Today author Torquil MacLeod is taking over the reins of the CTG blog as part of his Murder in Malmö Blog Tour.
Over to Torquil …
It was on a storm-tossed ferry from Newcastle in the middle of December that we made our visit to Sweden. On arrival in Gothenburg, we took a very slow train down the coast and ended up at a desolate Malmö Central Station at midnight. We were virtually the only people left on the train when we were met by our elder son, who had recently moved to Skåne. We drove through deserted streets and the only bright spots were the electric Christmas lights in nearly every window. It wasn’t the most promising of starts, yet it turned out to be the start of a great adventure.
During that first wintry visit, I was captivated by the landscape of Skåne, the southernmost region of Sweden. Part of the time we stayed in Ystad with a police detective based in the town. She has become a firm friend (and police adviser), as has her ex-partner, who still serves as a detective in Ystad. At that time, I was interested in writing film scripts and worked on a number of projects with a producer friend. Among the scripts I came up with, two were crime-based ideas. Both were set in southern Sweden, and one specifically in Malmö.
It was then that I discovered Henning Mankell, quite by chance, in a bookshop in Newcastle – he only had a couple of translated novels out over here at that time. I was amazed to discover that they were centred in Ystad and the surrounding countryside that we were becoming so familiar with. Soon the trickle of Scandinavian crime novels became a steady stream. With my “screenwriting” career going nowhere fast – particularly once I realised how virtually impossible it is to get scripts as far as filming – I decided to dust off an old script idea and turn it into a novel. That was Meet me in Malmö.
Though the central figure, Anita Sundström, was to be a Swedish police inspector, I wanted to give British readers an outsider’s view of the country – my view. The novel was a basic introduction to Sweden, as home-grown Swedish writing – just as crime writing from any other country – assumes a certain degree of local knowledge and cultural understanding in its readers. In all four of my Malmö Mysteries, I have attempted to fill in some of the gaps.
I also wanted Anita to be different from many other fictional detectives. Unlike Kurt Wallander, Harry Hole, Morse, Rebus and even Jane Tennyson, she’s only one of a team. She’s not running the investigations. She’s only a cog in the machine and has to work within those restrictions. She can’t be the maverick figure. It’s her role within the team that leads to tensions.
The other main character in the story is Malmö itself. My son called it home for several years. It’s a pleasant city – particularly in the summer with all its beautiful parks. It’s also a cultural melting pot with a large immigrant population. Thanks to the opening of the Öresund Bridge in 2000 linking it to Copenhagen, it has transformed itself from backwater town into cosmopolitan city. This is Anita Sundström’s beat.
The journey of Meet me in Malmö was a tortuous one. After I’d written it I did the usual rounds of literary agents. Not one was remotely interested and the only feedback I got was a suggestion I change my name to a Scandinavian one (Torquil is actually Norwegian in origin), as nobody would buy a Swedish crime novel written by a Brit. The other gem was to avoid using the name Malmö in any subsequent novels in the series. I ignored both pieces of advice and I’ve been quite happy with the results.
Eventually, I found a hardback publisher. But after its short run sold out, they showed no desire to republish. They did put it out as an ebook and it probably sold about ten copies in a year. So, when I got my rights back, I decided to repackage it with a new cover. As it has spent nearly two and a half years in Amazon UK’s top 2000 ebooks, the decision has been justified. And then last year, I was approached by small independent publisher, McNidder & Grace. They are bringing out all four books this year. Murder in Malmö, the second in the series, is coming out now, with Missing in Malmö in September and Midnight in Malmö in October/November.
Though a fifth book is planned for later next year, I am currently writing an Anita Sundström novella set round a murder at Christmas. And as I write this, we are about to set off on yet another trip to Skåne to visit our Swedish grandson, whose parents have just moved to Ystad. My Swedish journey has come round full circle.
You can find out more about Torquil MacLeod over at his website http://www.torquilmacleodbooks.com
To check out Murder in Malmö over on Amazon, click the book cover below:
And be sure to look out the other stops on the Murder in Malmö blog tour …