I can’t tell you if I‘m go­ing to kill Harry Hole off...

JO NESBO TALKS TO HAN­NAH STEPHENSON ABOUT LIFE AS A BEST­SELLING THRILLER WRITER, CHIL­DREN’S AU­THOR AND AGE­ING POP STAR...

Llanelli Star - - BOOK SHELF -

BEST­SELLING Scandi-noir au­thor Jo Nesbo was never one to be pi­geon­holed.

Now on a whis­tle-stop tour of the UK and Europe to pro­mote his lat­est thriller Knife, he’s only just re­turned from a se­ries of gigs at Nor­we­gian fes­ti­vals where he was per­form­ing with his rock band Di Derre (trans­lated ‘Those Guys’), who were mas­sive in Nor­way in the Nineties.

The 59-year-old rocker, cre­ator of the hugely pop­u­lar tor­tured Oslo de­tec­tive Harry Hole nov­els, has also penned a se­ries of fun chil­dren’s books, al­though it’s his crime-writ­ing which has brought him lit­er­ary fame.

To date, the Nor­we­gian au­thor’s spine-tin­gling thrillers – in­clud­ing The Leop­ard, The Snow­man and The Thirst, fea­tur­ing his se­rial killer-chas­ing al­co­holic de­tec­tive – have sold more than 40 mil­lion copies world­wide and spawned a cou­ple of movies.

They take read­ers on tor­tu­ous jour­neys with de­praved killers and their ter­ri­fied vic­tims, down Oslo’s dark back­streets and be­yond.

To­day, Jo is far more up­beat than his dour de­tec­tive hero – al­though he ad­mits he is plan­ning the end for Harry, but won’t re­veal in which book or how he will be writ­ten out.

“I think there’s a fu­ture for Harry. At one point, I wrote a sto­ry­line for his life and we are get­ting close to the end of that sto­ry­line,” he re­veals. “But I can’t tell you how many nov­els it will take to get him to the end of that fu­ture.

“I can’t tell you if I’m go­ing to kill him off – that would be a spoiler. Let’s put it this way, af­ter the end, he will not res­ur­rect.”

He has now writ­ten 12 Harry Hole nov­els and ad­mits he has made him­self ease up on the graphic tor­ture scenes de­picted in his books since The Leop­ard, ar­guably his most vi­o­lent novel.

“In that book, I went too far,” he ad­mits. “The novel had good

reviews, but one Swedish re­viewer was fu­ri­ous about the level of vi­o­lence and I had to re­con­sider.

“When I re-read the pages he re­ferred to, I re­alised he was right.”

Since then, he has pared back the vi­o­lence in sub­se­quent books.

“There is still vi­o­lence but it’s much less graphic than it was in The Leop­ard. I will use vi­o­lence only to the ex­tent that it is needed to de­scribe the char­ac­ters and their emo­tions, and to show the reader what’s at stake.”

He may have pared down the de­tail but he’s still rack­ing up the at­tacks and killings in Knife. In the book, a mur­der with deep per­sonal ram­i­fi­ca­tions sees Hole pur­su­ing se­rial rapist and mur­derer Svein Finne – nick­named ‘The Fi­ancé’ – who he put away but who is now out of prison and seek­ing re­venge.

The killer has an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of knives and it was read­ing a book by a US psychologi­st about what stops us killing each other which drew Jo to the theme. He dis­cov­ered that while you could train sol­diers to shoot at the en­emy, it was much harder men­tally to stab some­one to death.

“The one area it was very dif­fi­cult to get sol­diers to kill was close up.

“As long as you don’t see your en­emy’s face or see them as hu­man be­ings, it’s quite easy to ma­nip­u­late the brain, but when you get close with knives, it’s very dif­fi­cult.

“Why is it that the closer you get, the more dif­fi­cult it is to kill some­one? That was the start­ing point for the novel.”

Al­though two of his books, Head­hunters and The Snow­man, have been adapted for screen – Head­hunters re­ceived rave reviews, The Snow­man, which starred Michael Fass­ben­der, less so – Jo is in no hurry to get in­volved in film-mak­ing. He hasn’t even seen The Snow­man.

“I was in Greece rock-climb­ing with friends when The Snow­man pre­miered in Oslo. I read the reviews, which were not good, and I didn’t get around to see­ing it.

“So now, when peo­ple ask me what I thought of the movie, I don’t have to crit­i­cise any­one’s work.”

Jo lives in Oslo, and aside from say­ing he en­joys climb­ing, mu­sic (ob­vi­ously) and watch­ing movies, he re­fuses to dis­cuss his pri­vate life and only men­tions his daugh­ter, Selma, oc­ca­sion­ally.

Once set for foot­ball stardom (un­til he tore the cru­ci­ate lig­a­ments in his knees at 19), he then had a 10-year ca­reer as a stock­bro­ker, fol­lowed by huge pop suc­cess in Nor­way with Di Derre.

Jo went into writ­ing rel­a­tively late, at 37, when a pub­lisher asked him to write a book about a pop star’s life on the road. In­stead, Harry Hole popped into his head on a flight from Oslo to Syd­ney and his first crime thriller was born.

Does he be­come as de­pressed as Harry when he’s writ­ing about him? “I don’t feel like my fic­tion spills over into my real life but I spend so much time in Harry’s uni­verse that at the end of writ­ing a novel like this, I need a break from that world and from Harry him­self,” he ad­mits.

“Harry’s the kind of friend that if you spend a week­end with him you ap­pre­ci­ate it, but you don’t call him back on Mon­day.”

The Harry Hole sto­ries are a world away from Jo’s Doc­tor Proc­tor’s Fart Pow­der se­ries– about the ad­ven­tures of an ec­cen­tric sci­en­tist who dreams of be­com­ing a fa­mous in­ven­tor – which is aimed at seven-year-olds.

“They are just dif­fer­ent sto­ries,” he says with a shrug. “Ba­si­cally I’m a sto­ry­teller. Be­fore I wrote crime sto­ries I wrote lyrics for my band – that was my school of writ­ing. They stim­u­late my cre­ativ­ity.”

He says his daugh­ter, now in her late teens, in­spired him to write chil­dren’s books.

“She would ask for sto­ries. I was like a juke­box of sto­ries and she would push the but­ton, telling me the el­e­ments that she wanted in the sto­ries and I would have to im­pro­vise.

“She asked for a princess, cute like her­self, a lit­tle boy, a mad pro­fes­sor, a potato and a di­nosaur.

“I asked if we could do with­out the potato and the di­nosaur and if we could have some fart­ing pow­der in­stead. We had to ne­go­ti­ate.”

When he re­turns to Nor­way, he will join his band to per­form three gigs with the Oslo Sym­phony Or­ches­tra near the ski-jump­ing area of the Hol­menkollen.

He laughs at the no­tion that he still con­sid­ers him­self a pop star.

“We like to think we head­line at gigs, but some­times other bands also think they’re head­lin­ing. We re­ally just do it for fun.”

As for fur­ther nov­els, what will hap­pen when Harry is no longer around?

“When the story about Harry is over, I will keep on writ­ing, prob­a­bly with a smaller au­di­ence but I will con­tinue nonethe­less.” Knife by Jo Nesbo is pub­lished by Harvill Secker, priced £20.

Jo Nesbo and his lat­est Harry Hole book, Knife, above

Rebecca Fer­gu­son and Michael Fass­ben­der in The Snow­man

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