‘Sexists’ vs ‘blondes’ in Sweden’s murder mystery war


Stockholm : A war of words of extraordinary nastiness has erupted among Sweden’s internationally successful crime writers just as the summer holidays are getting into full swing.

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While innumerable bookworms on beaches, in hammocks or hotel beds are leafing through the new and virtually always weighty murder mysteries by Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund or Ake Edvardsson, the authors of the Scandinavian bestsellers are accusing each other of either not knowing how to write or of being miserable dogs in the manger.

G.W. Persson, 62-year-old professor of criminology and successful author of murder mysteries, said in a recent interview that Camilla Laeckberg, a colleague 30 years his junior, planned her novels like “kitsch novellas for equestrian magazines”, and was writing in the style of stupid children’s books.

The victim of his attack drastically paid him out in his own coin, countering: “This is just the piss of an elderly gentleman who feels somehow left out.”

Ernst Brunner, 56, who is the author of not very commercially successful, highbrow novels, has compared the actually enormous flood of Swedish murder mysteries even with “the shit of the seagulls who ruin my island on the Stockholm archipelago”.

His colleague Bjoern Ranelid, 58, has mainly been attacking Liza Marklund, 44, who managed to sell nine million copies of her book in a country that only has nine million inhabitants.

“One million Swedes can write like Liza Marklund,” he said.

Ranelid considers the systematic self-marketing of the attractive blonde Marklund on all her book covers as a danger to his own business.

“If things continue like that, fiction will perish,” he said.

The response was not far behind. Crime writer Mari Jungstedt, 45, has seen such utterances simply as the desperation of men who “can’t cope with being out-competed by women”.

The only one of the guard of ageing best-selling authors to agree with her is 63-year-old Jan Guillou, whose books – like the secret service series Coq Rouge – have also been selling nine million copies.

“This is about envy,” he says. “With added sexism,” the Dagens Nyheter daily added in a leader.

That the front line was drawn exclusively between older men and younger women also illustrated how much murder mysteries as products were marketed along with their authors, the paper said.

“Do I prefer to buy the package with the older, sexist criminology professor and that with the cardboard cut out of the young female author in the shop window,” customers might wonder.

It is not an accident that the currently most successful Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson and 59-year-old Henning Mankell – the uncontested king of the old guard – have remained silent.

Larsson’s million-dollar success Millennium Trilogy only appeared after the author’s death in 2002 aged 50.

Mankell is otherwise engaged. He is the son-in-law of film director Ingmar Bergman, who died at the end of July, and also the spokesman for his heirs.