Spotlight on Norway with writer Jo Nesbø

The Author

Jo Nesbø entered this world on the 29th of March 1960 in Molde, Norway. He grew up in a household where books were the back bone of entertainment, and with his mum being a librarian, this was a natural progression to one day work within the industry.


Photo by Arvid Stridh

However, Jo Nesbø has many strings to his bow and did not discover his phenomenal talent for writing until slightly later in life.

To begin with Jo completed a degree in economics and business administration, which afterwards guided him into working as a stock broker.

Jo Nesbø also played football for Norway’s premier league football team, Molde FK. This was a promising start for Jo to earn a living from the football pitch, but an injury at 18 soon put stop to his dream of playing for Spurs.

In the background of studying for his degree Jo formed a band called Di Derre, and by the time the second album was released (which topped the Norwegian charts) a buzz was surrounding the band and their music, which brought them to the attention of a publisher.

This is the twist of fate that sealed the deal for Jo Nesbø to become one of the most successful crime writers. It was when the publishing house requested that the band Di Derre write a book about their travels on the road that a passion was ignited in Jo, he soon realised that his heart lie with writing.

The Harry Hole novels were born!

The series 

Harry Hole is the unorthodox character centered in 10 of Jo Nesbo’s books.

The death of his Mother, a distant Father, a sister with Downs Syndrome and succumbing to his alcoholic downward spirals means that Harry Hole struggles with his demons of a troubled past throughout the books.

The Redeemer

This makes Harry Hole a troubled man, but gives him the strength of not being fazed by anything and constantly wanting to right wrongs, even if he doesn’t follow the rules to get there.

Harry Hole loses two police partners in the series, and is often rescuing women in need. The story lines are complex and are not just a ‘man saves woman’ scenario.

The books are brain teasingly testing with many twists and turns, often deluding the reader until the end, when you get that moment of “Oh that’s who it is”.

Harry Hole and his troubles of woes seems to encourage women to fall at his feet in the hope that they can change him. But what is quite clear from the start is that Harry hole can not be, nor does he want to be changed.

The one love in his life that looked like was it for the long run is Rakel Fauke who features quite heavily in the series with her son Oleg, but ultimately the danger that is exposed to Rakel and her son is too much to bare, so unrequited love is played out as new love interests come and go, but we are sporadically reminded of this love throughout the series between Harry and Rakel.

The series of Harry Hole first captures the reader with The Bat, which was released in 2011 and sees our complicated hero being assigned to a case in Sydney. When a Norwegian backpacker on a GAP year is murdered Harry investigates.

The series is brought up to date with the tenth book released in 2013 called Police. Murders are being carried out at old crime scenes that the police of Oslo have investigated. People he loves are in danger and once again he is racing against time.

The genius work that is Jo Nesbø is evident in how the author has grown Harry Hole the character at a natural progression, with each life experience whether good or bad affecting how he solves the next crime as he carries more personal baggage into the next investigation.

Harry Hole is surrounded by characters such as Beate Lonn and Stale Aune, these are colleagues and the only friends Harry trusts. The chemistry between them in the book can be imagined by the reader purely down to the descriptive writing, and deep constant emotions of each character.

Book to screen

Exciting times are ahead for Jo Nesbø, with a new series set to hit our TV screens very soon. It will be named Occupied and co produced by French-German network Arte and of course Norway’s NRK. Production will be by Swedish giants Yellow Bird.The concept by Jo Nesbø will be based around a political genre of what would happen in Norway if the Russians invaded to seize the oil reserves.

A second up and coming screen hit from Jo Nesbø will be under his pen name Tom Johansen. It was under this persona that Jo wrote 3 novels not yet released called Blood on Snow, More Blood on the Water and The Kidnapping.
Scheduled to be released in the autumn of 2014 and spring of 2015, it is to be rumoured that Warner Brothers have bought the rights to turn Blood on Snow into a major screen production, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Where filming will take place is unknown, but it would be wise to take some guidance from Jo Nesbø with the settings of Oslo and the depths of the Norwegian countryside. This adds a certain solitude and eeriness to some scenes and the crimes.

Jo is of course used to his books being turned into films as his critically acclaimed 2008 novel HeadHunters was made into a film which was released in 2011. Headhunters was nominated for a BAFTA award and won the Empire award in 2013.

Norway was suddenly a serious contender for film and literature within the arts circle, and people were looking to Norway with anticipation as to what it would offer next.

Back drop

Oslo the capital of Norway is where the series of the Harry Hole books are set, and this sees us introduced to a city of intrigue often beleaguered by gripping weather. We are led into a vision of a city where people are busily rushing about their day lives to make it to work and then home to get out of the freezing temperatures.

Oslo by night

Norway has a very significant history which saw itself owned by the Danish as the Denmark-Norway colony, this was annulled and independence declared on May 17th 1814.

May 17th (Syttende) is celebrated up and down the country in traditional costume and at processions led by the children waving the National flag.

Harry Hole spends a good proportion of the series travelling abroad but also introducing us to the vast landscape around Oslo, with descriptions of skiers going about their daily chores across the snow covered fields and lone wooden huts desolate from the outside world, where he waits with anticipation to catch the next ‘baddie’. 

Norway’s magnificent Fjords are presented to us in the book The Snowman. The Fjords are as important to Norway’s history as the Vikings are, and lent themselves not just as a stunning view but they were navigation for the maritime period in Norway.

Harry Hole certainly makes use of all that Oslo has to offer from the bars that he fights his demons in, to the cafes and restaurants which are producing new and exciting Nordic cuisine.

Coffee is a staple diet to see people through the dark mornings in winter and again this is apparent with Oslo’s many espresso bars.

Oslo is on the map now thanks to the likes of Jo Nesbø, and the interest in this city is causing a well deserved discussion of what Norway will offer next by way of film and literature talent.

Northern Lights

Featured photo by Håkon Eikesdal

Photo credits dianasch & shoa

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“Spotlight on Norway with writer Jo Nesbø”