightful comment. Readers and writers mingled together. Very relaxed atmosphere and plenty to talk about; coffee and sale of books in English and Scandinavian languages.
Torkil Damhaug, delighted to be appointed this year’s festival author, gave an eloquent opening speech the three-day extravaganza. He referred to another author’s comments: ‘The crime fiction literature shamelessly exploits what many would say are the man’s worst sides, our hunger for the grotesque, the macabre, for witnessing violence and atrocities, preferably those committed against the weakest and most unprotected among us.’
In Damhaug’s opinion the crime writers are the world’s kindest people: polite, friendly; they never talk badly about colleagues, never boast, never gossip, never envy. They are extremely law-abiding: ‘If you enter the police criminal records, you will not find a single crime writer. Not so much as a speeding. If you see a group of people walking across the street on red light, the one that remains – yes, you’re guessing right – is the crime writer.’
In this spirit of kindness the overjoyed CJ Tudor, the British female Stephen King, was awarded the Golden Bullet for the Best Translated Crime Fiction for the Chalk Man / Krittmannen, translated into Norwegian by Guro Dimmen. The book was sold to 39 countries before it was even published. The Gullkulen 2019 jury stated that Norwegian publishers are quick to capture quality strong novels from many parts of the world, and the winner was certainly in the league of its own.
During two sparkling English-speaking panels the authors talked about creative process and the current affairs affecting their writing choices, concepts, ideas. Thirty minutes allocated for each panel seemed too short and audience wanted more. But without sticking to the programme there would be no opportunity to see and hear all.
Araminta Hall, CJ Tudor and Lisa Jewell discussed writing from a male perspective which often feels right and relevant for a certain story; social and main stream media attitudes to women and #metoo issues which are still present around us and the fact that women are constantly judged, especially by the British press. However, the authors feel there is hope that the world is slowly changing, and the next generation of girls won’t have to go through this.
Inspiration and influences were hot topics for the international group consisting of Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Lisa Gardner, Joseph Knox and Robert Dugoni. The Icelandic Queen of Crime, the civil engineer Sigurðardóttir considers that plotting a fictional crime is nothing compared to building a power station. Dugoni studied law to get over a fear but wanted to be a storyteller. The American suspense novelist Gardner said that each novel has its own challenges, including deciding on levels of detail in the books, while Knox feels he is currently facing the ‘second book syndrome’ while working on his third book.
Joseph Knox, Robert Dugoni, Lisa Gardner and Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Some of the events have been held in other locations such as bookshops. At Norli krimkafé four countries were represented: UK – CJ Tudor, Iceland – Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Denmark – Anne Mette Hancock, and Sweden – Mattias Edvardsson. Each author was introduced to the public, and the chats were conducted in English and as well as in Danish / Swedish – Norwegian. What I really love is the ease with which Scandinavians can have conversation in own languages and understand each other.
Anne Mette Hancock
A special treat was arranged for the fans of Jørn Lier Horst’s excellent writing. It was an exclusive premiere of the first episode of the new ten-part TV drama series Wisting, based on his first two books The Hunting Dogs and The Caveman. Sven Nordin of Valkyrien, Blue Eyes and Lilyhammer fame, to name just some, took on the part of the Larvik police inspector William Wisting, in pursuit of an American serial killer. Meanwhile his daughter Line, a young investigative journalist, follows previous case which leads her into the killer’s path. In Norway the series will start on Viaplay and TV3 on 11 April; however, no news yet about a future date to air in the UK. Meanwhile those who are not familiar could (and should) read several novels by Lier Horst, the former Senior Investigating Officer at Vestfold Police district.
I must return to Oslo next year. In a meantime it’s back to the varied, inspirational and gripping books.