|Photo by: Ingrid Basso|
Since this became the recipe, so to speak, to making it big on the literary scene, a lot of authors from my part of the world picked up on this style or method, and a lot of novels have been pouring out from Scandinavia over the last 15-20 years that have all been branded Scandicrime, because they have had this "social comment" thing in it, almost to the point of compulsiveness.
There's nothing wrong with writing a novel that weighs heavily on social comment. In fact, I would claim that a lot of the really good ones have had that aspect to them.
But is it an absolute necessity?
Sometimes when I talk to other authors from Scandinavia, I feel like they seem to think so, because when we discuss our methodology, I often hear how they are closely searching the newspapers for topics to address. Which, again, is perfectly fine, but that's not the way I go about creating stories.
I am more interested in the characters and their stories, which - in fairness - may lead me directly to a social issue which I then will address one way or the other, as crimes being committed often can be related to social issues. But I don't start with the issue. I start with the character.
Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Scarred, my third Henning Juul novel, began with the murder of an old woman living in a nursery home. She had been strangled, and her eyes had been pierced with her own knitting needles. I know, very gruesome and gory, apologies for that. But I didn't write that scene, or think about that scene, because I wanted to say something about care for the elderly. It was the woman who spurred me into wanting to write this story.
Why on earth would someone go to such lengths to kill her? She was half dead already, there were A LOT of potential witnesses, and the old woman probably would have died of natural causes anyway within the next six months or so. That, to me, was interesting. Someone must have really hated this woman, and I was curious to explore why. I didn't look for ways to say something about our health care system.
Pretty soon it became obvious to me that this was a story about revenge, which is very human and something we all can relate to. We have all felt the need from time to time to get back at someone, right?
What I'm trying to say, is that, to me, thinking about the whole social issue thing when it comes to writing crime fiction, feels more like a stray jacket than a helpful tool. To me, crime fiction primarily is a fairy tale, an adventure, 350 pages worth of entertainment that hopefully will take the reader along for a ride.
I want you to enjoy that ride, to invest time and energy in my characters and my narrative, and if that journey resonates with aspects of your own life in some way, if it makes you think, cry, smile, or hug your son or daughter a bit tighter once you've finished reading, then that makes me one of the happiest people on earth. If that's not Scandicrime, then fine I'm absolutely fine with it. I'm not too fond of labels anyway, whether it's in fiction or in real life.
When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, her husband discovers that his wife's life is tangled in mystery. .Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what's more, she appears to be connected to the murder of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests...
Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Norway's wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. When their lives are threatened, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.
Keep an eye out for a review of Cursed coming soon from Louise who is currently reading it but if Thomas' post has whetted your appetite for his books then you're in luck as I've decided to do a giveaway for my paperback copy as I also bought the eBook.
As with all giveaways on the blog, this one is open to existing followers of the blog as a thank you for your support. The winner will be selected at random when giveaway ends and contacted for their postal address to enable me to post the book to them.