Choose another writer in this calendar:
by birthday from the calendar.
|Per Wahlöö (1926-1975)|
Swedish writer and journalist, who published with his wife Maj Sjöwall the widely translated series novels of Martin Beck and his colleagues at the Central Bureau of Investigation in Stockholm. Its style has been described as "reportal... spare, disciplined and full of sharply observed detail..." The critic and awarded mystery writer H.R.F. Keating selected Roseanna (1965) in 1987 for his list of the one hundred best crime novels. Several of the books have also been adapted into screen.
"Elofsson was following the normal procedure. He had grabbed the boy's jacket with both hands. The next step was to pull the victim closer and drive his right knee into the man's groin. And that would take care of that. The same way he had done it so many times before. Without firearms." (from Cop Killer, 1974)
Per Wahlöö was born in Göteborg, the son of Waldemar and Karin (Svensson) Wahlöö. After graduating from the University of Lund in 1946, he worked as a journalist, covering criminal and social issues for a number of newspapers and magazines. In the 1950s Wahlöö was engaged in radical political causes, activities that resulted in his deportation from Franco's Spain in 1957. Before becoming a full-time writer, he wrote a number of television and radio plays, and was managing editor of several magazines.
As a novelist Wahlöö made his debut with Himmelsgeten
(1959), which was followed by others dealing with abuses of power and
the dark side of the society. Wahlöö's science fiction thrillers
include Mord på 31 (1965, The Thirty-first Floor), which was
filmed as Kamikaze 1989, starring the director Rainer Werner Fassbinder in his final screen
role. The story was set in a futuristic Germany. Stälspranget
(1968, Steep Spring) depicted a deadly plague in Sweden. The
protagonist in both novels was Chief Inspector Jensen. Generalerna
(1965), a trial novel set in a military state, reflected Wahlöö's views
on dictatorship. Lastbilen (1962) was published in the United
States as A Necessary Action and in Britain as The Lorry.
Uppdraget (1963), set in a Latin American country, gained an
international success. It was translated into English under the title The
Wahlöö's first work as a scriptwriter was Flygplan saknas
(1965, Aircraft Missing), co-written with Arvid Rundberg, directed by Per Gunvall, and starring Olle
Johansson, Birgit Nordin and Runar Martholm. With the veteran film
director Arne Mattsson he made three films between 1965 and 1967,
beginning from an adaptation of Jan Ekström's crime novel Morianerna.
British censors cut two minutes from the original release, which contains nudity, voyerism, a psychopath, and a rape of maid.
1961 Wahlöö met Maj Sjöwall when they were working for
magazines published by the same company. At that time Wahlöö was
married, Sjöwall was a single parent of a daughter and already twice
divorced. Both were members of the Communist Party. Although Wahlöö
didn't want to cheat his wife, they began to meet after work, and
eventually became lovers, but never officially married. Until 1969, the couple lived in Stockholm, but they kept contact with
the KRW (Kronkvist-Rooke-Wahlöö) group from Malmö, where they lived and
worked from 1969.
Their carefully planned crime novel series, with the undertitle "roman om ett brott" (the story of a crime), was created in the evenings, after the children had been put to bed. Starting from Roseanna (1965), the project ended ten years and ten books later with Terroristerna (1975). According to Wahlöö, their intention was to "use the crime novel as a scalpel cutting open the belly of the ideological pauperized and morally debatable so-called welfare state of the bourgeois type." The narrative focused on realistic police routine and teamwork – rather the deductive leaps of a Hercule Poirot type individual – and was compared to Georges Simenon.
The first three novels, Roseanna, a story of
rape-murder of an American girl whose body in found in a Swedish canal,
The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (1966) and The Man on the Balcony
(1967), were straightforward police procedural novels. They introducing
the central characters – the solid, methodical detective Martin Beck
with failing marriage, ex-paratrooper Lennart Kollberg, who hates
violence and refuses to carry a gun, Gunvald Larsson, wildman and a
drop-out from high society, Einar Rönn from the rural north of Sweden
and patrolmen Kristiansson and Kvant, the necessary comic pair. Beck
considers himself "stubborn and logical, and completely calm". He lives
in a small apartment in Stockholm with his wife, Inga, and two
children. In the following books Beck's relationship with his wife
deteriorates, and he begins an affair with the liberal Rhea Nilsen.
not an immediate success. Many reviewers felt that its was too dark and
brutal. Until The Story of a Crime
series Swedish detective novels had
been apolitical, conservative or liberal, but Sjöwall and Wahlöö
managed to revive interest in a genre generally overlooked by leftist
intellectuals. Moreover, readers were ready to accept their new
approach, the introduction of political ideas as part of crime fiction.
The theme of class conflict is not made explicit right from the onset,
but gradually unravels as the series progresses. In the final volume
the foundations of the welfare state start to shake. The murder of the
prime minister signals the
end of the Social-Democratic project of Folkhemmet (the people's home).
The Laughing Policeman (1968), about the investigation of the murder of eight occupants of a Stockholm bus, was adapted to screen in 1973, directed by Stuart Rosenberg and starring Walter Matthau, Bruce Dern, and Lou Gossett. "Police movies so often depend on sheer escapist action that it's fun to find a good one," said Roger Ebert in his review. Swedish critics were unanimous in that the film had very little to do with the novel and there was little left of Sjöwall and Wahlöö's social criticism. The story, set in San Francisco, shared its Bay area locale with Dirty Harry (1971), but was otherwise more downbeat. By coincidence, Bo Widerberg, who made a film adaptation of the novel The Abominable Man, entitled Mannen på taket (1976), had lived in Malmö in the same building than Wahlöö's first wife Inger Wahlöö.
At the end of The Locked Room (1972), Sjöwall and
Wahlöö show their sympathy towards a bank robber; however, they abhor
sexual violence. In Cop Killer (1974)
Lennart Kollberg writes
his resignation, because of his socialist world view. The suspected cop
killer of the title is portrayed as a victim of an inhuman political
system. Especially in the
last novel, The Terrorists,
police officers and criminals alike have nothing to lose but
chains; the authors openly side with criminals-as-revolutionaries.
Beck is deeply ambivalent about remaining a policeman, because he fears
that he is contributing to the violent nature of Swedish society rather
than preventing it. The novel was published after Wahlöö's death in
Stockholm on June 23, 1975. Though a joint venture, this volume was
written by Wahlöö, who was already very ill and knew he was going to
die. Doctors had said that his lungs were full of water, before
realizing that his pancreas had burst. After returning from Màlaga,
Wahlöö took very strong morphin tablets, fell into coma, and never woke
Wahlöö's other works include translations into Swedish of some Ed McBain's 87th Precinct procedural novels and Noel Behn's political thriller The Kremlin Letter, filmed by John Huston in 1970. With Sjöwall he also edited the literature magazine Peripeo, and wrote a comparative study of police methods in Sweden, the United States, Russia, and England. "He was an extreme Left-winger with a taste for popular sport," said the English mystery writer Julian Symons of Wahlöö, "and his interest in British football... was passionate. The books he wrote with Maj Sjöwall represents an attempt to bring his political feelings into a literary form with a wide appeal."
With Maj Sjövall: