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Meet Jørn Lier Horst (Profile)

Meet the Norwegian Chief Inspector who turned to crime writing when the Nordic Noir Book Club gets together on 22. May 2017. All Welcome.


Jørn Lier Horst

Jørn Lier Horst is one of the most popular crime writers in Scandinavia. In his native Norway, he sells about 1,000 books a day. He has won the most prestigious awards including the Riverton Prize for the best Norwegian crime novel, The Glass Key and The Martin Beck Award for The Hunting Dogs. Like his compatriot, Jo Nesbø, Lier Horst enjoys international success with his William Wisting series – translated for publication in 25 countries from Japan to Portugal. In the UK, where Sandstone Press has published six of his novels, his seat in the Valhalla of Nordic Noir was cemented with the 2016 Petrona Award for the best Scandinavian crime novel of the year for The Caveman. Book 10 in the Wisting series, Ordeal, was published in 2016, and a prequel, When it Grows Dark, was published just a few months ago in the UK. British fans of Scandinavian TV crime series will no doubt be looking forward to adaptations of six of his Wisting novels scheduled to start filming later this year.

From Police Investigator to Crime Writer

Jørn Lier Horst is a Former Senior Investigating Officer in Norway – and it shows in his popular William Wisting series. He has said that working as a chief investigator allowed him to “go behind the barrier tapes and to walk among the remains and traces of severe crimes. See the aftermath of a relentless struggle. Stepping into rooms that have been closed yet contain unexplored secrets.” This professional experience and how it has changed him as a human being is essentially where he would also like to bring his readers. Lier Horst has the following interesting perspective on how his background has influenced and strengthened his crime writing:

The police force provides an excellent advantage point for observing society, as well as an excellent starting point for writing realistic crime fiction. Sooner or later, the ineffective aspects of our society end up on the police’s plate. I write crime novels in an attempt to tell something about our modern welfare system that gives honest promises to be protective and inclusive, yet fail so many of its inhabitants – at the same time I try to give my readers an exciting and riveting story.”

William Wisting – A Fearless Policeman

The jury for the Petrona Award explained its choice of Lier Horst’s The Caveman for the 2016 award with the following words:

All the books in the ‘William Wisting’ series have had compelling narratives and The Caveman is no exception, exploring a Norwegian society where, in a supposedly close-knit community, a man can lie dead at home unnoticed and unmourned for weeks. Excellent plotting, well-drawn characters and writing of the highest quality make this book a worthy winner of the 2016 Petrona Award.

Through the, so far, ten books, Wisting has developed and changed in step with the Norwegian society. He has seen a growing sense of insecurity and how crime has become rougher and more professionalised. As the world around him has become darker, so has Wisting become increasingly disillusioned. Lier Horst explains his choice of writing a prequel to the series – with the recently published When it Grows Dark – by saying that he has in many ways written Wisting into a darkness and had therefore been wanting to go back, to find out how it started and how he really was before the crime trend accelerated in the negative direction:

What I found out when I wrote was that Wisting is the same then as now. Patient and understanding, and with the same driving force, namely the eternal belief to succeed. It has always been greater than the fear of failure. It has made Wisting a fearless policeman.”

In this way, Wisting is both similar to and different from the well-known Nordic Noir detectives. While he certainly has no illusions about living in an earthly welfare paradise, he is mustering a reassuring and socially concerned defence against the forces that threaten to break down the trusting relationships through which social welfare in the Nordic countries is formed and maintained. Wisting, therefore, is a new kind of (sober) police detective in Nordic Noir, at the same time as the novels maintain the stock Nordic Noir trait, which Jørn Lier Horst has succinctly defined as a crime narrative that fascinate readers around the world “by what we might call ‘Nordic melancholy’ concocted from winter darkness, midnight sun, and immense, desolate landscapes”:

The taciturn, slightly uncommunicative heroes are lone wolves living in a barren, cold part of the world, constantly on an uncompromising pursuit of truth and clarity. What’s more, the entire idea of paradise lost is a prominent feature of Nordic crime: the social-democratic efficient society attacked from within by violence, corruption and homicide.

Join your fellow Nordic Noir fans for a conversation with Jørn Lier Horst, Lone Theils and Stefan Ahnhem about their crime novels, Nordic Noir and social justice at the next Book Club event on 22. May 2017 (see details and how to book your ticket above, all are welcome).


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Filed under Norwegian crime fiction, Scandinavian crime fiction

London obsessed with Scandinavia?

The Nordic Noir Book Club was mentioned in an article published on London Loves Business for which I was interviewed. The article captures many examples of the current interest in all things Scandinavian in Britain and London these days including food and design (with a good selection of Scandinavian hot-spots in London).

In the interview I claimed there might be a relationship between the recession and the wave of interest in the Scandinavian countries:

“I think there’s a reason that this has coincided with the recession. British people are familiar with Scandinavian values of social equality and social justice, which are some of the biggest issues in this country at the moment. There’s a sense of the nostalgic values of home, family and nature too, which is what Scandinavia seems to represent.”

Visit London Loves Business or access the article directly here.

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Nordicana News

At Nordicana, Barry Forshaw will be talking to Arne Dahl and the cast of the BBC4 show that bears his name; Barry’s also coming up with some challenging Nordic Noir quiz questions … see http://nordicnoir.tv/nordicana/

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Yrsa Sigurðardóttir in the next Nordic Noir Book Club

Keep an eye on this blog as our next event in the Nordic Noir Book Club takes shape. We have just confirmed that internationally acclaimed Icelandic author, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, will be joining the Nordic Noir Book Club in London on March 17. She will bring Icelandic “ashes and dust” to London, though, fortunately, only in the pages of her latest crime novel in translation: Ashes to Dust, trans. Philip Roughton. Hodder & Stoughton, 2010.

Learn more about the author from this site

Read a review of Ashes to Dust in The Independent (Aug. 2010)

Read our friend Maxine’s review on the Petrona blog (Sept. 2010)

More information will follow in our Newsletter, on Facebook and on this blog. In the meantime, read Ashes to Dust and the other crime novels byYrsa Sigurðardóttir, and reserve the evening of March 17 for what will surely be another fun, informative and social event. The primary organiser of this event is Teaching Fellow in Icelandic, Dr Reynir Þór Eggertsson, who will be assisted by the rest of the Nordic Noir team of staff and students in the Department of Scandinavian Studies at UCL.


Filed under book club, Icelandic crime fiction