Last year Auckland hosted the first New Zealand Writer’s Festival, at which an audience of over 200 writers listened to authors, editors and publishers. One of them was Scott Pack from the UK. He runs The Abandoned Bookshop, in which he e-publishes books that have been long out of print. Scott kindly sent me a copy of The Iron Chariot by Norwegian writer Stein Riverton. First published in 1908, it may well be the start of what today we call Nordic Noir or Scandi-Noir. A whole saga of thrillers, murders and dark deeds.
Casting my eyes across my shelves of Scandinavian crime thrillers and into the DVD cupboard, I noticed a little geographical curiosity. Many of the best selling crime writers seem to occupy a coastline that stretches from Oslo at the top, down Sweden’s West coast to Copenhagen in Denmark. It is a distance of around 600km, about the same as a road trip from Auckland to Wellington. Jo Nesbo’s policeman Harry Hole inhabits Oslo, as does Karin Fossun’s Inspector Sejer. Stein Riverton was born just south of Oslo and in his book uses old name of Kristiania for Oslo. Continue down the coast and you come to Fjallbacka, home of the fictional characters of Erica Falck and Patrick Hedstrom created by Camilla Lackberg in a series of nine very popular crime novels. Continue south and in Gothenburg you will find Ake Edwardsson’s Inspector Winter and at the southern most tip of Sweden is Ystad, home to Kurt Wallander by Henning Mankell. One Wallander version was filmed nearby in Malmo, which is linked by bridge to Copenhagen. Now you are in TV thriller country with The Bridge and The Killing and various Danish thriller writers such as Lief Davidson. All down one 600km stretch of coastline.
Murder rates in all these countries are very low by international standards, but the number of literary killings is vast. Their popularity shows no signs of abating. Camilla Lackberg has sold well over 10 million copies of her books and Jo Nesbo over 20 million worldwide.
It seems that Stein Riverton’s novels may have started the trend, and certainly The Iron Chariot is as polished as any Agatha Christie sleuthing by Hercule Poirot, which it pre-dates by a good twelve years. Riverton himself sounds like a bit of a character. Although that was not his real name, the Riverton has become the name of the Norwegian crime writing prize (rather like we have the Ngaio Marsh awards in New Zealand). As well as using this as a pseudonym, he changed his original name to avoid been identified with some early misdemeanours on his part.
One of the identifying characteristics of any Noir fiction is that the landscape will play a part in the action. It will set the mood and often add a chill. I thought Riverton was particularly good, really evoking the sense of place. His descriptions take you straight to summer time on a Norwegian island. I am not always a fan of long sentences, but one in particular made me go back and re-read it a couple of times to enjoy the full flavour of the prose.
“The air itself was heavy and oppressive – it was filled with ocean bluster, tinged blue with the bright reflections of the summer waves, and bore with it a delightful breath of high summer, which wafted from great, newly threshed hayfields, from wind dried, sun drenched cloudberry heaths, from the spruce forests, carrying with it their aroma of resin and rotting fir-cones and it had surely wandered about many a secretive boulder-strewn slope, the rubbish pits of summer where raspberries and strawberries burgeon amid dry brushwood, and wet adders slither between the rocks.”
A little local knowledge is a useful thing here. My mother-in-law sent me three bottles of Swedish Cloudberry liqueur, so the mention of these uniquely Scandinavian berries brings a sweet orange taste instantly to mind.
When a body is discovered on the idyllic Norwegian island, a detective is summoned from Oslo to investigate. Our unnamed narrator guides us through his arrival and subsequent investigation. The detective is called Asbjorn Krag, and to me was a mix of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. I think this comes down to his self-belief about being right, as well as a relaxed attitude as he waits for events to happen. Krag has worked everything out, we the readers need to be helped along to see the same information. He even wears the same small pince nez spectacles as Poirot.
I mentioned that The Iron Chariot is an e-Book. As you can see from my photos, I much prefer to hold a real book in my hands. This was only the second e-Book I have read, and I am still not sold on the experience. It tells me what percent of the book I have read, but that still doesn’t feel the same as seeing the number of remaining pages shorten as you near the end.
For those who have been bitten by the e-Book bug, there is a link to the Abandoned Bookshop below, from where you can purchase a copy of The Iron Chariot.
For those who might like to purchase an e-book copy, here is a link to the page:
For those who want to learn more about some of the crime fiction mentioned, go to:
This site has been running for more than five years and contains a wealth of information.
Marcus Hobson is the ARTbop Literary Editor, regular book reviewer, writer, and the Secretary of the Tauranga Writers group Marcus has been, and continues to be, lots of things. An aspiring author of both novels and reviews, he has always said he wants to be a writer and 40 years later is making that come true. He has in the past done such varied things as study ancient and mediaeval history at Uni in London, worked as an archaeologist, as an economist in central and southern Africa, and as truck driver in a quarry. About two years ago he relocated to the beautiful Bay from a finance job in Auckland. He is a lover of art, the written word and a full time fanatical book collector, with over 3,000 volumes on his shelves. He lives close to Katikati with his wife and sometimes their three daughters, two cats, a library and the odd chicken. Marcus is currently working on a “factional” work about World War One.
If you would like to contribute your original book reviews to ARTbop WORDS please forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org for the attention of the Literary Editor Marcus Hobson. We prefer the work is emailed in docx format We appreciate one or two jpg images (not enormous ones as they become an uploading issue for ARTbop)
HOME FROM HOME
Art by Rosie, Studio Gallery has a multi-artist exhibition opening on 4th April – “Home from Home” Six artists of international origin who now call New Zealand home exhibit their incredible work. The exhibition runs from 4th to 206th April at G7 Goddards Centre, 21 Devonport Road, Downtown Tauranga.
Te Weranga – the Bush Campaign.
The continuing acknowledgement of colonial government attacks on outlying Tauranga Maori settlements. On 8th April 2017 at 7am there will be a ceremony to dedicate a memorial pou at the Puketoki Reserve Whakamarama to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the campaign. There will then be a whakanoa and breakfast, a powhiri and retelling of the events of Te Werenga at Tawhitinui Marae. The day will conclude with a Hakari in the early afternoon.
(The ARTbop archive contains articles and images about the 150th commemoration of the battles of Gate Pa-Pukehinahina and Te Ranga)
55th National Jazz Festival Tauranga
13 – 17 April 2017
THINK JAZZ + THINK EASTER + THINK TAURANGA
Sustainable Art Challenge.
You’ve got until Wednesday 9th June 2017 to enter. Info and registration on line at www.envirohub.org.nz This is an event where innovation and style rival WOW in the creativity of the entrants.
Take a look at the articles on ARTbop about last year’s SAChallenge. We take a look at the setting up of the display in the Baycourt XSpace and then the exhibition of winners at Creative Bay of Plenty, Willow Street, Downtown Tauranga – innovation and style.
The Western Bay Museum Katikati new exhibition “Building our Nation” on now.
Paradox the Street Art Festival to June 2017 inside and outside the Gallery and in and around the streeets of Tauranga. – www: taurangastreetart.co.nz
CREATIVE EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES WANTED:
With the arrival of new staff at CBOP from next week, we say goodbye to Viv Quinn and Christine Sadlier, who will be pursuing their fields of event management, project co-ordination and arts administration. They are available for contractual assignments and can be contacted at:
Viv and Christine will still be around at CBOP over April as they will be facilitating the CCS applications funding process. We thank them both for their dedication and professionalism over the last year and wish them well.
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