Monday, May 21, 2012

9mm interview with Mons Kallentoft

Welcome to the 61st instalment in the popular and ongoing 9MM series here on Crime Watch. I've been a bit sporadic with the quickfire author interviews so far this year - apologies - but I do have some crackers coming up, starting with today's interview, Swedish author Mons Kallentoft!

Late last year I received a review copy of MIDWINTER SACRIFICE by Kallentoft, another exceptional writer now being noticed in the English-speaking world as part of the ever-growing Scandinavian crime wave. Whatever you think of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, one great thing about it is it has opened the wider reading world's eyes to the talented crime writers in Scandinavia (many of whom were already big successes at home and in other non-English speaking nations pre-Larsson mania), and led to more Scandinavian crime fiction being translated into English, for all of us keen crime readers to enjoy. Now this month in New Zealand Kallentoft's second 'Malin Fors' crime novel to be translated into English, SUMMERTIME DEATH, is released.

You can read an author Q&A with Kallentoft, who is a #1 bestseller in his native Sweden, here. But for now, he faces down the barrel of 9MM.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective, and why?
I have a soft spot for Walter Mosleys Easy Rawlins. The way he carries all of America’s and California’s post war history on his shoulders, never giving up, but really never succeeding either, with more than fatherhood and surviving, which is not a small feat. But even more love for the character Mouse, in the same series. Dangerous, entertaining, very, very special. A predator, small but deadly. They are a pair you just want to know more about, and they make the world float. Anything can happen in every scene.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Kafka, The Process. I was fourteen, in bed, sick. A friend from a cultural family gave it to me, someone who had never been exposed to literature at home. It was a revelation for me, how a text could reveal feelings inside myself I did not even knew I had or felt. Claustrophobia, for example. Also the style impressed me. So simple but I could sense how sophisticated it was.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I had written three "regular" novels and a collection of food and travel writing called "Food Noir." The books all got good reviews and some awards, but never really took off commercially. I wanted to try writing crime, because I love the genre and have always been very interested in form.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love to travel and eat and drink. I travel maybe six months a year with my mouth as a guide.... In Sweden I am considered something of an ubergourmet in some circles. I still write about gastronomy, it is my great passion. And I love wine.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
They should go to the chocolate factory Cloetta, in Ljungsbro, 15 kilometres outside of town. I grew up in the small community where everyone worked in the factory. They still make some great sweets, that are forever a part of my childhood and me.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Matt Damon. On better days people some say I look a little bit like him. Or Kevin Bacon. Some have said the same. I do not agree, my cheekbones are of a much humbler kind.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Midwinter Sacrifice. It was my very big breakthrough, and I found my own voice with that story. It has taken me on a great rollarcoaster ride around the world. What’s not to like? I am very grateful for the book and that many people seem to enjoy it.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I had had rejections for twelve years and not given up. I was in an advertising agency where I worked when the publisher called. I screamed straight out and everybody wondered what was going on. Has he gone mad? Then I called my wife, who had supported me always, and she started crying. Then I blew 2/3rds of the advance on one big superdinner with friends at Stockholm’s best restaurant the same night.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
At an Airport in Stockholm, inside the security controls, a madman approached me, he was very very angry, not with me but with everything. He scared everyone in the line away and security had to drag him away. It was bizarre and very anxious with all the scares in airports.....they let him go, and guess what? He came straight back, same behaviour. This time they did not let him go.


Thank you Mons Kallentoft. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.

Have you read MIDWINTER SACRIFICE or SUMMERTIME DEATH? What do you think of Malin Fors as a character? Are you a fan of Scandinavian crime fiction? Comments welcome.

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