Jo Nesbø’s conflicted, flawed police detective, Harry Hole, the hero of five crime thrillers, makes his third appearance in English translation in The Devil’s Star.
Did you have any models in mind when you created your atypical hero?
Yes. Myself. Olav Hole, the local policeman in my grandmother’s village. Characters from Molde, a small town on the west coast of Norway where I grew up. Characters from fiction, from Henrik Ibsen’s Brand to Frank Miller’s Batman and Charles Bukowski’s Henry Chinaski.
How have your previous careers as a stockbroker, musician, and journalist influenced your writing?
All kinds of working experiences are useful when you are a writer, especially if the jobs you’ve had include other people. People working at the police headquarters in Oslo sometimes tell me that the way I describe Politihuset makes it sounds like I’ve worked there. But what I use is my general experience of how people interact at a working place, how personal motives, feelings, and personalities blend. Or—perhaps more interesting—don’t blend.
Do you think it’s fair that Norwegian and Swedish crime fiction is often lumped together as “Scandinavian”?
It may not seem this way for outsiders, since there are cultural, demographic, and geographical similarities in the stories, but I think the voices are very different. I actually feel more related to the American hard-boiled crime novel than the Scandinavian crime novel, whatever that is. But since “Scandinavian crime fiction” seems to have become a trademark for quality, being a Norwegian writer is not a bad starting point.
Did you plan out the entire Harry Hole series before you began writing?
I would like to say yes, everything was planned in detail from day one. And to a certain extent that’s true. But there are some details that I didn’t plan to have resurface in later novels, but that I found interesting during the writing process and decided to use again. That’s the great thing about having a universe like Harry’s: it’s a city with both broad and narrow streets, some well-known and some just names that are yet to be explored.
Are there plans to translate the first two Harry Hole novels, The Batman and Cockroaches, into English?
The reason I never tried to have them translated is that they are about a Norwegian guy traveling in Australia [The Batman] and Thailand [Cockroaches], exploring these societies and at the same time having them reflect Norwegian society. At the time Harry Hole started to be exported, it seemed a better idea to start with Harry where he belongs, in Oslo. But with the current developing interest for the character, I may consider it.