Arne Dahl – Pioneer of Nordic Noir

Arne Dahl

Arne Dahl is the pen name for Jan Arnald. Born in 1963 in the now notorious crime writing central of Sweden.

Arne Dahl (as his millions of fans are comfortable knowing him as) is certainly loyal to his literary talents as he seems to be constantly on the other end of a pen, whether writing for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter or forming his next novel in the Intercrime series.

Many writers have said that the success of a novel is not just about how well you write it but about how well you get it out there to the public. The fans want a tangible writer who they can put a face to and interpret a personality that they would like to know.

Arne Dahl certainly does just that as his passion and interest in the literary arts is second to none.

With an abundance of book readings and attendance at celebrations of authors Arne Dahl is closing the gap between the writer and the reader.This is an author who is dedicated to the arts, he is both happy to answer questions and meet the people who welcome him and are intrigued by him. They want to see who can top the best seller lists, sell over 2.5 million books and help put the words into a TV series where the characters come to life and are interesting enough for each and everyone to be seen as the lead role.

Arne is a pioneer of the Nordic crime genre and this statement was recognised in 2007 when he was awarded by the Swedish academy of Crime Writers a special prize for his “vitalisation and development of the crime writing genre through his Intercrime series”.

This further is accredited through his work there after throughout Europe and America and the world.

When an author creates a series of books which the readers become warmed to, they want to know not only what happens to the characters and how they evolve from book to book but they want to know what makes the author tick and how their career evolves. They want to be part of the ride and not all authors are comfortable in allowing this, so this is the niche which Arne excels with. He very much demonstrates that to become an author you must embrace the art as a whole and to embrace the art as a whole you must study, promote and encourage, this in turn makes you an author of the people.

The Intercrime series shows just this as the first novel in the series was released in 1999 and 15 years later it is as current and on trend now as it could be. Jan Arnald had a vision of what Nordic Noir should and could be, Arne Dahl took that forward.

The Intercrime series

This series of books is made up of 10 novels and is based around a group of 7 people who have all come from different areas of the police force, different areas of society and are working towards a different point in their life which becomes pivotal.

The first book is called The Blinded Man.

The characters are put together when cases they have been working on or departments they have been working in have been failing. There is also a sense that they have all come to a cross roads in their lives when they need this new department as much as it needs them.

The department is headed by the once Jan Olov-Hultin who is now known as Jenny Hultin. This is an interesting starting point for the books and TV series as there is no underlying message or point to prove, just that these books are about as real as you can get and real life is played out for us in a gritty and true way.

Jenny Hultin really holds the team together and is the one who orchestrated getting Paul Hjelm into it.

Paul Hjelm is first introduced to us upon entering a stand off situation with a Albanian immigrant looking at being deported out of Sweden, the man is holding the immigration worker’s hostage and Paul goes rushing in, unaided and unarmed with a seemingly spare of the moment plan to distract the perpetrator long enough for him to be shot and disarmed.

Paul Hjelm seems to be a man at a turning point in his career who has become disillusioned with the system in which he works and the state of affairs around him.

He knows the rules inside out but is in danger of going off track as a lone ranger if not reined in.

Jenny Hultin saves him from being suspended by giving him the last chance saloon down in the inter crime section.

The team from these two strong characters branches off to interesting personalities and background stories.

Kerstin Holm is a pretty but strong young police officer who certainly stands her own, she has obviously had to prove herself to get where she is as she gives off a very tough exterior, which we later learn is actually more to do with personal reasons rather than professional struggles. She is subduing past demons and secrets which have moulded her. There is an instant attraction from Paul Hjelm as he notices and respects her from the side lines which we see play itself out naturally over the coming books this brings into the story lines his struggle between his loyalty at home to his wife and two children and his feeling of breaking out of the rut he has slowly fallen into with life over the past years.

Arto Söderstedt is a Finnish multilingual officer who is intellectually above the everyday man, but he seems to thrive on the craziness which surrounds him in a methodical way, not least by numbering his vast amount of children in numerical order.

Stark contrast to Arto is the small Chilean Swede, Jorge Chavez. Jorge is the light harmful release in the team who is always on the look out for miss right and has a passionate stance on most things. Jorge is wary of Paul Hjelm at the beginning because of the perception that a racist view was the reason Paul came down so heavy handed with the immigrant hostage situation.

This over time is ironed out but the friction between them is evident until they can both prove themselves to each other.

The somewhat cartoon looking character Gunnar Nyberg is huge in stature and muscular built, but the biggest weight he carries with him is his guilt from beating his wife and subsequently losing his family because of this. His daily struggle with drink is apparent but we quickly learn that Gunnar so desperately wants to keep on the right path, we often see him singing within the church choir and finding a solace friendship with Kerstein Holm.

The team is rounded off with Viggo Norlander, a veteran officer who is treading very close to the line of retirement, not purely because of age but because of stamina and substance. Viggo has been written off by many but Jenny Hultin believes in him and throws him a lifeline. Viggo nearly hangs himself with that lifeline when he makes a school boy error when chasing the baddies but manages to fly back to Sweden alive only with his head held a bit lower.

The Blinded Man which takes us on a journey of catching a serial killer who is taking out high ranking business men is very cleverly written in a way which introduces us to a very convincing motive from the Estonian Russian Mafia and digs deep into this underworld belly of crime, power and devastation. We are taken to a point where we think there is no return until at the last minute we realise we have been taken down the wrong path, but this does not seem frustrating to the reader as it feels like we had to know what we were shown as it not only added more intrigue to the story but it allowed us to get to know the characters better as they dealt with this highly organised crime fraction.

The titles include Bad Blood, A Midsummers night’s dream, Hidden numbers and Eye in the Sky.

In series one on our screens we were treated to the first 5 novels so naturally the second series will come from the last 5.

Book or TV the Arne Dahl series has become a cult and mainstream hit, if that’s possible and has catapulted the actors into the wonderful realm of Nordic Noir acting. Story lines to get their teeth into and allowing their acting skills to be paraded week in with every emotion being played out.

Actors

Shanti Grau Roney plays Paul Hjelm. Shanti has appeared in over 20 movies but Arne Dahl is what has shot him to fame outside of Sweden.

Photo: Politiken.dk

Photo: Politiken.dk

The character Jorge Chavez in series one is played by Matias Varela. Matias is from Spanish parents and is strongly proud of his heritage. Matias is forging a very successful career and has since gone on to star in Covert affairs and The Borgias. Matias has now stepped away from Arne Dahl series 2 so the character Jorge Chavez has been taken over by Swedish actor, comedian and playwritght, Alexander Salzberger.

Photo: Anette Nantell / dn.se

Photo: Anette Nantell / dn.se

Alexander Salzberger is no stranger to Nordic crime drama after spending time on the popular TV series Beck as Goran.

The rest of the main cast stays the same, which is a good thing as a lot of work was taken in making sure that their backgrounds were dripped into each episode so we could see where and what they were coming from. They are a solid cast and have a huge amount of not only acting but life experiences which is keeping the buzz surrounding the series going.

Malin Arvidsson who plays Kerstin Holm was born in El Salvador but grew up in Gothenburg. She is an established actor and ballet dancer who trained at the Ballet academy in Gothenburg.

malin_arvidsson_Johan_Paulin

Photo: Johan Paulin / svt.se

The other actors in this team of excellence are former world’s strongest man Magnus Samuelsson, Claes Ljungmark, Niklas Åkerfelt and Irene Lindh.

The support on set from Arne Dahl seems unwavering as there seems to be a genuine friendship between cast, crew and Arne which again highlights how how likes to see his projects through from start to finish and make sure they stay true to the original form of what he has tried to portray.

Events

Arne Dahl is a busy man, having just attended the Nordic Delight festival in Utrecht where he was a guess speaker, he has now moved onto the UK where he is visiting Manchester and Sheffield.

This is nearing the end of a busy year where Arne has been to the Edinburgh and Oxford literary festivals. Nordicana in London and various events in Germany.

Arne Dahl is a delight to follow as his passion to promote literary crime thrillers has allowed us to discover new Literary events celebrating many authors specifically from the Nordic regions.

BBC4 is getting ready to screen the second series of Arne Dahl in the UK, and fans are waiting expectantly to receive another well though out drama where we hope not only the plot thickens for the characters but the crimes are as true and gritty as the first.

Photo credit: Sara Arnald
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