Christmas Giveaway from Crimepieces 🎁🎄❄️

Christmas is fast approaching which means it’s time for my annual Scandi crime giveaway. I’ve been reading lots of Nordic Noir in readiness for March’s judging session of the Petrona Award. I’ll also be moderating some great Scandi panels at the forthcoming Granite Noir in Aberdeen.

I have a selection of this year’s Petrona eligible books to give away this festive season. To enter, all you need to do is sign up to my newsletter by clicking on the snowy image of the books below. The newsletter is sent out quarterly so you won’t get bombarded with e-mails but it includes updates on the Petrona Award and other exclusive book news.

If you already receive my newsletter, simply share my Facebook post or retweet the post. The competition is open to everyone, regardless of where you are geographically. I’ll be selecting the winner at 7pm on Sunday 18th December.

Good luck!

** The competition is now closed. Congratulations to Andrew in Essex, UK**

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Review: Barry Forshaw – Brit Noir

9781843446408Barry Forshaw’s previous two books in this Pocket Essentials series published by Oldcastle, Nordic Noir and Euro Noir, have been excellent overviews of crime fiction coming from these regions. As a British reviewer, it was inevitable that he would turn his attention to the books coming out of this country but I can’t say I envied him the task. British crime writers are a diverse bunch and writing what is billed as a ‘definitive’ investigation was never going to be easy. Brit Noir, however, is an enjoyable and informative analysis of the genre with plenty of insightful comments on the authors included.

Forshaw divides Brit Noir into geographic regions. This not only mirrors the construction of his earlier books but also reinforces what he considers, in his introduction, to be one of the defining feature of the genre: vividly evoked locales. Splitting up authors like this will never please everyone and, as Forshaw acknowledges in his introduction, there are writers such as Ann Cleeves who set their books in more than one location. What was interesting was the chapter on British writers who choose to set their novels elsewhere: a substantial bunch some of whom reflect the British expat experience abroad in their books.

The other three key elements characterising British crime fiction identified are: strong plotting, literate, adroit writing and complex characterisation. It’ll be interesting to hear if readers agree with this conclusion. Forshaw rightly, in his introduction, mentions the legacy of the Golden Age writers. I was also conscious, while reading the book, of how the more recently deceased PD James and Ruth Rendell have influenced the writing of many of the authors included.

Forshaw gives both new and established authors a significant space in what, at 226 pages, is a short book and it’s an achievement to have included so many writers. Brit Noir is a book to dip into but also, as I did, to read from cover to cover. I’ve always considered Forshaw to be an honest reviewer and the book very much reflects his personality. It made the book a stimulating and, at times, amusing read.

I was delighted to included and am looking forward to other reviews which, I’m sure will generate much discussion.

Nordicana – A Festival of Scandinavian Drama and Fiction


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Next weekend the Troxy in Stepney, East London will be hosting a festival to celebrate Scandinavian drama and fiction. Nordicana is in its third year and promises an array of talent from prime TV shows including The Bridge’s Sofia Helin and Sofie Gråbøl, who played Sarah Lund in The Killing. The full schedule is available on the Nordic Noir TV website.

It should be an excellent two days but the highlight, for me, will be the book event that’s taking place on 7659539Saturday 6th June. Crime fiction expert, Barry Forshaw, will be discussing the origins of Nordic Noir with a panel of guests. Joining me will be Quentin Bates author of a crime fiction series set in Iceland and Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen from the UCL Scandinavian Studies department. It promises to a fascinating conversation.

Any readers of Crimepieces who want to attend are able to buy tickets for the day’s event on the Troxy’s website. However, what struck me recently was the number of readers who contact me through this blog to ask questions about Scandinavian crime fiction. I know you live all around the world; it’s absolutely fascinating to discuss this genre by e-mail so please don’t stop getting in touch. However, I thought if you wanted to post any specific questions to me, we could discuss them on the panel.

You can do this in two ways: via the comments section below which will send your question direct to me by e-mail or you can reply to this post so other readers can see what you’re interested to learn. I’ll be giving a prize for the best question. Scandinavian crime fiction related. So do let me know if you’d like to ask the experts something.

Otherwise, bring your questions along on the day. See you there.

Review: Barry Forshaw – Nordic Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film & TV

nordic noirBarry Forshaw is the UK’s expert on Scandinavian crime fiction. His excellent Death in a Cold Climate is a book that I often dip into if I need information about a Scandinavian author that I’m unfamiliar with. Now he has produced Nordic Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film & TV, a brief but very entertaining overview of not only Nordic crime novels but also of many of the Scandinavian TV and films that are now appearing on our screens.

The book opens with a look at the beginnings of Scandinavian crime fiction, and the influence of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö and other early writers on the genre. The following chapters then assess the two great writers Henning Mankell and Steig Larsson and how they led the way for many of their contemporaries and began the craze for Nordic Noir. There is plenty of food for thought here. Camilla Lackberg, for example, has a significant following but has never quite reached the popularity of say, Jo Nesbo. Forshaw comes up with some convincing explanations for this, not least the intimate setting of Fjallbacka which, although harks back to Christie’s St Mary’s Mead, doesn’t have the international feel of Nesbo’s books. Nesbo himself dominates the Norway chapter, although there are also plenty of other writers discussed, including the excellent Anne Holt and Thomas Enger.

The chapters on the other Nordic countries Iceland, Finland and Denmark were particularly interesting as I’m less familiar with some of the writers and you get a strong sense of both the personality of the authors and the essence of their works. The latter part of the book assesses the impact of  Nordic Noir in TV and Film and identifies some emerging writers to look out for which will provide a useful point of reference in the future.

For a short book (around 160 pages) this packs a lot in and shows Forshaw’s knowledge of the subject. His interviews with many of the authors form the basis of the book and there are some amusing anecdotes and asides, including an interview with Henning Mankell who spots mice in an upmarket hotel in central London. But you also get a sense of the author’s preferences and his views on the merits of different writers. So there is plenty to delight fans of Nordic Noir and also those who want an informative but succinct introduction to the genre.

Cheltenham Literature Festival Events

One of the great things about moving back to the UK is being able to attend some of the wonderful book events that take place across the country. On Thursday I attended the Cheltenham Literature Festival, a ten day event that draws an eclectic list of writers, which this year included JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Pat Barker.

Limiting myself to an afternoon, I attended two interesting sessions in the picturesque Imperial Square venue where the rain hammered down on the roof of our tents. Both events (of course) had  a crime fiction element and gave some interesting insights into aspects of the genre. Here’s a brief summary of the two events.

 

Funerals and Mourning: Panel: Thomas Enger, Tim Lott, Kitty Aldridge and Catherine Arnold. Moderated by Nicolette Jones.

The panelists introduced works of literature that contained, in their opinion, moving and thought-provoking depictions of funerals. There were readings from Trollope, Roth and Updike and from Enger’s Burned.

In the ensuing discussion, Kitty Aldridge made an interesting observation that in literature, while death is expected to shock readers, funerals are often used for comical or ironic effect.

A question from the audience encouraged the panel to consider death in the context of the harm we inflict on each other. Tim Lott agreed that fiction can appeal to the sadistic nature in ourselves, although somewhat controversially suggested us crime readers had a deep-seated desire to commit a murder. I shall say no more….

 

Nordic Noir: Panel: Barry Forshaw, Don Bartlett, Thomas Enger, Gunnar Staalesen

For us fans of Scandinavian crime fiction, this panel was an interesting discussion on the popularity of Norwegian crime novels and the issues surrounding translated fiction. On the panel were two crime writers (GS and TE) whose works have been translated into a wide number of languages, one translator (Don Bartlett) best known for his translations of  Jo Nesbo’s books and Barry Forshaw who has written an excellent guide to Scandinavian crime fiction, Death in a Cold Climate.

The panel began by discussing how titles often change during translation. Jo Nesbo’s first Harry Hole book The Bat, which has just been published, was originally titled The Bat Man which was not felt appropriate for an English speaking audience (the second book will be called The Cockroach). The Norwegian title of Thomas Enger’s first book translated into Apparent Death which was changed by his publisher to Burned. He came up with the subsequent titles of Pierced (book 2) and Scarred (forthcoming book 3) himself.

In relation to the credit that translators get for their work, DB suggested that while it’s nice to be invisible, it can be galling when no mention is made of their contribution at all in reviews etc. TE likes it when his translators ask significant questions about the subtleties of his text and worries if they have translated without any contact with him whatsoever. GS can read some of the languages that his books are translated into but doesn’t check-up on the translations. Both GS and TE agreed that it was a significant moment when their works were translated into English, the language of many of the classic crime writers.

DB said he read other crime books and sometimes found interesting phrases which helped him with his own translations. Translations are made in collaboration with editors who usually have the final say over specific words although he does feel responsibility to reflect the language of the original. Expletives in his opinion were notoriously hard to translate as they often have different degrees of offensiveness in a language.

The popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction was attributed to the influence of Maj Sjöwall/Per Wahlöö, then Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo. Scandinavian countries have changed over this period  though and the panel agreed that the mass killings that took place in Breivik are likely to have an impact on crime fiction coming out of Norway.

 

An interesting two panels and as usual, having promised myself I wouldn’t buy any books to contribute to my TBR mountain, I came away with Catherine Arnold’s Necropolis: London and its Dead, and The Bat which I started on the train home. There were no books by Gunnar Staalesen available for purchase although I probably would have been stuck where to start. Any recommendations?