Monday, October 22, 2012

European Crime Writing & Martin Beck on Radio 4

A reminder that a weekday, daily series about European Crime Writing begins on Radio 4 this afternoon and that the Martin Beck Killings, starring Steven Mackintosh, begin on the 27th:
Foreign Bodies presented by Mark Lawson starts on BBC Radio 4 on Monday October 22nd at 13.45 – with a shortened omnibus edition on Fridays at 9pm.  Each episode is available to download.     
The Martin Beck Killings are broadcast on Saturday afternoons beginning October 27th at 2.30pm.
Details of the first few episodes, which begin with Poirot and Maigret can be found here. Each episode is 15 minutes long.

Foreign Bodies: A History Of Modern Europe Through Literary Detectives

Crime fiction reflects society's tensions. Helped by famous literary detectives including Maigret, Montalbano, Dalgliesh and Wallander, Mark Lawson shows how crimes reflect Europe's times from the world wars of the 20th century to the Eurozone crisis and nationalist tensions of the 21st. In programme one, Mark Lawson looks at the template set by a Belgian created by an Englishwoman and a French cop created by a Belgian: Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Georges Simenon's Jules Maigret hearing from Val McDermid, Lord Grey Gowrie, Andrea Camilleri and David Suchet.

In crime fiction, everyday details become crucial clues: the way people dress and speak, the cars they drive, the jobs they have, the meals they eat. And the motivations of the criminals often turn on guilty secrets: how wealth was created, who slept with whom, what somebody did in the war. For these reasons, detective novels often tell the story of a place and a time much better than more literary novels and newspapers which can take a lot of contemporary information for granted.

Mark Lawson's series focuses on some of the celebrated investigators of European fiction and their creators: from popular modern protagonists - including Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander, Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole and Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano - through Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus and Lynda La Plante's DCI Jane Tennison back to Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Inspector Barlach and Josef Skvorecký's Lieutenant Boruvka.

The Martin Beck series begins with Sjowall and Wahloo's Roseanna:
Roseanna is the first in the Martin Beck series, written over ten years from 1965 - 1975 by the husband and wife writing team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Featuring the intriguing, dogged, intuitive complex figure of Detective Inspector Martin Beck and his colleagues in the National Police Homicide Department in Stockholm, the books set a gold standard for all subsequent Scandinavian crime fiction, and for much of the best crime fiction in Britain and America written since the 1960s. The books have been admired and imitated by crime writers and readers ever since their publication; now Radio 4 offers audiences the opportunity to discover just why the books have been so acclaimed by those in the know.

The use of crime and police procedure to hold up a mirror to society and its most dysfunctional elements is commonplace now, but that's because Martin Beck paved the way for subsequent generations of European crime writers whose fallible heroes - Kurt Wallander, John Rebus etc. - make the best fist they can of their own lives whilst trying to tackle the violence around them.

The books were written deliberately to give an unsentimental, realistic portrait of Sweden in the mid-sixties: not the liberal place it was thought to be, but a society suffering from a stifling bureaucracy and a creeping rottenness behind the surface sheen. Confronting the dark side of this society are stubborn, logical, anti-social Detective Inspector Martin Beck, his closest friend Detective Inspector Lennart Kollberg - overweight, hedonistic, opinionated; Detective Inspector Frederick Melander, with a memory like a card-index file and a noxious pipe clamped in his jaws, and their colleagues in the murder squad.

In Roseanna, they are faced with the body of an unknown girl found in a canal dredger. The long investigation ends with a risky and frightening sting.

The twitter hashtag is: #bbcforeignbodies


C.B. James said...

It doesn't seem fair to call them 'The Martin Beck Killings' since Martin Beck didn't kill anyone.

I'm a big fan so I'll have to see if I can get these in the U.S. I'd love to hear them. I did read them all.

Rik Shepherd said...

The 15 minute Foriegn Bodies programmes are downloadable at