Thursday, May 21, 2015
CrimeFest 2015: Lee Child Interviews Maj Sjöwall
[Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö wrote the highly influential ten book Martin Beck series (published in English 1965-1975).]
LC read the books in the '70s and hoped he wouldn't come over too fanboy-y in his interview.
Does she mind talking about a ten year period which happened about 50 years ago? Not at all as in this situation she is crime writer.
She was aged between 4 and 9 during WW2, everything stopped during the war. Jazz smuggled in, in '40s' and rock and roll in '50s, smuggled in via England, eg Cliff Richard and then the Beatles.
LC: Image of Sweden at the time as a paradise, all the girls were pretty and would sleep with you! What was wrong with Sweden?
MS: You're right about the girls!
Sweden was turning from social democratic country to a more right wing country. They wrote books during the time the Vietnam war was on. Olav Palme – a great pr man, painted picture of idealistic society but we didn't see that – country more and more right wing and capitalistic. Police were portrayed as more militaristic than civil.
Met Per, both working in same publishing house and MS needed a translator of two Father Brown stories and was introduced to Per. Met again and again.
Per had written 3 political novels (inc 1 about football) and wanted to write something entertaining and bake into it what they wanted to talk about. At the time there were no police novels in Sweden.
Both fond of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Simenon. But didn't want to write like someone else. It was hard to get information about the police then. Our idea was to have not just a single hero but a team.
LC: Introduction to Roseanna is pages of admin about organising the dredger – radically different approach.
MS: Crime novels in Sweden were very bourgeois, wanted it to be realistic – people say their books are slow – but it is realistic. Started series before they had read Ed McBain even though they are often compared and went on to bring McBain books to Sweden.
Book 1 did ok, not fantastic, got good reviews, after books 2 and 3 young people began to react.
Martin Beck is a typical civil servant, rather boring, dutiful, has empathy (Lee Child said he is lovely).
LC: Is she pissed off that people are doing the same as what they did?
MS: Not pissed off that people are doing the same but can't they find some other way to write about society? Books are now half about romance and private life and this stems from Martin Beck as he had a private life - MS said we didn't mean to do it! They won an Edgar for book 3 – only non anglo-saxons to win an Edgar.
Every year there are 10 new Swedish authors...publishers buy at Frankfurt because it's Swedish, Scandinavian noir. Has no explanation for success...it's not that fantastic is it?
They decided on a ten book series, no more no less. One novel, split into ten: Novel of a crime. Wouldn't have carried on for anything.
LC: Here you have integrity on legs.
PW: Per was to planning to write next about modern warships.
Didn't want to write 300 pages on own – too lonely so wrote short things, poetry.
Sat face to face with Per working over a table. Talked a lot about the story and the language and for the first book – the characters.
In Roseanna, a US character was not chosen to open up another market but just to show how Swedish, Swedish police were, and how they could hardly communicate with the US.
They did the voyage through Sweden for fun and there was a beautiful American woman on the trip, Per was watching her, so I said we'll kill her!
Books don't change the world very much but can change thinking. S & W opened the market – half the population writes crime fiction now! Doesn't read much but likes Leif GW Persson who sticks close to real life.
When asked about the Matthau film - said we needed the money!.
Her favourite is The Locked Room.
Doesn't do much writing for publication, though will write for friends, as publishing means things like CrimeFest – ok in England but not in Sweden. Doesn't want to talk about self, or be looked at.