Gunnar Staalesen - Author

About the Author

Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife.

Below is a Q&A with this author.
 
1. You have written over 20 crime thrillers in the Varg Veum series. Did you ever think it would go on so long?
It is almost 40 years since I started the series, and at that point I never thought as far the 21st century! The first one was an experiment, to see if the formula about a classic PI would work in Scandinavian context, but when that was a huge success here in Norway, it opened the door for me to continue. In light of that – yes, I hoped it would be a long series.
2. is a statue of Varg Veum in the heart of Bergen, a celebration of his birthday, and a myriad of branded merchandise. Are you surprised at the ‘fame’ of your protagonist?
Yes, I must admit that the size of the interest for my detective is much bigger than I could dream of. To day he is almost the Sherlock Holmes of Bergen! I just wanted to be a happy crime-writing storyteller and to have readers for my books, but see what it developed into! Almost an industry!
3. A missing child is at the heart of the plot. What inspired you?
In Norway, as you surely have in your own country, we have some famous cases of little children (mostly girls) who disappear without ever being found again. I can’t think of a worse situation for the parents (very often a single mother). I have written about a similar situation in an earlier Varg Veum novel (Bitter flowers, still not translated into English), but this time I wanted to go even deeper into the reactions such a disappearance would create in  not only the parents, but also in neighbours, friends of the family, other children, the police. And I wanted to give an answer to the mystery – not as in real life, where there are often no answers at all!
4. In Where Roses Never Die, Varg is recovering from the death of his long-term partner Karin, and a period of serious reliance on alcohol. Your descriptions of his dependence are stunningly authentic. Did you have to research this?
Well, thank you for that. I am not a very hard drinker myself, even if I do enjoy the taste of most sorts of alcoholic beverages. But I have met some alcoholics during my life time, there is a great deal of literature about it (not at least in crime fiction), and, as a writer, you have to use your imagination.
5. There are numerous twists and turns in this book, and a completely unexpected ending. How do you plot your books? Do you know how it will end before you start writing?
I attempt to have an ending in mind before I start writing a book. The opening and the ending are the two most important elements of a crime novel. Many people can write a good opening, but not that many can create a satisfying ending. But there is a lot of writing to do between these two points in the story. Some of the twists in the plot are planned beforehand; some of them surprises even me, when I get the ideas during the writing. This time, the ending was the most definite element of them all: I had it in my head many years before I wrote it!
6. As a father and grandfather yourself, did you find the storyline troubling or distressing?
Yes, I feel that crimes against children are one of the most horrible things to think about. I do not like to write about it, really, but since it is part of real life and I have chosen to write about real life within the frame of more or less classic crime mysteries, I have to write about it in some of my books. But I try to never get too close to the victims. As Varg Veum worked as a social worker earlier in his career and, in particular, safeguarding children, it is also an important part of his life and his character: to care for children and try to protect them.
7. Does Varg ever direct the action? Take the story in different directions than you had planned?
I will not say that Varg directs the action in the books, but it happens of course that the writer gets some new ideas during the writing that can change the direction slightly. But the ending is still there, as a goal to reach.
8. Tell us about your ‘road’ to publication.
I started writing seriously when I was 17: poems, short stories and a short novel, but very few of the poems and stories were published. I published my first novel when I was 22, another one when I was 24, and at 27 I published my first crime novel, a police procedural, the first of three about two police detectives in Bergen. In 1977, when I was 30, I published the first book about Varg Veum, and the rest is history. I have also written 10/12 dramas or adaptations for the theatre.
9. Jo Nesbo calls you the ‘Norwegian Chandler’. Was he an influence?
It is very nice of Jo to compare me with Chandler, and of course he is an influence, as I believe he is for most modern crime writers. Chandler is the Shakespeare of crime fiction, and we all have to relate to him. As for plotting, my biggest influence is Ross Macdonald, and I have also learnt quite a bit, I think, from the Swedish founders of Nordic Noir, Sjöwall & Wahlöö.
10. What’s next?
Answer: After Where Roses Never Die, which was published in Norway in 2012, I have written two further Varg Veum novels. The first one is Ingen er så trygg I fare (No one Is So safe in Danger, which, like Where Roses Never Die, has a title taken from a religious song), published in Norway in 2014 and to be published by Orenda in UK in 2017, and I am just finishing the second one, Storesøster (The Big Sister, with a bow to Chandler), to be published in Norway in September this year, and the UK in 2018.

 

Featured books by Gunnar Staalesen

Other books by Gunnar Staalesen

We Shall Inherit the Wind

We Shall Inherit the Wind

Author: Gunnar Staalesen Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/06/2015

1998. Varg Veum sits by the hospital bedside of his long-term girlfriend Karin, whose life-threatening injuries provide a deeply painful reminder of the mistakes he's made. Investigating the seemingly innocent disappearance of a wind-farm inspector, Varg Veum is thrust into one of the most challenging cases of his career, riddled with conflicts, environmental terrorism, religious fanaticism, unsolved mysteries and dubious business ethics. Then the first body appears - tied to a cross, facing the mouth of the fjord - In a chilling, timeless story of love, revenge and desire - deftly interwoven with contemporary issues, in a stunning plot that will leave you gripped to the final page - We Shall Inherit the Wind shows Staalesen at his most thrilling, thought-provoking best.

Cold Hearts

Cold Hearts

Author: Gunnar Staalesen Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/06/2013

On a frosty January day in Bergen, Private Detective Varg Veum is visited by a prostitute. Her friend Margrethe has disappeared and hasn't been seen for days. Before her disappearance, something had unsettled her: she'd turned away a customer and returned to the neighbourhood in terror. Shortly after taking the case, Veum is confronted with a brutal, uneasy reality. He soon finds the first body - and it won't be the last either. His investigation leads him into a dark subculture where corrupted idealism has had deadly consequences.

Yours Until Death

Yours Until Death

Author: Gunnar Staalesen Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/2010

It was at their 'torture chamber', a hut in the pinewoods nearby, that Varg Veum, Private Investigator, first encountered the gang's pathetic but deadly ferocity. Eight-year-old Roar's bicycle had been stolen and not an adult in sight dared retrieve it. But a preliminary brush with such youthful violence was as nothing compared to what awaited Veum when he got to know Roar's blue-eyed, shy yet sensuous mother, Wenche Andresen, and her estranged husband, Jonas. Veum's attempts to break up Joker and his pack of young thugs by enlisting the help of the local youth club leader proved a dead end. But not so dead as the man who lay prone with a knife in his back on the floor of Andresen's flat. Yours Until Death is an unbearably tense novel of revenge and murder about marriage, childhood, bereavement and the destructive force of passion. First published in Norwegian in 1979, it was described by the critic Nils Nordberg as 'one of the finest, most serious, most ambitious books in post-war Norwegian crime writing'.

The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall

Author: Gunnar Staalesen Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/06/2009

This is one of Scandinavia's top crime writers in the tradition of Henning Mankell. It was one of those days in February of which there are far too many, despite its being the shortest month of the year. February is the year's parenthesis. The tax forms have already been sent in and the tourist season has not yet started: there is nothing on the schedule. Greyish-brown slush lay in the gutters and the hills around the city were barely visible through the fog. Like the golden buttons on the waistcoat of a forgotten snowman, you could just make out the lights of the funicular up the hillside and the street lamps were lit even in the middle of the day...In this crime drama detective Varg Veum's adventures lead him into a dark world of privileged teenage girls who have been drawn into drugs and prostitution. The situation worsens when the local judge is discovered in a luxury hotel, dead and clad only in women's lingerie. Called in by anxious parents to look for a missing daughter and explain the judge's death, Varg finds clues that lead him only deeper into Bergen's criminal underworld.

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