Friday 19 July 2013

Romantic Friday Writers July Challenge - Honeymoon - July 19 - 22, 2013


Welcome to  Romantic Friday Writers Challenge for July - Honeymoon.
Here's my text:

Postcard from the Lucky Couple:

We were wed in June, my love and I,
And sailed away upon the tide,
To a far off island with sand and loons,
And not that much to do.

No matter. We're sitting side by side.
Drinking sweet tea and singing happy tunes,
We don't feel like coming home that soon.
It's our honeymoon.

Word count: 60 (NCCO)

Best wishes,

First Commenter:
Sally Stackhouse
of Sally's Scribbles


Wednesday 3 July 2013

Insecure Writers' Support Group - July 2013 - Swedish Mysteries Available in English - The BBC Wallander-Series and a NEW Swedish Mystery Writer, Johan Theorin, 3 of 4 novels, now in English

Anna Nordeman

Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh for starting Insecure Writer's Support Group.

This is my fifth post for IWSG.

Once again, I am NOT going to share my list of how-to-write books, but for those who would like to see it, please go here

For my July edition of IWSG I would like to write a little about Swedish mysteries available in English translation. Actually it was a comment from Joylene Nowell Butler for IWSG for March [here], that gave me the idea. Joylene asked me if I had seen the tv-series, Wallander, and asked me if it was actually filmed in Sweden. Her comment  threw me for a loop, because I had no idea that the BBC had even made English-language films of Wallander with Sir Kenneth Branagh in the title role. 

Sir Kenneth Branagh

I had read several of Henning Mankell's crime novels about the Swedish policeman, Kurt Wallander, who lives and works in Sweden's southern most town, Ystad. (I have actually read several Wallander-novels in both Swedish and English because, at that time, I was toying with the idea of doing translations, and comparing texts is one way of seeing how it's done.)

I was familiar with the Swedish films made of some of the Wallander novels, but since I'm not too fond of the Swedish actor who plays Kurt Wallander, I did not pay that much attention to them. (In my opinion, Kenneth Branagh does a better job; his Wallander is more convincing and more human.)

The BBC is known for making quality films about other peoples' history and literature. So I decided to take a look at these Wallander films in English. After getting over the strange and un-Swedish pronunciation of Swedish names, places and key words, I could see that the BBC had done a good job of creating the menacing atmosphere in Wallander's world, and the excellent British actors made the story believable. The photography of the countryside around and the town of Ystad is beautiful and dramatic. 

So to answer your question, Joylene, the answer is emphatically YES, the BBC must have filmed on location in Sweden, because it really does look like that. And Ystad is a real town. I've been there.

Summer is a great time to take a mystery or two along in your beach-bag. Or if you feel lazy between all the boring chores that need to be done during the summer, such as mowing the lawn, weeding the garden or cleaning closets. Put your feet up, have a cool drink of ice tea and read a thriller or two!

Johan Theorin
After reading buckets and buckets of mysteries and thrillers by English, American and Swedish authors, I would like to recommend a fairly new Swedish mystery writer, Johan Theorin. He is a journalist who has lived as a summer guest on the Baltic island of Öland all his life. His roots are there too. In his novels, he uses his knowledge of the island, its history and people, to breath life into his mystery plots. In Johan Theorin's stories, you are not just reading about individuals who have had some bad luck, you are reading a story about individuals and their relationship to their other family members. It's about families; it's about an island community; it's about an island in relation to the mainland or the rest of the world.

I have finally found a mystery writer who writes about what happens to whole families when tragedy strikes. Grief is something that stays with a person for the rest of his or her life. When someone is killed, they are genuinely missed and their death affects what happens to those left behind. Or maybe they are not missed at all, because of the evil deeds that they have done. Another thing I like about Theorin's novels is that all ages are represented, and that the past, like ghosts, leaves traces in the present.

Johan Theorin's first mystery novel, Skumtimmen (Echoes from the Dead) is about a little boy who disappears in the 1970s. The main character, Gerlof Davidsson, is an 80 year old sea captain who, together with his daughter, Julia, wants to solve the mystery of his grandson's disappearance.

Theorin wisely lets the main characters of the next novel, Nattfåk (The Darkest Room), be a newly transplanted family from Stockholm and Gerlof Davidsson is more of a secondary character, a low-key adviser to the problem-solver, who is his grandniece, Tilda Davidsson, a young recently graduated policewoman assigned to Northern Öland. With the help of Gerlof, Tilda investigates the suspicious drowning of a member of this young Stockholm family. The family's father is also active in solving the mystery and is helped by Gerlof's knowledge of life at sea.

Gerlof Davidsson returns again in the third novel, Blodläge (The Quarry), not as the main character, but becomes aquainted with the main character, helps him solve a mystery and he even saves his life. Theorin is realiatic and does not let Gerlof do the impossible; an eighty year old man does not have the strength to fight villains; but there are still ways of out-foxing an adversary, which Theorin cleverly shows.

To shift the focus of Theorin's stories from different individuals and still let already established characters play a part, is an older method of novel-writing. But why not use it? It adds depth to the series. By not having the same point of view in every chapter or novel, Theorin avoids repetition and the 'wearing out' of his characters. Also, anything can happen to the main characters whom the reader learns to know and care about. (I am constantly worried that Gerlof Davidsson will get hurt. Older people are so fragile, so it would not take much to do him in.) We also get to know what happens to the some of the main characters (= the Davidsson family) in the next novel, even though they are not the main focus of the novel. 

Theorin uses different kinds of texts to enrich his stories. In the second novel, a story written by the mother of the victim adds to the plot with a mix of facts, fancy and red herrings. The same technique of a text-within-the-text, is to be found in the third novel. Gerlof Davidsson, not having the heart to burn his late wife's diaries, reads them guiltily and learns things about his wife that he had no way of knowing while she was alive. The reader learns about the thoughts and feelings of a character, who was dead in the first two novels. Instead of creating a new character Theorin gives a voice to a character who was only talked about and remembered by the other characters earlier; now her voice adds to the plot.

I enjoyed reading Theorin's first novel so much that I read it twice. I am tired of mystery novels overly filled with weird and gruesome descriptions. Theorin's novels do have some unpleasant parts - they are after all mysteries and someone gets killed - but he does not overdo it. There is always a meaning to every detail. One of the things I don't like about many modern Swedish crime/detective/mystery novels is that they have too much blood, gore and macabre desolation. I dearly hope that Johan Theorin does not become tempted to write more gruesomeness into this last novel, like so many other Swedish mystery writers. This is what made me tire of Henning Mankell's novels. They left me cold. Johan Theorin's Quartet about Öland [at least the three that I have read] end with hope.
Theorin has written a novel for each of the four season in his series about Öland: Skumtimmen/Echoes from the Dead is for autumn, Nattfåk/The Darkest Room is about winter, Blodläge/The Quarry is about spring, and the last novel, which has not yet been translated into English, Rörgast, is about summer. 

Happy summer to you all! I thought I would have time to do a lot of reading and even write my own stories. But it doesn't look like I'll have much time for that this summer.

Best wishes,

First Commenter:
Alex J. Cavanaugh

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