When was the last time you photographed a pile of manure? Thought so. But that’s exactly what I do as we arrive outside an anonymous farm. It is July, close enough to June, the month when Jørn Lier Horst’s latest book The Ordeal is set. The international best-selling Norwegian writer doesn’t ignore a good opportunity when it presents itself. When he looked around the beautiful countryside what he saw fitted perfectly with the idea of a hiding place for the body of a missing person. A corpse could potentially remain there for six months or longer, unless someone started digging.
Police chief William Wisting, a complex personality, experienced, caring and most of all, a decent human being, will soon become another fine policeman to grace the TV screens. Jørn Lier Horst is no stranger to the medium, having worked on the novelization of the Norwegian TV series Codename Hunter (Kodenavn Hunter). The author just signed a deal to have ten of his novels turned into the television series, he will be involved in the project and has even found a mysterious looking building that could be used for one of the scenes.
He says: ‘The man behind the project is Ole Sønderberg of Good Company Films, from Denmark, who has become a pioneer within Nordic Noir. In 1987 Ole co-founded Victoria Films and acquired the rights to the Swedish Beck novels by Sjöwall and Wahlöö which were turned into 6 films and numerous TV-series. In 2003 he founded Yellow Bird together with Henning Mankell and produced successes such as the Wallander films and TV-series, the feature film trilogy Millennium based on Stieg Larsson’s novels and Jo Nesbø’s film Headhunters. Ole has teamed up with Silje Hopland Eik at Cinenord Drama in Norway, which is known for the Varg Veum TV-series. They have the rights for all ten novels in the Wisting series. The shooting will start in 2017 which gives everyone a chance to read five of his books translated into English by Anne Bruce, and published by Sandstone Press based in Scotland. Dregs (number six in the series) is the first book to be published in English so it makes sense to start with it.
The TV series will be character-driven, reflecting the novels’ timeless plot, strong sense of location and seasons of the year, and the truly excellent, believable characters of Chief Inspector Wisting and his daughter Line who works as an investigative criminal reporter in Oslo, and eventually moves back home. Their professional paths cross often, and a strong bond and understanding creates an authentic background for many stories.
Fictional and real Stavern blend easily making a setting for most of Wisting’s investigations. He also ventures outside the local area, showing a deep understanding of everyday life and all aspects of the Norwegian society, and takes inspiration from his surroundings.
Back to the hot summer day…
First stop is outside the police station in Larvik where he cut his professional teeth and worked until 2013 as a Senior Investigating Officer of the wider Vestfold police district. At the back of the building the author points to his old room window. In the fictional office Wisting could see Larvik’s ferry going across the sea to Denmark.
Next Stavern: this charming lovely peaceful town, with its narrow streets and old houses, is apparently blessed with 200 sunny days every year by a meteorological phenomenon. In summer the population expands significantly. Galleries and exhibitions on every street corner are opened to visitors. One weekend there’s Litteraturfestival (a literary festival) with celebrated Gunnar Staalesen and Hans Olav Lahlum attending. Soon afterwards the international music festival takes over the town. The town’s history as the site of an important Norwegian naval base called Fredrriksvern (from 1677 to 2002) is seen and felt everywhere. Fortress, barracks, old artillery.
William Wisting’s home address is no secret so we go in search of the house at Herman Wildenveys gate 7, and Line’s house nearby, familiar also from The Caveman. However, it is a huge surprise to see the area. We pass The Golden Café Peace, owned by Wisting’s ex-girlfriend Suzanne, a buzzing place with happy tourists. We drive past Frank Madt’s house, now belonging to his granddaughter Sofie, Line’s old school friend. The stunning white villa has the classic Scandinavian look, it’s no wonder that several of the neighbours compete for the tile of owner of the local villain’s lair. Fictional of course.
Jørn Lier Horst’s current place of work is situated in the old wooden building, dating to 18th century. Welcoming comfortable clutter. A beautiful landscape and a touch of history can be seen through the windows. A shelf full of well-deserved awards: The Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize (2011) for Closed for Winter. The Glass Key Award for the best Nordic Crime Novel (2013) for The Hunting Dogs which also received the Riverton Prize, the Norwegian literature prize for the best Norwegian crime story (2013), and The Golden Revolver: Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy Martin Beck Award (2014). Recently the prestigious Petrona Award for The Caveman, presented to his publisher at the CrimeFest in Bristol in May 2016, has a special place.
The office is full of books in Norwegian and their translated editions, also books for a different audience, about police investigation procedures. The CLUE series, first published in 2012, are mystery books for young adults where a clue may help in solving a mystery. CLUE is formed by the initials of the four main characters: Cecilia, Leo, Une and Egon the dog. Detective Agency No. 2 a crime fiction series for children, started in 2013, is set in Elvestad, a tranquil little town, but whenever cracks appear in the idyllic surface, Oliver and Tiril stand ready to take the mission. Aided by Åtto the hound, they search for surprising revelations and unorthodox solutions. Dog – the policeman’s best friend. Just think of Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer or Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander…
Outside the centuries-old yard is baking in the summer’s heat. A lady approaches my ‘tour guide’ and they talk like friends; soon it’s clear that she one of Wisting’s fans. Low-key friendly celebrity, always keen to engage in conversation with his readers, and interested in social issues, Jørn Lier Horst is off to a meeting on rehabilitation of offenders. I go to the beach. As we part I have a strong feeling that I’ll be back to both real and fictitious Stavern.
Contributed by guest blogger Ewa Sherman.