Iceland Noir #1

IMG_0828Reykjavik is currently hosting its first festival of crime fiction, Iceland Noir, an idea conceived by the Icelandic brach of the Crime Writers Association at their inaugural meeting in June during Crimefest. To have pulled together an event of this scale in such a short period of time has been a huge achievement and the event had a great start yesterday with the opening session featuring Norweigian writer Jorn Lier Jorst.

Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a fan of Horst’s writing and my only regret is that his books have been translated from mid-series onwards so we’re missing a huge amount of backstory in relation to his main protagonist, William Wisting. Yeserday, the writer was interviewed by his Icelandic translator, Sigurdur Helgason, who questioned him about both his crime IMG_0833fiction and children’s books. Like other crime writers I’ve seen interviewed, he cites the influence of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö on his work and had originally intended to write ten books in his own series. However, having just written his ninth book, he now intends to continue with William Wisting. Until a few months ago, Horst was a serving police investigator and the in-depth knowledge he has accumulated over the course of his career was touched upon. According to the writer, he has seen an increase in both violent and organised crime with less people employed to investigate cases.

What I thought fascinating was that despite his police background, Horst cited his love of crime fiction as one of the reasons he started writing in the genre. It’d always a relief to hear a writer say he loves to read crime novels and interestingly, like me, he came to the genre via the books of Enid Blyton and those featuring Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

In the evening, I attended a reading featuring writers Quentin Bates, Ann Cleeves and Jorn Lier Horst, along with other IMG_0838Icelandic authors such as Ragnar Jonasson who are yet to be translated into English. It was an enjoyable event and it was wonderful to hear the rhythm of readings in a language I can’t understand. Special mention goes to Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson who I met earlier in the day. I read and reviewed his excellent Flatey Enigma last year on the recommendation of  the late Maxine Clarke at Petrona. Meeting him has reminded me that I need to catch up with the rest of the series. Good to catch up too with fellow blogger Sue G from Novel Heights and her husband Jim.

Thanks to everyone for all their hard work in making Day 1 such as success.

Crimefest – Day 1

BloggersIt’s that CrimeFest time of year and it’s been great to say hello to old friends and meet new authors, bloggers and readers. For me, the event kicked off with the quiz on Thursday evening. We were a team of bloggers – Mrs Peabody, It’s a Crime, Raven Crime Reads and Eurocrime. Given the amount of crime fiction that we read, you’d have thought we’d do OK. Well, we came fourth. Some questions were alarmingly obscure – would any regular readers of this blog know that the Crime Writer’s Association consumed corned beef sandwiches and a pot of tea at their inaugural meeting? A picture of our quiz team is on the left. As many of the bloggers use aliases I’ll leave it to you to guess the faces to their websites.

My first panel of Friday was entitled Crime in the Country – Going Rural. Participants were Jeffrey Deaver, Elly Griffiths, Stanley Trollip (one half of Michael Stanley) and Martin Walker with the panel moderated by Len C Tyler. JD admitted that his books were largely urban in nature although, not surprising given his output, a couple did have rural settings. MW sets his books in France, EG in Norfolk and MS in Botswana. The panel discussed the nature of ‘difference’. While cities can be largely homogenised, the country has the capacity for depicting violent crimes against the landscape of a lost paradise. MW made an interesting point that while urban police might be looking for ‘connections’ in relation to a victim, in a rural area, these might be more immediately obvious – where long standing feuds are well known. I thought the discussion fascinating, not least because I live in the countryside. While crime is generally low, the capacity to be frightened – dark nights, isloated setting etc makes it rich pickings for crime writers.

The second session was presented by Barry Forshaw entitled Too much sex and violence: British Crime Films. With only 20 minutes to cover the topic, I can say that I was impressed by Barry’s knowledge of the genre and I’m now dying to watch some of the films he mentioned. For most people, the only two British crime films that they would be able to name would be Get Carter and Brighton Rock. These are both excellent films but, as we found out in the presentation, there’s a raft of movies from the 1940s, many starring Dirk Bogarde and Stanley Baker, that portray the underbelly of British society. A film that I’m particularly keen to try is ‘Yield to the Night’ based on the story of Ruth Ellis, last woman to be hanged in the UK, starring Diana Doors.

Another panel I attended was Native and Outside: Different Perspectives. It focused on the difference between writing as an Panel1outsider and a native of an area. On the panel were Adrian Magson and Pierre Lemaitre writing about France and Dana Stabenow and M J McGrath who set their books in Alaska. A theme that emerged from the panel was the importance of research for the writers not from the place. AM uses his brother who still lives in France for information and MJM regularly visits Alaska. For the native writers, it is a case of using the landscape that they are familiar with and attempting to portray the diversity of the setting away from stereotypes. Needless to say, after hearing the writers speak, I’m dying to read their books which are sitting in my TBR pile.

Pierre Lemaitre’s translator, Frank Wynne, was also present on the panel and I afterwards attended a fascinating talk by him on a book he had written. I Was Vermeer documents the life of forger Han van Meegeren and it was absolutely fascinating. I could have listened to the story for hours and I’m definitely going to read the book. Particularly interesting was the vested interest people who unintentionally buy and sell  forged pictures have in continuing the deception.

In the evening, the CWA Awards were announced including the International and Ellis Peters Historical Dagger. All the nominees can be found here.  A fascinating day and, deep breath, on to day two.