More Harry Hole novels on way, reveals Jo Nesbo in Harrogate

Top Scandi noir crime author Jo Nesbo looks like a rock star in his trendy stubble, coloured shades, skinny jeans, black T-shirt and slim black jacket - but then he is in a Norwegian rock group in his spare time.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 9th April 2015, 10:21 am
Author Jo Nesbo.
Author Jo Nesbo.

I ask him about this at a special ‘In Conversation’ with Mark Lawson at the official launch of the glittering line-up for this year’s Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

Sitting in a large chair on stage facing the “Jeremy Paxman” of broadcasting, a chilled-looking Nesbo tells me and the packed crowd which includes the great and good and Dales-living celebrity Janet Street Porter about his early days with the band as teenagers, how they eventualy got a number one album and the reason for the band’s name - Di Derre.

“We changed the band’s name every week because we were so bad. When someone would ask ‘who’s playing?’ the answer was ‘those guys’. We called ourselves Di Derre because it means ‘those guys’ in Norwegian.

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Knowing what musicians can be like from booking them for gigs myself, they’re not all committed to a heavy workrate, I was going to ask him if it was actually harder work being a novelist than being in a band.

But the multi-million selling novelist Jo may look cool, he may be offered limos and private jets on occasion, but he’s clearly no stereotypical rock star.

The detailed, lengthy and precise fashion in which he answers almost every question reveals him to be more driven and clear-sighted and hard-working than the average musician.

Perfectly qualified to be a crime writer, in other words.

He only wears the shades, for example, under doctor’s order, he says, because he has a medical problem.

As well as having two new books under the pseudonymn Tom Johansen, he tells the Harrogate audience there will be more children’s books, the script for a new TV series Occupied, a movie, potentially, of his Harry Hole book The Snowman produced by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo Dicaprio (“if it happens”), a new Harry Hole book and possibly some more gigs with Di Derre.

Ostensibly he’s here to talk about his just published new crime novel Blood on Snow, a slim-ish thriller in terms of its size but “quick and darkly funny and very noir”, according to Mark Lawson, the knowledgable all-rounder who has been a long-time enthusiast for this internationally-important annual event.

Originally Jo was going to write a novel about an impoverished and declining writer called Tom Johansen who is snatched while being met at the airport in an “express kidnapping.”

Then Jo imagined what sort of books this author would write, then he decided to actually write these ‘fake’ books for real, then he decided to pretend Johansen actually existed and had been successful, briefly, in the 1970s and still had his own Wikipedia entry.

An ambitious and cunning masterplan - but one Jo was unable to fully execute, possibly for the good. “Lawyers got involved,” he explains.

What we were left with instead are the books by ‘Johansen’, still set in the 1970, but now to be published, like Blood on Snow, under Jo Nesbo’s own name.

A modern man, Nesbo admits to rarely reading crime novels these days, but he still seems steeped in culture and history, particularly movies.

Other novelists he likes include Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens and, surprisingly, Jim Carroll’s cult novel Basketball Diaries which, though located in New York, partly inspired his decision to set Blood on Snow in the 1970s.

As for classic crime writers, rather than the obvious choices of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, he much prefers the more hard-boiled Jim Thompson, the “Ibsen of noir”.

But, then, Nesbo’s is a singular vision in the sometimes formulaic world of crime writing.