Friday, November 26, 2021

Longhand manuscripts & elderly dialogue: an interview with Óskar Guðmundsson

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the latest instalment of our 9mm interview series, which returned in 2021 after a hiatus last year. 

This author interview series has now been running for over a decade, on and off, and today marks the 232nd edition. Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. 

You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. Some amazing writers.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been featured, let me know in the comments or by sending me a message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. Even as things with this blog may evolve moving forward, I'll continue to interview crime writers and review crime novels.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Icelandic author Óskar Guðmundsson to Crime Watch

Many keen readers will be aware of the fountain of crime writing talent flowing from Iceland, with Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Arnaldur Indriðason garnering international acclaim and attention for this small (in population) island, then the likes of Ragnar Jonasson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir joining them in translation and cementing Iceland's reputation as a hotbed of cold climate crime writing in recent years.

Óskar burst onto the Icelandic crime writing scene a few years ago. His debut novel Hilma received the Icelandic crime fiction award, Blóðdropann (The Blood Drop), in 2016, and was optioned to be made into a screen story. Both it and his second novel, Blóðengill (Blood Angel) became #1 local bestsellers. 

So it's wonderful to see Óskar and his storytelling now becoming more available for English-speaking readers, thanks to translator Quentin Bates and the crew at Corylus Books, who've recently published his third novel, The Commandments (originally Bodordin). I've had the pleasure of meeting Oskar at crime writing festivals prior to the pandemic, and look forward to catching up with him again in future now his writing is out in English. 

But for now,  Óskar Guðmundsson becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm. 


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Harry Hole by Jo Nesbø – A fantastic boozy cop with a chaotic life.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Run Baby Run (1968) by Nicky Cruz with Jamie Buckingham. I was twelve when I first read it when, first in English and again when it appeared in Icelandic. I must have read it at least ten times before I was fifteen. I don’t know exactly what it was, but there was something about this young boy’s attitude and circumstances that refused to let me go.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
There’s not much to tell, except that in my twenties I wrote some crime stories that are longhand manuscripts in the bottom of a drawer. I picked them up not long ago and have to say that the imagination was all there, but the style had a long way to go. But style can always do with improvement...

4. Outside of writing and writing-related activities (book events, publicity), what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love spending time in good company, but my interests are golf, fishing and shooting. I paint a lot and I’m aiming for an exhibition in April 2022.

5. 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,?
Come with me to the local pub, and we could take a walk to Bessastaðir. There’s always a chance the President will be sitting on the steps.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I wish I could say Anthony Hopkins, but to be realistic, let’s go with John Travolta ... or even Benedict Cumberbatch.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or a bit special to you for some particular reason, and why?
I love to write dialogue that brings older people into the story. So I always make sure to have older people somewhere in every story. This may be because I was brought up partly around the older generation, including my grandparents. I also spent a lot of time in the countryside as a youngster, in a very old-fashioned environment and surrounded by older people.

8. 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?
There’s no word for the mixture of feelings – pride, it felt partly like a dream, a touch of self-satisfaction, but apart from all that, it was terrifying.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
My very first panel. I was so nervous speaking English that I could hardly remember a word. What made it worse was that I seemed to have forgotten my own language as well. 

Thank you Oskar. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

You can discover more about Oskar at his website, and follow him on Twitter

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