Published: 23/11/2015 10:25 - Updated: 23/11/2015 11:53

Swedish assassination made everyone a detective

Written byCalum Macleod


Arne Dahl
Arne Dahl

 ARNE Dahl was born in the 1990s.

Before that there was Swedish novelist and critic Jan Arnald who had published fiction and poetry under his own name.

However, when he became a father, he started thinking about the kind of world his own children would grow up in and the issues they would have to face.

Yet he knew the literary novels he had published would not be adequate for the task.

"It needed to be crime fiction, it needed to be flesh and blood," he said.

"What I was looking for when I started were new kinds of crimes that had found their way into Sweden and those crimes were largely international."

So Arnald became Arne Dahl and set to work on the first book in what was to become his Intercrime series about an elite team of Stockholm detectives which UK television viewers as well as readers will be familiar with from the Arne Dahl series which has just finished its latest run on BBC4.

By then the shock of violent crime had already been brought home to the Swedish people by the assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme while walking home from the cinema in 1986, a crime that is still officially unsolved.

"Everyone in Sweden became a detective after that," Dahl said.

"We were all lo0oking for answers."

Describing himself as a third generation Swedish crime writer, Dahl’s criminal persona was influenced by his fellow Swedes Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, whose Martin Beck series in the 1960s proved very influential with writers outside Scandinavia including Scotland’s William McIlvanney, and Henning Mankell showed Dahl that Swedish crime fiction could be written to a very high standard, although he admits that he was not very happy with the way that Mankell, who died last month, treated his policeman hero, Kurt Wallander.

"He had a very lonely, sad protagonist who had the world on his shoulders," Dahl said.

"That’s not what I wanted. I wanted a team. It was based pretty much on collective experience and having the possibility of several different perspectives at the same time. It creates a slightly different dynamic than having a single protagonist, so my contribution is probably the team. It’s a sort of idealistic interpretation of police work. Even the team of six or seven people that I have, it is to small to be realistic. A normal police investigation would involve 20 police officers, but that would be impossible to write about. Six is a perfect constellation of people."

It also avoided the danger of Dahl becoming bored with a single protagonist.

"I knew I was going to write about these people for a long time," he said.

"My initial plan was to write 10 books in 10 years and I knew that if I was going to live with these characters for 10 years, then they have to be interesting enough for me to develop them. All of the characters had to be strong enough to carry a whole book by themselves and I’m happy that I made that choice so early.

"In some series, you can see writers get fed up with their central character and I never did that. On the contrary, when I finished the 10 books, I wrote a number 11."

The cast of the Arne Dahl television series, which has just finished its latest run on BBC 4.
The cast of the Arne Dahl television series, which has just finished its latest run on BBC 4.

Although Dahl believes his books are so successful internationally with worldwide sales of three million because they share the entertaining elements of British and American thrillers, his books also take a critical look at the changes that have taken place in a Sweden which has now turned its back on its traditionally isolationist stance and become a member of the European Union.

"Sweden has really changed faster than most west European countries," he said.

"It belongs to those countries where the differences between the richest and the poorest have grown fastest. We used to pride ourselves that we had this highly equal society and that changed very rapidly and now we are the primary test market for American products.

"A fundament tradition of Swedish crime fiction is that it’s socially critical. After the success of the boom in crime fiction, I suppose we have other traditions as well, such as the purely entertaining, but if you look at the core of Nordic Noir, this is probably the strongest."

It is a tradition shared by crime writers the other Nordic countries, but Dahl also finds a kinship with Scotland’s own "tartan noir" authors who also add a political element to their books.

"It’s an export industry, more or less — but the image of Sweden in the books is not quite the one Swedes might want to give to the world," he laughed.

Arne Dahl will be joined by English writer Eva Dolan and Northern Irish author Stuart Neville along with What's On North's Calum Macleod at Waterstones’ Inverness bookshop in the Eastgate Centre at 7pm on Wednesday 25th November as part of their Book Week Scotland Urban Noir tour.

His latest UK publication is Europa Blues from Vintage Books.


Bookbugs will be visiting libraries across Scotland this week.
Bookbugs will be visiting libraries across Scotland this week.

WEDNESDAY’S Urban Noir event with Arne Dahl, Eva Dolan and Stuart Neville at Waterstones’ Inverness store is just one of several events taking place in the Highlands for Book Week Scotland (BWS) 2015.

All events are free. For further information, contact the relevant venue or see

Monday to Saturday

Visions of The Future, Culloden Library

Libraries are in a time of unprecedented change and development. Enjoy a coffee and a chance to contribute to a local exhibition collecting the community’s views on potential future library design and service provision.

Monday 23rd November

10.30am — Hungry Caterpillar’s Very Special Bookbug Session, Strontian Library.

A special Bookbug session with a little craft session at the end.

11.30am — BWS Bookbug Session, Ardersier Library

A rousing half-hour of Scottish stories, songs and rhymes aimed at babies up to three.

2pm — Bookbug Picnic Time, Grantown Library, Grantown on Spey.

Bring your favourite cuddly toy to enjoy songs and rhymes at a Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Juice and biscuits provided.

Tuesday 24th November

11.15am — Hungry Caterpillar’s Very Special Bookbug Session, Kinlochleven Library.

6.30pm — Poetry Evening with John Glenday, Dingwall Library

Enjoy a lively poetry discussion and reading with a short writing workshop.

7pm — Holiday Reads and Sunshine, Nairn Library

Bring in your favourite holiday read and chat about the holiday it reminds you of while relaxing in the library’s "summer garden area". Drinks and nibbles provided.

Doug Johnstone
Doug Johnstone

7.30pm — The Nuts and Bolts of the Book Industry with Doug Johnstone, Glen Mhor Hotel, Ness Bank, Inverness

Doug Johnstone, author of Edinburgh-set thrillers The Jump and The Dead Beat is the guest at this month’s Highland Literary Salon and will talk about the nuts and bolts of the writing industry, including getting an agent, getting a deal, keeping a deal, the editing process, promotion, foreign rights, the money side of things, ebooks versus physical books, crime writing festivals and a lot more.

Wednesday 25th November

2pm — Lovely Literary Afternoon: Scots, English and Gaelic Authors, Glen Mhor Hotel, Inverness,

Free, but ticketed

Listen to Scots, English and Gaelic authors read from their published work in this Federation of Writers (Scotland) event.

2pm — Christmas Shopping Online Presentation, Culloden Library

Judie Holliday of Citizens Online will demonstrate how to use online shopping sites safely. There will also be time for coffee, questions and a display of books on gifts you can make yourself for family and friends.

2.45pm — Tea and scones... and a story, The Old Brewery, Cromarty, Highland

Enjoy a complimentary cup of tea and a scone and a free book published by the Scottish Book Trust to mark Scottish Book Week. A local Cromarty writer will give a short reading.

7pm — Urban Noir Showcase, Waterstones, Eastgate Centre, Inverness

Sweden’s Arne Dahl, England’s Eva Dolan and Northern Ireland’s Stuart Neville will be in conversation about the art of modern urban crime writing. Wine and soft drinks provided.

7.30pm — Poetry: Jazz it Up!, Skeabost Memorial Hall, Isle of Skye, Highland

A Come-All-Ye event with poet Brian Johnstone and his friends, Trio Verso.

Thursday 26th November

9.30am — Hungry Caterpillar’s Very Special Bookbug Session at Ballachulish Baby and Toddler Group, St Mundas Church Hall, Ballachulish

11.30am — Bookbug Picnic Time, Nairn Library

Free, but ticketed

Bring your favourite cuddly toy to enjoy a Bookbug session and a picnic in the library’s "Summer Garden" area. Juice and biscuits provided.

3pm — Hungry Caterpillar Story and Craft Session, Kinlochleven Library

A fun filled story and craft session for nursery to P2 children. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Jennifer Morag Henderson
Jennifer Morag Henderson

6.30pm — An Evening With Jennifer Morag Henderson, Waterstones, Eastgate Centre, Inverness

Jennifer Henderson will be talking about her new biography of fellow Inverness resident Josephine Tey, author of The Daughter of Time and one of Scotland’s greatest crime writers.

Friday 27th November

10.30am — BWS Bookbug Session, Culloden Library

A rousing half-hour of Scottish stories, songs and rhymes to celebrate Book Week Scotland.

7.30pm — A Very Unsecret Agent with Allan Guthrie, Moniack Mhor Writers Centre, Teavarran, Kiltarlity

Carrying on from Doug Johnstone’s talk on Tuesday, we hear from his agent and fellow crime writer Allan Guthrie. Entry is free, but please do not arrive any earlier than 7:30pm attending the Highland Literary Salon retreat will be dining.

7.30pm — An Evening with Paula Hawkins, The Ironworks, Academy Street, Inverness,

Paula Hawkins’s debut crime novel, The Girl On The Train, spent 20 weeks at the top of the UK hardback book charts, breaking all previous records and has sold more than 800,000 copies since its release in January. With a film version now under way starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson and Lisa Kudrow. Hawkins will reveal how she created the dark world of her riveting novel.

Please email or call 01463 233 500 to reserve tickets.

Saturday 28 November 2015

11am — D.J. Maclennan: Scotland’s First to be Frozen, Picaresque Books & Galerie Fantoosh, 55 High Street, Dingwall.

Author D.J. Maclennan will be talking about his decision to be the first person in Scotland to sign up for cryogenic freezing when he dies. Come and ask about his reasons, the morals and philosophy, and the science behind cryogenics.

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