Thursday, 4 June 2009


Coinciding with the showing of the BBC's Wallender series on PBS in America, Tom Nolan (biographer of Ross MacDonald) had a fascinating email interview with Maj Sjowall in the 28/5 Wall Street Journal (here), tied also to the re-release of the Martin Beck series by Vintage/Black Lizard in the US. (Thanks to J Kingston Pierce at the estimable Rap Sheet, for pointing this out).

Sjowall makes a couple of important points. First, it has been generally accepted (I believe I got it from Henning Mankell's intro to Roseanna in the Harper Perennials reissues for which I wrote the Murder At The Savoy preface -- see my essay on Nordic crime here) that Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series was the immediate model for the Beck novels, but Sjowall says that was not the case. She and Per Wahloo only read McBain (and Hillary Waugh--see my obit here) AFTER reviewers compared their books to the two American authors. They recommended McBain to their publisher and wound up becoming his Swedish translators!

Second, her favourite of all the many screen adpatations of their work (mostly on TV, but including the American version of The Laughing Policeman, is Bo Widerberg's
The Man On The Roof, about which I've written glowingly, based on seeing it some thirty years ago, at the London Film Festival I believe, and never since. It hasn't turned up on DVD either, to the best of my knowledge.

It's also somehow odd to think that, although Wahloo has been dead for 34 years, Maj Sjowall is only 73 years old, and has not written any novels since the final Beck was published. That seems a shame, but the magic of the couple's writing may have been the result of their own special chemistry. Nolan's written an excellent piece; I only wish it were longer.

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