[Marxism] Stockholm is burning

jimredunity jimredunity at googlemail.com
Tue May 28 06:01:26 MDT 2013

[reply inline / bottom-posted]

on Mon, 27 May 2013 12:41:34 -0400, Glenn Kissack wrote:
> I enjoy the Henning Mankell novels, but the most left detective
> fiction I've ever read is the "Martin Beck" series by Swedish authors
> Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. Written in the 1970's, there are 10 books
> in all, starting with Roseanna and ending with "The Terrorists." The
> first three, I believe, are well-written procedurals set in
> Stockholm, but the subsequent novels are very political. Two of the
> main detectives are unabashed leftists. The reader is shown the dark
> underbelly of Swedish society -- unemployment, alienation, police
> brutality. I highly recommend them, and they're in print:
> http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-
> alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=maj+sjowall
> I suspect that both Mankell and Larsson were heavily influenced by
> the work of Sjowall and Wahloo. (Wikipedia says that both writers had
> been Marxists.) Wahloo had been a crime reporter before turning to
> writing novels, and Sjowall was his partner for 13 years. Probably
> the best-known novel of their series is The Laughing Policeman, which
> was turned into an excellent movie starring Walter Matthau and set in
> San Francisco.
> Glenn

Several literary commentators have drawn the link between the 'godparents' of postwar police 
procedurals, Sjöwall and Wahlöö, and their 'godchildren', who are legion. Some would say, including 
me, that almost all subsequent police procedural fiction flows from their excellent 1965-75 Martin 
Beck series of ten books. They saw them as ten parts of one, large book. A few writers have even 
emulated the methodology of their books' construction, pairing up to compose alternate chapters, as 
they did.
Scandinavian Books quotes Per Wahlöö as stating their intention to "use the crime novel as a scalpel 
cutting open the belly of the ideological pauperized and morally debatable so-called welfare state 
of the bourgeois type." (scandinavianbooks.com/crime-book/swedish-author/sjowall-wahloo.html)
Of course, as writers we all stand on the shoulders of those who precede us. Sjöwall and Wahlöö gave 
due respect to and admired the writing of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
The value in Sjöwall and Wahlöö's writing is in the close attention to detail,the development of the 
characterisation, especially of the policemen involved in all 10 books, and above all consistency of 
storylines whose honesty cannot but expose the underbelly of capitalism to all who have eyes to see.
Many are the crime writers who give due credit to this Marxist pair for influencing their own 
writing. In one edition (Fourth Estate) of Sjöwall and Wahlöö's Martin Beck series, the following 
authors write introductions: Henning Mankell (Roseanna), Val McDermid (The man who went up in 
smoke), Jo Nesbø (The man on the balcony), Sean and Nicci French (The laughing policeman), Colin 
Dexter (The fire engine that disappeared), Michael Carlson (Murder at the Savoy), Lee Child (The 
abominable man), Michael Connelly (The locked room), Lars Kepler (Cop killer), and Dennis Lehane 
(The terrorists).
And although Walter Matthau's The Laughing Policeman does reasonably well as a film, in transposing 
it to the USA there is significant loss of Sjöwall and Wahlöö's detail and subtleties - and thus its 
intended impact. There have been Swedish tv and film attempts at picturizing (to use an Indian 
English filmy word) their work, but these are currently unavailable in other languages' subtitles, 

Jim Moody (jimredunity at gmail.com) on 28/05/2013

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