Jo Nesbø — Special Delivery

You may — or may not — have heard of Jo Nesbø. He’s a Norwegian thrill­er writer with a series of noir­ish con­tem­por­ary nov­els fea­tur­ing Harry Hole, an alco­hol­ic detect­ive, under his belt. Jo’s Random House pub­li­city ninjette con­tac­ted me a few days back to ask if I’d like some free cop­ies of his latest Hole book, Nemesis, which is out in trans­la­tion this week. Free books? Sniffing an inter­view oppor­tun­ity, I replied in the affirm­at­ive.

So, I’ve got five cop­ies of Nemesis to give away. Just add a com­ment express­ing an interest below and I’ll put you in touch with Random House.

Incidentally, Jo has landed him­self a Flash-tast­ic web­site. Check it out.


First off, your name ends with a let­ter — ø — that does not appear in the English alpha­bet. How does one pro­nounce your name? Is there an English word that con­tains this phon­eme?

Like the German ö. Or the “o” in Peter Sellers’ pro­nun­ci­ation of “bomb” in the Pink Panther-movie.

How did you get star­ted with writ­ing?

I read. And Read. I basic­ally post­poned writ­ing as long as I could, that was until I was 37. Then I star­ted writ­ing like a mad­man.

Nemesis’ is a Norwegian book trans­lated into English. How do you find the trans­la­tion pro­cess? Does it require cre­at­ive input from the trans­lat­or and, if so, do these decisions ever depart from the effect you were try­ing to cre­ate from a giv­en para­graph or sen­tence?

I prob­ably read as much English as I read Norwegian, but I don’t take part in the trans­la­tion. Because in the end all I can do is trust Don Bartlett. And I do.

The nov­el ‘Nemesis’ has the concept of memory loss at its heart. In thrillers, this is often linked to ques­tions about iden­tity, and the dif­fi­culty of accept­ing the dark­er side of a person’s char­ac­ter. How did this become so cent­ral to the book?

I think the ques­tion wheth­er true evil­ness exists – wheth­er it’s an anti­so­cial gene, a response to upbring­ing and cul­ture or some­thing we simply need to sur­vive in cer­tain situ­ations — is a cent­ral theme in all my Harry Hole-books, but maybe espe­cially in “Nemesis”.

I’ve not vis­ited Norway, but in book­shops in Iceland, as well as sev­er­al in con­tin­ent­al Europe, I was struck by the great­er shelf space giv­en to trans­la­tions of American and British fic­tion. Do you find Norwegian book­shops sup­port­ive of nat­ive authors?

Definitely. Norwegian and – for some reas­on — Swedish writers dom­in­ate the best­seller lists in Norway. Sometimes accom­pan­ied by an American writer or two.

One of the aims of this blog is to doc­u­ment the cre­at­ive pro­cess. Can you describe a little of your writ­ing routine?

Not really because there isn’t such a thing as a routine. I write any­where, any­time. And when I’m sup­posed to write I often find myself doing oth­er things …

You’re a musi­cian as well as a writer. How does writ­ing dif­fer cre­at­ively from your music? Do you find them com­pet­ing for your atten­tion?

Music for me is more like tak­ing things out of the air, I don’t really have a meth­od. Writing is about dream­ing things up, using your ima­gin­a­tion and instantly know­ing wheth­er you’re onto some­thing. Writing music has taken the back seat to writ­ing fic­tion now.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

13 thoughts on “Jo Nesbø — Special Delivery”

  1. He’s a major favour­ite over at Euro Crime. I’ve read two of his pre­vi­ous, Redbreast and Devil’s Star. Criminal that they are pub­lished in trans­la­tion out of alpha­bet­ic­al order as it really ruins some of the impact.
    I have already entered a Euro Crime com­pet­i­tion to win a copy of Nemesis and I have a feel­ing I’ll be suc­cess­ful, so I’ll pass this time — but your win­ners are I think in for a very absorb­ing read­ing exper­i­ence.

  2. Hmm, bit odd that they’re being pub­lished out of sequence.

    I’m just begin­ning to read Nemesis. Has a pretty good start; we’ll see how it goes.

  3. I’d be inter­ested in a copy of Nemesis. I’ve read some Sewdish thrillers — Sjowall & Wahloo, Henning Mankell, and I’d like to see what the Norwegians have to offer.

  4. [Re-post­ing Marco’s com­ment]

    Is it only for the U.K.? I live in Italy.
    Would love to read it,in fact I would already have bought it had I not also entered the Eurocrime com­pet­i­tion.
    Strange as it seems,publishing out of order is a com­mon prac­tice-it hap­pens here also,and it happened for one of my favour­ite Italian authors when he was trans­lated into English.
    I sup­pose the reas­on is the desire to start with the “stronger” (or rather,better mar­ket­able) books in order to hook the readers,but in the case of ongo­ing series it’s very annoy­ing.

  5. Yes, it’s a bit strange that the pub­lished are being pub­lished out of order. I’ll send your address to Random House — hope­fully they don’t mind send­ing some­thing out to Italy.

  6. I had the good for­tune to read Jo Nesbo’s book in uncor­rec­ted proof format (I have a great con­nec­tion at a loc­al indi book store) and can­not stop telling people about Nesbo and his writ­ing. I would love to have a free copy of the book but since I’ve already read it, hope­fully you will find oth­ers to place a com­ment here, get a free copy and find out how good Jo Nesbo is. I liked the rhythm of his writ­ing, his way of weav­ing sur­round­ings into his writ­ing without dwell­ing too much on the scene and his char­ac­ters. Just a good read that I recom­mend. As someone who also writes mys­ter­ies, I am always look­ing for authors from whom I can learn. Nesbo is one I will study.

  7. While some time has past since this thread was star­ted. But, I must say that I have read all of Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole books pub­lish in America and hope to read them soon in Norwegian

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