Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Snowblind - Ragnar Jonasson's guest post

Ragnar Jonasson is a talented Icelandic crime writer, one of whose short stories I had the pleasure of including in a recent CWA anthology. His recent novel Snowblind has been published by Orenda Books to much acclaim. Ragnar's English is,I have to say, immeasurably better,than my Icelandic, but in fact his book has been translated by another excellent novelist based in Iceland, British-born Quentin Bates (who, as it happens, has just contributed a terrific essay to a non-fiction CWA book, Truly Criminal.) I invited Ragnar to contribute a guest post telling the story of how he came to write his story:

"I spent my childhood summers in the wonderful, small, northern-most town of Siglufjörður in Iceland, where the days are long and bright in summer (but equally short and dark in winter). When I started writing crime fiction, I felt compelled to write a book set in this place. The village, nestled by the fjord, is closed off on every side by high mountains and the only way to get there is by tunnel or by sea. I always felt it was a very fitting setting for a crime novel, a sort-of locked room in the shape of a small town. It’s not unusual for avalanches and heavy snowfall to close off the roads and, indeed, any access, into town in winter (which, of course, happens in the book as well).

 I also had more personal reasons for writing about Siglufjörður. My father grew up there, during the era when the town was the bustling centre of herring fishing in Iceland, where people worked day and night to bring the fish in from the sea. My grandparents lived there for most of their lives, and my grandfather wrote a series of books about the history of Siglufjörður.
I have been a fan of Golden Age crime fiction for years; I started by reading, and later translating, Agatha Christie, and also enjoying books by a variety of other authors of that era, such as Queen, Van Dine and Marsh. The factors that drew me to Christie – and the Golden Age in particular – are, to a large extent, her plotting and use of setting, and I wanted to try to create a story that could in some way be a juxtaposition of the Golden Age and the much newer Nordic Noir. That, too, is a genre that has influenced me, and I have many favorite authors, including Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo. Another influence is the amazing P.D. James, whose characterization is second to none. I really admire the way she created memorable characters with complex backgrounds, all of whom stay with the reader long after the story is finished. In Snowblind, I set out to create a small gallery of suspects, all of whom have back stories that are revealed – little by little. We see the story evolve in part through their eyes, as well as through the eyes of the lead detective, Ari Thor.
In addition to the above, a key factor behind my decision to write Snowblind was also – of course – the fact that I felt I had a story to tell; the story of a group of people living in a remote place, the story of a young man adapting (or not adapting!) to a new and fairly hostile environment, and little plot twist that I hope I’ll manage to conceal until the very last pages."

I particularly like Ragnar's point about combining GA type writing and Nordic Noir!.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Hi Martin-I wonder if it would be possible for me to do a guest post on your blog perhaps at the end of June. My first novel is available in the UK (CONCRETE ANGEL) and it would be nice to talk about it on a blog that the British read. It has received very good reviews from LIBRARY JOURNAL and BOOKLIST and an okay one from KIRKUS.

Martin Edwards said...

Patti, it would be a real pleasure to ewlcome you to the blog. And I'm so pleased about your book!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Just give me a date and what you'd like me to write about. I'm at