I am since long addicted to crime fiction. Some of it I only consume, as good entertainment that lightens up life a bit (happiness through fictional crime…) without leaving any permanent traces. But, some crime novels manages to do something more than that – they entertain, are well written and say something about the contemporary society in a non-lecturing way. They give a perspective on the not-so-bright parts of the society. With a few exceptions, my favourite contemporary crime noir novels are written by authors from UK or the US. For someone who knows a little about the Swedish book market, this might seem like a paradox since the Swedish crime fiction has boomed during the recent 10-15 years and seems to be ever growing. The publishers are flooding the book market with crime novels by an increasing number of writers. Mostly are written using the same standard formula and could have been written any time since the sixties – and this is not timelessness in a good sense. Passed best-before-date, boring and repetitious. As a crime novel addict I have ploughed through a substantial amount of these novels and have been surprised that so many are so bad written. This makes them unvoluntary comic – as parodies – and I hope that the Swedish publishers will begin to apply basic quality standards to crime novels again. There are exceptions as Stieg Larsson (who wrote the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy) and Jens Lapidus (author of the Stockholm noir trilogy), but they are rare. Another standard formula that has been popukar has been the “Swedish Crime Novel with a Social Conscience” . The genre started by the the writer couple Sjöwall-Wahlöö who wrote about the disillusioned detective inspector Martin Beck in ten books published from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies. These books are considered as quality crime and I agree with that, but some of the writer they inspired uses the formula to write quite predictable, lecturing and mediocre crime novels that paradoxically don’t have much to say about the society of today – despite their effort to write “social noir”. So – with the exception of a handful of talanted and entertaining Swedish (and a few Norwegian and Danish) crime writers I mostly read crime novels from US & UK and the globalized (thanks Amazon, Adlibris and Bokus!) book market makes it very easy to read in English these days. Unfortunately my French is not good enough for reading novels, otherwise I would try to widen my horizons a bit.
Anyway – this is becoming a very long intro to get to the main theme – writing about my latest find. Some of my contemporary UK/US favourites are Sara Paretsky, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Denise Mina… to mention a few and I can now add another name to that list; Reggie Nadelson. She has been around for some time and already written about 7-8 books about her hero – the (former) NYPD detective Artie Cohen – but I had missed her. Artie Cohen is a great character. He is a Russian immigrant who is still in love with New York City (despite its dark sides – which he sees more of than most people) . He is an original creation and doesn’t feel duplicated on someone else’s hero detective and succeeds to escape many of the traditional traps. He actually has his own fan site at Facebook. I’ve just finished Skin Trade (Original US Title was Sex dolls) – a brutal tale about organized crime and trafficking. The main part of Skin Trade is set in Europe – Paris and Vienna – and it gives a perspective on both the falling of the wall and the Yugoslavian war and disintegration. I am actually impressed by her skilful way of depicting Paris, Vienna and central Europe. At the moment I am in the midst of Disturbed Earth and she describes New York and its surroundings in a way that both creates longing and is a kind of substitute for someone (like me) who has taken NY to her heart. It is clear that this is her city and she knows how to describe it without getting into clichés. The contemporary world is always present, but she never turns into lecturing and the noir part is quite un-posing. I’ll absolutely add her to my list of good social noir writers.
Pictures of Disturbed Earth and Skin Trade are linked from Arrow books, that published the books (in the UK).