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'10 is a good number'


Swedish crime writer Hakan Nesser whose Van Veeteren series set in the imaginary European town of Mardaam says he has plans to revive his retired chief inspector. Nesser spoke to TOI-Crest

Crime writers seem to tire of their detectives faster than readers. How did you fare with Van Veeteren?

There are 10 books about Van Veeteren. The Hour of the Wolf, the seventh book that just released in India, was published in Sweden 15 years ago. The last VV novel was out in 2003, and then I stopped writing about him. So I dare say I have moved on. So far I have written 25 novels, 15 of them crime fiction, the other 10 mainstream or crossover. Trying to create something new with every book is absolutely essential to me. I don't want to bore myself and I get bored rather easily.

You first sent VV into semiand then final retirement. But he continued to be an important charcter in the series. Did you plan a career graph for him?

The idea was to have five books with VV as a police officer, five with him in a sort of retired position, leaving room for his colleagues, but not let go of him altogether. When you read all ten, you will find this structure is quite obvious. Not that I planned it carefully. Planning is many times not as crucial as you believe.

Is it a struggle to keep a character alive even if you have run out of things to do with him?

No. Had it been I would have dropped it.

Crime-writers with iconic detective characters do not seem to succeed as much with other characters/plots. Did this worry you when you moved away from VV?

It was not a problem. There is another series, just completed, with an Inspector Barbarotti. Readers seem to enjoy him more.

Do you sympathise at all with your readers' attachment to your grumpy but brilliant detective?

I'm not at all concerned with this kind of attachment. I have always only written books I would like to read myself and since the writer is always the first reader, this is never a problem. I wouldn't dream of trying to write something just to satisfy some sort of demand from imaginary readers. I trust the first one. Ten (in a series) is a good number, 25 is not a good number.

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