Nordic Noir, by Barry Forshaw

by Peter

Nordic Noir ForshawNordic Noir is fittingly subtitled The Pocket Essential Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film and TV. So it is pretty wide – Nordic Noir in all media. It is an interesting book for people who love Scandinavian crime fiction or who wants to get an overview of what is going on in there. I consider it a useful handbook.

It is divided into eight chapters: 1. Beginning: Sjöwall & Wahlöö’s Martin Beck Series, 2. Sweden’s Trojan Horse: Kurt Wallander, 3. Lisbeth Salander’s Legacy, 4. Larsson’s Rivals, 5. The New King: Jo Nesbo and Other Norwegians, 6. Dark Nights in Iceland and Finland, 7. Darkness in Denmark, 8. The Nordic Screen: Film and TV Adaptations. In addition to an Introduction, an Epilogue (Some Names to Watch For), three Appendices: Top Twenty Nordic Noir Novels, Top Six Noir Films, and Top Six Noir TV Dramas, plus an Index.

Barry Forshaw, the author, is a British journalist working with Scandinavian crime fiction, and the book shows that. It contains a variety of types of information from a variety of sources: notes, reviews, observations, conversations with authors and translators, small stories, background information, gossip, insights from the publishing business. It is a little of this, a little of that, sort of semi-organized, loosely structured; somehow held together by the loose organizing principles visible in the list of chapters: a little chronology, a little geography basically. The result is interesting, useful and information-packed.

In the end what is expressed in Nordic Noir are the views of Barry Forshaw: both in the content and in the organization. I agree with some of them, I think others are quite odd. For instance: He spends pages on Sara Blaedel (uninteresting, largely unknown except in Scandinavia and abroad), but barely mentions Leif GW Persson – literally a pop star among crime writers in Sweden, best-selling throughout Scandinavia, several prizes. I don’t know or understand why? Maybe Forshaw has met Blaedel and likes her? Who knows?

Despite oddities, some factual errors here and there, and despite the fact that Forshaw seemingly doesn’t read in any of the Scandinavian languages but relies on secondary sources a lot, it is still quite an impressive and interesting book. Anglo readers interested in the Scandinavian Noir landscape will, I am sure, find Nordic Noir very intriguing and useful!

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