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The Manchester Literature Festival Blog

Jo Nesbø at Manchester Town Hall

Norwegian crime author Jo NesbøJon Parker Lee

  • Norwegian crime author Jo Nesbø

Jo Nesbø doesn’t just have a book launch. As any self-respecting rock star should, he has a tour. And on Friday, kicking off the festival, he was in the Banqueting Room of Manchester Town Hall. It was an impressive setting, the single chandelier over the stage casting a warm glow across the wood panelled hall, the packed audience totally seduced. (And if you think seduced is the wrong word, just listen to Mariella Frostrup talking to Nesbø on Open Book. You can actually hear her eyelashes fluttering).

He was here to talk about Police, his tenth and latest Harry Hole thriller. You don’t pronounce it like that, of course. It’s more Hōrri Hoola. I’ve been practising it for when I get started on the new book, but it’s like a reverse of when you hear someone talking in, say, Welsh – that long stream of incomprehensibility with an odd ‘weekend’ or ‘Manchester United’ popping up. It’ll never be just Harry again, though. Perhaps I just need to learn Norwegian.

The conversational approach to the evening was perfect and Barry Forshaw, a man who clearly knows his Nordic onions, kept the questions rolling with ease. How does Nesbø feel about the violence in his books? Having some regrets about the levels in Leopard, where he felt ‘seduced by (his) own description of sadism and violence’, Nesbø says Police is less explicit, although it doesn’t shy away from examining attitudes towards rape and sexuality. How does he go about planning his books? He builds up to 100 pages of synopsis, and in the writing ‘tries not to do too much damage to the perfect story.’ Is he Harry? No, but often incidents that Harry deals with during the story are similar to those Nesbø comes across while he’s writing. And it’s nice to have a mouthpiece for expressing opinion, especially about bad movies.

There is a tradition of ‘ten stories’ in Scandi-noir, starting with the influential Martin Beck books and followed by a number of other writers. Police is the tenth Harry Hole: will Nesbø follow the rule and make this the last? Maybe, he says. They could end here, though he still has things to say. ‘It’s exhausting spending two years in Harry’s universe. After a long holiday, perhaps.’

I’m happy to know that I have several books about Harry to catch up with before I need to concern myself about reaching the end of the series. And there’s a film in the offing, to be produced by Martin Scorsese (and not, if the response of the audience has any weight, with Tom Cruise getting anywhere near the lead role). One thing is for certain: this self-confessed entertainer has plenty of avenues to explore, and will be charming his audiences for many years yet. I’m just off to download his latest album.

Sarah Jasmon lives on a boat on the Leeds to Liverpool canal. With an MA in Creative Writing, her short stories and articles have been published in journals and magazines, and she runs interviews with other writers from the North West on her website. She is currently in the process of editing her first novel, ‘Waterborne’.