Arts and Entertainment

Norway’s favorite crime writer Jo Nesbø comes to Poulsbo

Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø will speak at the Poulsbo Sons of Norway March 21. - Courtesy photo
Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø will speak at the Poulsbo Sons of Norway March 21.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Norwegian rocker and former finance man Jo Nesbø brings the fifth in his eight-book Harry Hole crime series to Poulsbo. Last year in Norway, Nesbø’s mysteries outsold all other fiction. Read what influences the storyteller who enjoys writing from the bad guy’s point of view.

A big-name author will find his way to small-town Poulsbo, as Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø makes an appearance at the Sons of Norway this weekend.

Nesbø will sign copies of his newest Harry Hole novel to hit bookshelves in the United States, “The Devil’s Star.”

The series has nabbed plenty of critical attention and several awards overseas. “The Leopard,” one tome in the Harry Hole collection, became the No. 1 bestselling fiction title in Norway in 2008 and 2009, outselling Dan Brown and famed Swedish mystery novelist Henning Mankell.

Nesbø, of Oslo, has made his name in a number of industries, first working as a journalist, a stockbroker, and the lead singer of rock band Di Derre, a group he still currently fronts. His Harry Hole (the “o” in Hole sounds like those in “pool,” the “e” as in “ethnic”) series debuted in Norway in 1997 with “The Bat Man,” the first of eight novels to follow an alcoholic anti-hero as he solves crimes in Northern Europe and all over the globe. Nesbø was 37 when he first created the character, though he was no stranger to dabbling in fiction.

“Oh, I´ve always been writing, I just didn´t write a novel before that,” he said. “I wrote lyrics for my band and short stories for the drawers in my desk. But I just had to find the right time, and for me that was after my father had died and I took a six-month vacation from everything and went to Australia.”

Nesbø continues to travel to exotic locations while putting new Harry Hole stories on paper, something he does to increase the realism in his stories — though he says it’s a balancing act.

“It’s important that my writing has a feel of authenticity, both to myself and the reader,” he said. “But I’m trying to be careful to not let facts stand in the way of the story. The imagination must rule, I’m writing fiction.”

Harry Hole achieved cult figure status after “The Bat Man.” The character is obviously flawed, torn between a profound sense of justice and a broken inner compass. He is a live wire with a police badge and an addiction.

In “The Devil’s Star,” Harry Hole faces a dangerous riddle when bodies begin to surface, each of them missing a finger and bearing a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star. The protagonist’s colleague in the story is suspicious, possibly involved in a murderous arms smuggling gang.

Nesbø has said that his main character shouldn’t be taken as an exact likeness of himself, though he has used his own life to inspire at least one part of Harry Hole’s journey.

“‘The Redbreast’ is a very personal book since I use so much of my own family’s history during World War II. And it was also such an ambitious and heavy project, I almost broke my back trying to lift it from the ground,” he said. “It was a huge success with the reviewers and readers, but ‘The Devil’s Star’ was even bigger when it was published in Norway.”

Nesbø knows where he wants to take the Harry Hole character, though he won’t reveal to readers what they can expect.

“I will not reveal how it will end or how many novels there will be, but I do have a story line for Harry and he will not have eternal life. Nor will he rise from the dead and that’s a promise,” he said.

In returning to the same protagonist time and time again, Nesbø has found even an established character can become unpredictable — and can do the unexpected.

“Creating new characters feels fresh, of course, like going somewhere you have not been before. But then again, you can do that with old characters too,” he said. “And it is often just as interesting to develop them over time, to paint them more in detail, to have them change, to surprise the reader — and sometimes myself.”

Nesbø has also penned children’s tale “Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder,” and “Headhunters,” a novel centered on a charming villain. He said it’s a point of view he’d like to repeat in a future book.

“I really enjoy writing from a really bad person’s point of view. And it worries me how easy I find it.”

Meet the man behind harry hole

Meet Jo Nesbø at Poulsbo’s Sons of Norway, 18891 Front St. The free event is hosted by Liberty Bay Books. Learn more about Nesbø and beloved anti-hero Harry Hole at www.jonesbo.com, and about the event at www.libertybaybooks.com.

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