Meet your Gold Dagger winner

I had the chance to do so yesterday afternoon at the offices of St. Martin’s Press (which I’ve written up in way more detail for Galleycat) but to sum up: the Gold Dagger is awfully impressive in person, and it was pretty freaking cool to shake the hand of the President of Iceland. Can you imagine President Bush going to some far-flung country to speak about one of his favorite writers? Or Tony Blair?


With Arnaldur Indridason getting so much attention for his Gold Dagger win, it seemed like a good idea to dig up an essay he’d written some years back (translated by Bernard Scudder, the man responsible for allowing English readers to access Indridason’s work) about the history of crime fiction in Iceland. Which is to say, there isn’t much of one:

The history of Icelandic crime fiction is neither great nor impressive. In the first half of
the last century the occasional book appeared, set in the capital like
Secrets of Reykjavík, but the genre failed to take root. Few people
tackled it and those who were shy of being associated with such writing
produced their books under pseudonyms.

As the century progressed the
occasional crime story appeared at long intervals. In the seventies a
young author, journalist Gunnar Gunnarsson, began working with this
form, modelling his books on Sjöwall and Walhöö. He wrote two novels
featuring the main character, Margeir og spaugarinn (Margeir, and the
Joker), but stopped in 1980 and has not written any crime fiction
since. Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson wrote Heitur snjór (Hot Snow) in the
eighties and shortly afterwards Ólafur Haukur Símonarson wrote his only
crime story, Líkid í rauda bílnum (The Corpse in the Red Car), which
remarkably enough won a prize in a French competition for thrillers.

Nothing happened afterwards until I published Synir duftsins (Sons of
Dust) in 1997, and the same year Stella Blómkvist (or the author
writing under that nom de plume) published Mordid í stjórnarrádinu
(Murder in the Ministry). This heralded something of a revival for the
Icelandic thriller and others appeared. Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson
published a second book, Engin spor (No Trace), Árni Þórarinsson wrote
Nóttin hefur thúsund augu (The Night Has a Thousand Eyes) and Hrafn
Jökulsson wrote Miklu betra en best (Much Better than Best), to name a

There’s lots, lots more, and it’s all worth a read, as is this overview of Indridason’s work by Úlfhildur Dagsdóttir.

And as to the issue of a backlash — OK, call me naive or something, but an insular mob wanting to ban translated crime novels? from Dagger consideration? Hello? Just get a different judging pool next year and the Gold Dagger makeup will look remarkably different. Hardly any need for conspiracies, I reckon…