Friday, 11 September 2015

Gunnar Staalesen and Kati Hiekkapelto - author event


 Last night Derby Waterstones played host to two Nordic Noir authors - Gunnar Staalesen from Norway and Kati Hiekkapelto from Finland - stopping off as part of a round Britain tour which today takes them north to the Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling. The event was chaired by Derbyshire author Sarah Ward, one of the judges for the Petrona award for best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the year, for which Hiekkapelto's debut novel The Hummingbird was short-listed this year.
As is fairly usual the event opened with the authors reading from their respective novels, but in what is for them a foreign language! An important aspect of Scandinavian crime writing is the sense of place, and both authors chose extracts which emphasised this. Kati Hiekkapelto's novels are set in northern Finland and The Defenceless takes place in spring - not the mild season filled with new growth that we expect but one of ice and snow underfoot, and temperatures still below zero! She read a section which captured the exhilaration felt by her protagonist, detective Anna Fekete, while skiing across a wide expense of frozen sea - an environment that seems totally alien to me! Gunnar Staalesen's extract seemed set in a more familiar place; in We Shall Inherit The Wind, private eye Varg Veum is on a trail which leads him to the scattered islands off Norway's west coast, a place which sounds and looks (if Google streetview is to be believed) very like the places I love in Scotland's Hebrides.
Since the days of Sjowall and Wahloo, Scandinavian crime-writing has explored moral and topical issues alongside the whodunnit aspect, and the two novel under discussion are no exceptions - We Shall Inherit The Wind is set against the controversies surrounding wind farms, while The Defenceless draws on Hiekkapelto's experiences among refugees and assylum seekers.
Sarah Ward proved to be a very able chair to the proceedings and by the time she threw the discussion open to the audience I found she'd asked every question I would have done (but probably more succinctly!)

I was a little disappointed that more of Derby's readers hadn't turned out. It's lovely to have events such as this on the doorstep but they need the support of more than half a dozen enthusiasts. On the other hand, this gave me chance to have a chat after the event with publisher Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and translator Don Bartlett, the sort of opportunity that can be lost in a crowded room.

You can find out more about both authors and their books on Orenda Book's web site

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