Wednesday 8 July 2009

The Freewheelin' Hakan Nesser

One of the treats in the Crimefest delegate bag this year was a small booklet celebrating the achievements of guest of honour Hakan Nesser. The Freewheelin' Hakan Nesser turns out to be the sort of thing any author would love to have produced about himself – lavishly illustrated and full of intriguing snippets.

Included also are samples of a Nesser manuscript – he always starts by writing in longhand. Someone at Crimefest asked how anyone could be expected to read it – and he replied by saying he needs to type up from the longhand draft within a week, otherwise he too will be unable to decipher or recall what he wrote!

The booklet does not major on Nesser’s Van Veeteren novels, but give a flavour of his overall work, including the delightfully titled Kim Novak Never Bathed in Lake Genesaret; only about half of his books, it seems, fall squarely within the crime genre, and he is properly cautious about the merit of categorising books as crime or non-crime. He is formidably well-read, and says of his attitude as teenager: ‘An author who wrote a book where nobody died was an idiot, I was quite convinced of that.’

The assessment of Nesser’s work is thought-provoking and persuasive. His emphasis on the logic of narrative, the importance not only of detail, but choice of detail, the search for pattern in incident and character, these are elements in his writing that repay further study. For my part, I look forward eagerly to reading more of his books. I’m sure there’s a lot that a writer like me can learn from them..

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