One Flew Over Oslo
Norway’s Fossum Gets Real, Sweden Goes Hard-Boiled, And Luna Rises Over Argentina
Sweden has veered “disturbingly close to reality” in recent months as Norwegian author Karin Fossum takes the nation on a harrowing journey right up to the belfry of The House of the Insane. The book, which has been on the list for the past two months but is just below the top ten at the moment, spirals through the mental involutions of 23-year-old protagonist Hajna, who required 160 stitches in her head after slamming into a large shop window. “All she longs for,” we’re eerily informed, “is death.” Based on the author’s experience working at a psychiatric institution, the book has been described as a Scandinavian One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, letting Fossum’s knack for “hassle-free momentum” loose inside the asylum. The author is better known for her crime novels, which have sold as many as 55,000 copies per title and are translated into 14 languages. Her fifth such opus, Beloved Poona, was published last year and hailed as a portrait of “painfully credible” characters set churning in “a masterful novel about the margins of death.” Fossum’s Don’t Look Back will be published in the UK by Harvill next summer, with Poona to come in 2003. So far 28,000 copies of the new one have been sold, and only Sweden and Germany have bought rights, according to foreign rights manager Eirin Hagen at Cappelen.
Also in Sweden, Åke Edwardson hits the scene with the fifth title in his crime series, Heaven is a Place on Earth, featuring Inspector Erik Winter. A four-year-old boy in Gothenburg is abducted from a playground, and Winter delves into “the loneliness of man” to solve the case. Critics deem Edwardson’s work “bloody genuine and good,” and the hard-boiled series has been published in 12 countries, selling more than 450,000 copies. The first three books from this “masterly portrayer of man’s innermost thoughts” are slated for Swedish TV this fall. The new one has been sold only to Germany and Denmark, with negotiations under way in the US and UK. See Agneta Markås at Norstedts. And on a final Swedish crime note, The Diabolic pops up as the twelfth crime novel from Bjorn Hellberg featuring the inimitable Inspector Sten Wall, who in this installment bumps into Mr. Evil himself and tussles with the occult. When author Hellberg isn’t slaying demons, he reigns as the “#1 tennis expert in the world,” with 23 titles under his belt on that subject, and also moonlights as a Swedish TV personality. Rights have been sold to Germany (Argon) and Holland (de Geus). See agent Bengt Nordin.
Crime has also been paying off exquisitely in the Netherlands for the prolific A.C. (Appie) Baantjer, whose De Cock series has soared to an epic 54 titles and regularly boasts first print runs of over 100,000 copies. Two new titles every year chronicle the latest exploits of Inspector De Cock and his cunning assistant Vledder, who operate from their base camp in Amsterdam’s red-light district and bivouac in nearby bars, ruminating over snifters of cognac. In De Cock and the Drifting Corpse, a staple of the Dutch list for months now, a woman’s missing banker-husband is found dead with a dagger in his back. Turns out the dagger is symbolic of the secret Brotherhood of the Cross, and, to put it mildly, mayhem ensues. Meanwhile, Baantjer’s latest book, De Cock and the Merry Bacchus, unfolds from a man’s report of a missing uncle and features, you guessed it, a collection of photographs of the Apostle Peter. Adding to the Baantjer franchise, a TV spin-off has plastered the detective duo across the little screen in Holland, Belgium, and France. The 78-year-old Baantjer (né Albert Cornelis) was a researcher in the Amsterdam police force for 30 years, and based his lead character on a fellow officer whose code name in World War II was “Le Coq.” The series has been published in China, Russia, and Korea, while Ullstein has previously published the series in Germany (though rights reverted in 1989) and Intercontinental has published eight novels in the US, but passed on recent titles. Rights have never been sold in the UK. See Maran Olthoff at De Fontein.
In Argentina, the venerable historian Felix Luna breaks out with his first work of historical fiction, Martín Aldama, a “delicious novel of adventure and patriotism” told through the protagonist’s memoirs of life in early 19th-century Argentina. Through Aldama’s eyes we revisit an explosively formative period for the nation, weathering the reconquest of Buenos Aires and plunging into the May Revolution. Action commences in June 1806, when Buenos Aires is attacked by a British fleet under the command of Admiral Home Riggs Popham, and our young warrior joins the battle that expels the invaders and sparks a lasting movement for independence among Spanish South America. Along the way, the gallant Aldama stops off for a few torrid trysts amid the din of battle, and as a sidelight strikes up a blood-brother bond with a young Irishman. Deemed “one of Argentina’s finest intellectuals,” author Luna has published more than a dozen nonfiction titles and is considered a shaping literary force in Argentinian annals. All rights are available; contact Veronica Berisso at Planeta Argentina.
In India, The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes dredges up a Trans-Himalayan episode from the great inspector’s past, and narrates Holmes’s adventures in Tibet with the wily Bengali scholar Hurree Chunder Mookerjee. The book, an unlikely mix of Holmesian drama and Tibetan mythology, is jam-packed with the usual narrow escapes and brilliant deductions, not to mention “the strangest of mysteries Sherlock Holmes has ever encountered.” Author Jamyang Norbu, a Tibetan scholar from Dharamsala, “takes to pastiche with grace and elan,” as one critic cheered, while another put it this way: “If you enjoy the X-Files and don’t mind mixing Holmes with the paranormal, then you really will love this.” The book won the Crossword Prize this year. Rights have been sold to the US (Bloomsbury), UK (John Murray), and France (Philippe Piquier); see agent Susan Schulman at [email protected]
And the lexicographer in you will be deeply satisfied to know that among the top 15 titles in the Netherlands this month, no less than 7 are Prisma dictionaries, with Dutch, English-Dutch, and Dutch-English filling slots 2, 3, and 4. (Bridget Jones beats them out of first place.) What gives? “It is the best-known dictionary for schools, that’s why the summer is indeed packed with bestselling Prismas,” says our source at publisher Het Spectrum, noting that all editions are revised. Talk about cultural literacy.