Jørn Lier Horst – Winner of the Martin Beck Award

Jørn Lier Horst has been hailed as one of “the new Nesbo” authors after he tipped Jo Nesbø down from the top of the best seller list.

He has won the highly sought after awards, The Glass Key Award in 2013 and more recently The Martin Beck Award in 2014. These two awards are proof that something special has hit our Nordic Noir shelves with this extremely talented Norwegian author taking this genre and literary circles by storm.

I had the pleasure to interview Jørn Lier Horst after his amazing year of awards and can certainly predict that his novels will continue to grow in interest and fan base as they are translated into English which extends the audience. Jørn continues to win highly sought after awards and his expertise is called upon as more people are wanting to learn more about this genre.

Recently Jørn wrote an article for Hindu called the ‘Secret of Nordic Noir’. In his article he says “Nordic crime novels are usually considered more sophisticated than, for example, American thrillers. Readers comment that they have found our crime novels to be more than just narratives about crime. They are fascinated by what we might call ‘Nordic melancholy’, concocted from winter darkness, midnight sun, and immense, desolate landscapes.”

Jørn goes on to explain why Nordic Noir just keeps on exploding onto the scene, “Why has Nordic crime fiction had made such a powerful international impact? These novels possess the ability to imitate real life with originality and elegance, with linguistic precision and psychological depth while simultaneously telling an exciting and compelling story.”

It’s worth noting that Jørn is not only respected with his knowledge of Nordic crime writing but from the other side of the pen as Jørn Lier horst was Chief Inspector of Police in Norway so has been investigating his subject matter at grass roots for 20 years.

The Hunting Dogs-Cover


Congratulations on winning the 2014 Martin Beck Award for your book, The Hunting Dogs.
For people that don’t fully understand the awards in the literary circle could you explain why this award is so special?

In the Nordic countries there are two very prestigious awards in the crime genre. The Glass Key and The Martin Beck Award. The Glass Key is named after Dashiell Hammett’s novel from 1931 and is given to the best Nordic Crime Novel of the year.
The Martin Beck award is an award given by the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy for the best crime novel in translation. The Award is named after Martin Beck, a fictional Swedish police detective who is the main character in a series of ten novels by Sjöwall and Wahlöö. I received both awards for “The Hunting dogs”. It’s a form of recognition I really appreciate. We are probably experiencing a period that has to be regarded as a golden age for crime fiction. Never before have so many talented authors written so many top-notch crime novels. To be honoured with these prizes in such a time, is greatly appreciated. It is a nice confirmation to me that my writing is interesting to others.

The Hunting Dogs is part of your William Wisting novel series.
The first novel ‘Key Witness’ was based on a true crime, do you think your experiences are what inspired you or would you always of been drawn to crime fiction?

The Crime genre has always attracted me. Ever since my dad sat at my bedside and read Donald Duck comics to me.
The stories of Mickey Mouse with Goofy as his sidekick where those I liked best. Later I read the series about The Famous Five, the Hardyboys and other stories with enigmatic mysteries. These books had their own vitality that pulled me in and let me be part of an exciting journey. The literary rebus attracted me. When I became older and read books by authors like Sjöwall and Wahlöö, Henning Mankell and Gunnar Staalesen I realized that books of this genre also offered something more. This was stories that had originated in social injustice and social misery in the world around me, written by concerned authors with a commitment to societies lost. That is something of the legacy I try to carry on with my own novels. From that point of view, my background as Chief Inspector in the criminal investigation department of the police is also my strength as a crime writer. The police force provides an excellent advantage point for observing society, as well as an excellent starting point for writing realistic crime fiction. Sooner or later, the ineffective aspects of our society end up on the police’s plate. I write crime novels in an attempt to tell something about our modern welfare system that gives honest promises to be protective and inclusive, yet fail so many of its inhabitants – at the same time I try to give my readers an exciting and riveting story.

My debut novel, The Key Witness (not translated), is based on what has been described as one of the most bizarre and brutal killings in recent, Norwegian criminal history, namely the murder of Ronald Ramm in 1995.

I sort of started my career as a writer on my first working day in the police. This was the day when Ronald Ramm was found raped and murdered in his own home in my home town, Larvik. It was a thrilling experience to be in such a crime scene. Seeing how there had been a fight to the death going on from room to room until it ended up in the outer corridors where Ramm was found slain and with hands tied. For a young policeman it was a very special feeling to stride over the threshold into a murder crime scene and knowing that I went in the footsteps of an unknown killer.

What really happened at that time almost 20 years ago is still not be known. The killer has never been caught, but the mystery is getting a fictional solution in my novel.

Your debut novel was in 2004 and we are expecting  ‘The Caveman’ to be translated into English next year, which is another eagerly anticipated Nordic Noir thriller.
Just what is the fascination with Nordic crime fiction? especially outside of the Nordic regions.

‘The Caveman’ will be out in mid-February.

The hallmark of what has come to be known as Nordic Noir is however the resonance of its social realism and social criticism. These are novels that concern themselves with the world we see around us, exploring the dark sides of our privileged, secure and wealthy social democracy.

The stories have their origins in the kind of social injustice and misery that we are all able to recognise. Therefore the genre possesses a particular ability to function as a mirror of society and a propensity to confront that society with its own image.

Alongside your William Wisting novels you have Codename Hunter, The Clue Series for young adults and Detective Agency N02 for Children. How important is it for you in an age of technology to engage children’s interest back into books?

To open a book, is to open a world of possibilities: Opportunities for new experiences, new discoveries and new insights. Reading and literature can give us knowledge and overview. The more we read, the more we know. And the more we know, the more questions we can ask. In addition to enable us to understand reality better, literature might also give us the opportunity to escape from reality.

I became a reader after discovering books like The Hardy boys and The Ghost at Skeleton Rock and Five on a Treasure Island. It was exciting books, which made me want to read more. They became a springboard into other kind of literature. It is satisfying to in same way as Enid Blyton and Franklin W Dixon to be part of creating a new generation of readers, because getting young people to read is important. Not just for the individual reading experience, but also because books are not only source of joy, but also to knowledge and understanding. By encouraging the young generation to read, we also create a wiser and richer generation.

As of 2013 you retired from the force, is this because of your incredible success and does this lead us to believe that you have a lot more in store for us in 2015?

I left the police in September 2013, after nearly 20 years of service. Experiences from the real police work has in many ways has shaped me as a human being, and traces of that is visible in my books. My work as chief investigator allowed me to go behind the barrier tapes and to walk among the remains and traces of severe crimes. See the remains of a relentless struggle. Stepping into rooms that has been closed and contains unexplored secrets. That’s where I like to bring readers. A part of my job was getting to know the killers and rapists, to let me get inside how they think. Talk to crime victims and their families. Standing face to face with other peoples anger, grief, despair and remorse have been valuable for me. It has taught me a lot about life. It has given me a nuanced view of crime, criminals and crime victims. In summary, I hope it helps to create an authentic nerve running through my current books and in my books to come.

My over riding feeling is that we are going to be hearing a great deal from Jørn Lier Horst in 2015. His knowledge and writing talent are a solid basis for his chosen career. The genre he has pursued is bang on trend right now and his personable manner makes people warm to him and want to know more about the man behind some fantastic Nordic Noir writing.