Widespread enthusiasm among British (and, I suspect, American) readers for Scandinavian crime fiction is a relatively new phenomenon. I’m pretty sure that before Sjowall and Wahloo created Martin Beck in their remarkable ten-book series in the 60s, hardly any Scandinavian crime fiction was translated into English, but even until the last ten years or so, there was not much Swedish, Norwegian or Danish (let alone Icelandic) fiction to be found in translation.
All that has changed now. Stieg Larsson may be dead, having never published a crime novel in his lifetime, but his name is everywhere. In recent weeks there have been not one but two very good series featuring Kurt Wallander, albeit in different ways, on British television. And names like Fossum, Nesbo and Nesser are prominent on the shelves of the bookshops.
So it’s tempting to assume that there was really very little Scandinavian crime fiction being written until quite recently. Tempting, but wrong. As ever, with fiction, the real difficulty was that publishers saw no demand for translated Scandinavian fiction, and so made no attempt to provide it for English-speaking readers. But there was material in abundance, even so.
Because I am fascinated by the history of the genre, I am keen to know more about Eurocrime (and crime fiction written outside Europe and the US) of the past. With this in mind, I’ve just acquired a short, privately printed book produced by Bo Lundin in 1981. It is called The Swedish Crime Story, and it is full of information that I find really interesting. So I will be posting again soon about the Swedish crime books you never get to hear about.