Friday, May 20, 2011

Jo Nesbo and Nordic Noir

FOR years now we've been hearing about a charismatic Norwegian crime writer whose novels were plotted with verve and driven by a weirdly compelling alcoholic detective. With the success of  Stieg Larsson's Girl trilogy, the time may be ripe for Jo Nesbo, whose sometimes horrifying new novel, The Snowman, kicks ass.

I spoke to Nesbo from his home in Oslo recently for a profile in this Sunday's Los Angeles Times. We had a lot to talk about. Besides the writer Jim Thompson -- whose The Killer Inside Me inspired him to become a crime novelist -- Nesbo and this blog share an interest in American alt-country: He told me about a club in '80s Oslo that brought American cowpunk bands, and at least once, R.E.M., to town. (His novel namechecks Ryan Adams, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and Willie Nelson.) He's also into graphic novelist Frank Miller.

Will Nesbo repeat the stateside success of Larsson, or even Henning Mankell? His publisher, Knopf, is certainly hoping so. When I asked Nesbo if he felt much in common with other Scandinavian noir writers, he told me, "Not really. I mean, they're writers. But not because they write crime of because they're Scandinavian. I do admire Karin Fossum -- she writes great prose, it's beautiful to read her. I think we're all very different writers. When I started writing crime fiction, I hadn't read any of the Swedish crime writers."

A lot of money rides on the question of whether American readers agree.

Nesbo is in LA next Tuesday.

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