May 13, 2011
Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbø inspires quasi-religious zeal among his hard core fans. One devoted reader got a Harry Hole tattoo, in honor of Mr. Nesbø’s iconic detective character. Another fan changed his middle name to Harry (that was Mr. Nesbø’s literary agent, but still, most agents just send congratulatory emails). Lately, Mr. Nesbø has been attracting new legions of readers. His books have sold nine million copies worldwide, up from five million a couple of years ago.
Though he hasn’t captured a broad American audience, his U.S. publisher, Knopf, is betting his new novel will be his breakout book. In “The Snowman,” out here on May 10th, a serial killer targets married women with children who are having affairs. The killer leaves a snowman, staring creepily toward the house, as a calling card. One is outfitted with a dead woman’s scarf; another is topped with a severed head.
“The Snowman” is Mr. Nesbø’s seventh novel featuring the surly booze-hound Harry Hole, and critics are calling it one of his best. It shot up Britain’s bestseller list earlier this year, and has been optioned by Working Title films.
Mr. Nesbø wrote his first crime novel nearly 15 years ago, on a whim. A publisher asked him to write a book about touring with his rock band. (In addition to stints as a stockbroker, taxi driver and professional soccer player, Mr. Nesbo used to write lyrics and sing for a popular Norwegian folk rock band). Instead, he churned out a thriller in five weeks. Since then, he’s written eight more Harry Hole novels, three children’s book featuring a wacky inventor named Dr. Proctor, short stories and a stand-alone novel titled “Headhunters,” which has also been optioned for film.
Mr. Nesbø, 51, spoke about where he gets his best and worst ideas and why his 11-year-old daughter is demanding a cut of his book royalties.
Knopf Editor-in-chief Sonny Mehta says he finds your books to be more in keeping with the American crime writing tradition than with other European crime fiction. Have you been influenced by American crime writers?