Call it a case of pseudonymous appropriation

The piece I wrote may have come and gone, but the speculation on Inger Wolfe’s identity continues. At one point, Michael Redhill’s Wikipedia page seemed to “out” him (though it has since been corrected), and pretty much every Canadian literary author with a remote connection to dark fiction has merited a guess. Right now, though, I’m more interested in who it isn’t, namely this crime writer.

Yes, the URL is right. Inger Wolf, sans e. A Danish writer with two two crime novels (and one earlier non-crime book) to her name, though the second in her series featuring Danish detective chief inspector Daniel Trokic, FROST OG ASKE (FROST AND ASHES) won’t be out there until April. But her debut, SORT SENSOMMER (BLACK INDIAN SUMMER) was published in 2006, a full year before the pseudonymous Inger Wolfe inked any book deals. SORT SENSOMMER won the 2006 Danish Crime Academy
Award as ‘Most Exciting Crime Novel Debut’ and has also been published in Norway, Holland and Germany – but not, as of yet, in an English-speaking country (though Wolf now has a page, which seems a way to boost her North American profile and attract the interest of publishers over here.)

Which begs the question: of all the possible pseudonyms for that heretofore unknown literary Canadian (well, North American, but let’s call a spade a spade here) writer to use, why on earth pick one that’s virtually identical to another woman’s name? Especially when the not-so-generic name already belongs to a crime novelist?

In other words, WTF?

It’s one thing when name similarities happen by
accident – consider that Michael Marshall Smith dropped his last name
upon publication of THE STRAW MEN because of the similarity to Martin
J. Smith, author of the Edgar-nominated STRAW MEN – but it’s rather
different to pick a deliberate pseudonym that sounds an awful lot like a writer published in some of the same countries. (In fact, while Wolfe gets the jump in English-speaking countries, Wolf will be published in Germany first by Ullstein, and Wolfe later on by Blanvalet.) Was (pseudonymous) Wolfe, or someone in his or her camp, familiar with the work of (real) Wolf? And if Wolf does land a publishing deal here, will she have to change her (real) name to avoid confusion with the (pseudonymous) Wolfe, who on some dust jackets has taken to adding “Ash” as a middle name? I think my head is beginning to hurt from this name game….

Inger Wolf was kind enough to respond to my email query, and the most pertinent parts of her response appears as follows:


a matter of fact I know about this story because it turned up one day,

I ‘googled’ my own name. It is one of the weirdest coincidences in my

life. Inger is not a very ordinary name outside the Nordic countries, I

think, and my last name comes from my German ancestors. So my name is

quite unusual already. That somebody in Canada would have a name so

close to mine, AND be a crime writer seemed impossible. But since ‘her’

book will be published using a pseudonym, there was not much more

information to be found as to where she got the name from.


published in English speaking countries is definitely a dream. A dream

that comes true for only a very few Danish crime writers – but I hope

my agent is working on it :-). I must admit that when I heard about

this story, I started thinking if it would then be even more difficult

for me to be published in those countries – people will mix up the


By the way a very successful Swedish crime writer, Arne

Dahl, remained under pseudonym for five years and five books. He is

also a very prominent literary novelist writing under his own name, Jan

Arnald. He was even interviewed in disguise on a book fair but

eventually a journalist figured it out.

A query is in to pseudonymous Ms. Wolfe’s literary agent as well about the name game situation.