#NIGHTBLIND Blog Tour: CTG’s Review plus WIN a signed copy of NIGHTBLIND by Ragnar Jónasson

TSQ3DKNAABSTlEm-GfmTIkRUhRMA5gEf5-qZZXGmZYQ-2

For my stop on Ragnar Jónasson’s Blog Tour today I’m reviewing NIGHTBLIND and giving one lucky reader the chance to win a limited edition hardback of NIGHTBLIND signed by both the author, Ragnar Jónasson, and the translator, Quentin Bates.

Firstly, for the review:

What the blurb says: “Siglufjördur – an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason – a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him. The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thór to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will. Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all.”

Ragnar Jónasson conjures up another deeply atmospheric mystery with NIGHTBLIND, the second book in the Dark Iceland series.

Set five years after the events that took place in the first book – SNOWBLIND – we find Ari Thór reunited with his girlfriend, Kristin, and now father to a son. The shooting of a police officer – the first such shooting in the area – puts him firmly into the community’s spotlight, and sees him reunited with his previous boss and mentor – Tómas – who had left Siglufjördur to take a promotion in the city. With the complexities of the investigation increasing as local politics and deep buried family secrets are exposed, Ari Thór struggles to keep the tensions in his personal life at bay as he battles to crack the case.

Using the setting to maximum effect, Jónasson’s NIGHTBLIND plays out against the dramatic backdrop of the approaching Icelandic winter. The small-town community is more open to Ari Thór’s presence, although he is still considered an outsider even after five years of living there, and the history of its residents and the long held secrets kept within the families there are difficult for him to uncover. This adds to the claustrophobic feeling evoked by this isolated village location, and raises the stakes for Ari Thór as he perseveres with lines of enquiry in the face of opposition.

Beautifully written, NIGHTBLIND is Icelandic Noir at its finest – a modern take on a golden age style mystery, with an extra touch of darkness and an Icelandic twist.

FOR A CHANCE TO WIN a beautiful limited edition hardback copy of NIGHTBLIND that’s signed by the author, Ragnar Jónasson, and the translator, Quentin Bates, here what you need to do:

Tweet the link to this post (using the Twitter button below) OR retweet one of the CTG tweets about the giveaway. [You’ll also need to follow me on Twitter, so that I can send you a direct message should you win]. Rules
(1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) I will draw the winner at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 9pm GMT on Thursday 7th January 2016 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Good luck! *** THIS COMPETITION HAS CLOSED AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED ***

Find out more about Ragnar Jónasson and the Dark Iceland series by hopping over to the fabulous Orenda Books website. And be sure to follow Ragnar on Twitter @ragnarjo

You can also click this link to head over to Amazon to buy NIGHTBLIND

And don’t forget to check out all the other great stops along the route of the NIGHTBLIND Blog Tour …

_KIvzXRyd1rroSsZC2IO1KUVQfwKwaKBTr4YnluKGZ4

The #Snowblind Blog Tour: CTG reviews Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson

Snowblind cover image

Snowblind cover image

I’ve been raving about this book for a while now and so I’m really thrilled to be a part of the Snowblind blog tour. Written by Ragnar Jónasson, Snowblind is published by fabulous new publisher Orenda Books and translated from Icelandic by crime writer Quentin Bates.

What the blurb says: “Siglufjörđur: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by the snow, and with a killer on the loose.”

Ari Thór Arason relocates to the remote costal village of Siglufjörđur to take up his first job in the police. He’s thorough and tenacious, keen to learn and enthusiastic to do a good job in a community where no one locks their doors and the crime rate is virtually zero – until now. When the seemingly accidental death of an elderly writer is followed by what seems to be a vicious attack on a young woman the community is thrown into chaos – is a killer among them? And how, in a place where everyone knows everyone’s business, can there be no witnesses?

Distanced from his girlfriend, Kristín, both by the geography and the unspoken upset each feels with the other from their reaction to Ari’s job move, Ari feels increasingly alone. Tómas, his boss, is one person who helps him feel more part of the community, but it is Ugla – living now in Siglufjörđur as a self imposed exile for a tragedy in her past – who he connects with most. Before long it’s a relationship that starts to create complications of its own.

Determined to get to the truth, Ari presses for answers, and as he does Siglufjörđur is covered in ever deepening snow – becoming cut off from the rest of the country and trapping the inhabitants together. As darkness descends, and Ari takes increasing risks to lure out the killer, the claustrophobic suspense ramps up to the max.

Snowblind uses its stunningly beautiful yet brutally remote setting to create a chilling, atmospheric locked room mystery. It’s a fantastic read with great writing, engaging characters and an expertly crafted plot filled with twists, turns and slight of hand.

Ragnar Jónasson is an outstanding new voice in Nordic Noir, and I’m really looking forward to the next in the series – Nightblind – that’s out next year.

Highly recommended.

 

To find out more about Ragnar Jónasson visit www.orendabooks.co.uk/book/snow-blind

You can follow him on Twitter @ragnarjo and his publisher @OrendaBooks and translator Quentin Bates @graskeggur

Find out about Quentin Bates’ experiences of translating Snowblind from Icelandic in his guest post here

And get a glimpse at the Snowblind book launch here

Also, be sure to check out all the great tour stops on the Snowblind Blog Tour …

IMG_0037

Guest Post: Quentin Bates on Stepping into the Translation Zone #Snowblind

Quentin Bates

Quentin Bates

Today, crime writer Quentin Bates takes the reins here at CTG HQ to tell us about his recent experiences in translation – working on the fabulous novel Snowblind from Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson (published in English by Orenda Books) …

It has been something of a step into the unknown. All right, I’ve done plenty of translation before from my adopted second language, Icelandic, a language that 320,000 Icelanders and a couple of dozen non-Icelanders speak. It’s a long story, but I lived there for a long time, boy meets girl and all that stuff, and found myself staying a lot longer than originally intended.

But to get back on track, I’ve done bits and pieces of translation before, almost all of it fairly grim technical and news material, although there was a novel I translated years ago for the fun of it and eventually wound up publishing myself as an e-book. It’s here if you fancy a look, but I warn you, it’s not a crime story and there are no murders in there.

It was a surprise that there are so few Icelandic crime writers translated into English. For a long time there were only two, the two everyone knows about, Arnaldur Indriðason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Then they were joined by Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson with a handful of books and Árni Thórarinsson with only one and it’s a shame as Árni’s books are excellent, refreshingly different with a journalist as a protagonist rather than a detective or a lawyer. It has long been a mystery to me why so many Swedish and Norwegian crime authors seem to make it seamlessly into English, while their Danish, Finnish and Icelandic counterparts have been left behind, even though they frequently seem to be published in every other language; but not English.

But now there’s one more. A bunch of us conspired to get Ragnar Jónasson published in English, pulling strings and passing the word to kick-start the process.

The excellent Karen Sullivan was in the process of setting up her new imprint, Orenda Books, and was able to publish six books in her first year. She managed to secure Ragnar’s Snowblind, his debut novel (published on 20th April on Kindle and 15th June in paperback) as well as his latest novel, Nightblind.

So this is where the step into the unknown began. I was sure I could produce a translation, and hoped it would be up to Karen’s exacting standards, very much aware that for a new publisher with a limited number books in its first year, each book has to count.

Translation is different from writing your own stuff. There are similar technical aspects, but it calls for a different set of skills. There’s no plotting to worry about as the author has already done all the heavy lifting there, but while technical translation calls for precision and accuracy, literary translation also calls for accuracy, but in a different way.

Snowblind cover image

Snowblind cover image

A technical handbook needs to be as close to the original as possible, while still making sense, as anyone who has bought a Chinese-made DVD player with a badly translated handbook will understand. With a novel it’s more about being faithful to the spirit of the author’s words than to those words themselves.

Sentences might need to be rolled together, as Icelandic uses short, sharp sentences. Like this one. That don’t work in English. Punctuation is also a headache and it has taken me years to figure out that a full stop in Icelandic isn’t necessarily the same as a full stop in English. The nature of an Icelandic full stop can depend on the context and it can be the equivalent of a semi-colon, or even a comma, just a pause in a narrative rather than a break, but the context is all-important.

Then there are the idioms that need to be rendered into English, and often enough there isn’t any direct translation that does the original justice or captures the right feel. So some suitable parallel phrase has to be found. Worst of all are jokes, especially a joke or a phrase that relies on an untranslatable play on words. This is where the translator has to go out on a limb and trust instinct that the replacement joke, which may be nowhere even close to the original wording, is strong enough to capture the elusive feel that the author was looking for.

All this has to be achieved without crossing the often very elastic line from being a translator into the other world of being an editor. There should never be a temptation to improve on an author’s work, only to interpret it in the best way possible, and it’s well known that a poor translation can ruin a good book. On the other hand, an inspired translation can lift a good book and make it into something outstanding.

These days I find myself looking for the translator’s name as well as the author’s. I know that if a book translated from French has Frank Wynne’s or Ros Schwartz’s name on it, I’ll be in good hands. The same goes for Anthea Bell, that queen among translators who produced those inspired English-language versions of Asterix the Gaul that were part of my childhood, plus so much else… then there’s Don Bartlett for anything from Norwegian, and this list goes on.

So it has been a challenge. Translation has also been better that the most fiendish crossword for keeping the grey cells active, almost as fiendish as the plotting of Ragnar’s book. There has been much silent muttering and poring over dictionaries, and my vocabulary of obscure Icelandic words has certainly grown.

Would I do it again? I already am… Look out for Nightblind next year, and hopefully a few more of Iceland’s stable of crime writers appearing in English in the next few years.

A huge thank you to Quentin Bates for dropping by today to talk about stepping into the translation zone, and for giving us a peep behind the scenes at Snowblind.

Summerchill cover image

Summerchill cover image

Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson is released as an ebook today and in paperback on 15th June. Here’s the blurb: Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose.”

Quentin Bates’ latest book Summerchill (the next in his popular Gunnhildur Gísladóttir series) is out on 7th May and available now for pre-order. Here’s the blurb: It’s the tail end of a hot summer when half of Reykjavík is on holiday and the other half wishes it was. Things are quiet when a man is reported missing from his home in the suburbs. As Gunna and Helgi investigate, it becomes clear that the missing man had secrets of his own that lead to a sinister set of friends, and to someone with little to lose who is a fugitive from both justice and the underworld. It becomes a challenge for Gunna to tail both the victim and his would-be executioner, racing to catch up with at least one of them before they finally meet.”

Brand-new Independent publisher Orenda Books announces first titles

 

Exciting news about some new books to look forward to for crime thriller enthusiasts.

Brand-new independent publishing company Orenda Books, headed up by ex-Arcadia Books’ managing editor Karen Sullivan, have announced their first three authors.

First up is Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson and his books Snowblind and Dark Night. These are the first two books in the Dark Iceland series, which features young policeman Ari Thor, whose first case drags him straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. In the extreme, isolated setting the tension builds as the 24-hour darkness and unremitting snowstorms threaten to push Ari over the edge. Dark Night offers a tension of its own – two bright summer days fail to shed light on the identity of a murderer, as the action swings from Reykjavik to the small northern town of Siglufjörður, and Ari struggles to get his personal affairs in order against the background of an increasingly complex and chilling investigation. The first novel, Snowblind, will be published in spring 2015, to coincide with CrimeFest.

Next up is eco-thriller The Abrupt Physics of Dying, by Canadian-Australian author Paul E. Hardisty. Set in Yemen, The Abrupt Physics of Dying features Claymore Straker, an oil engineer struggling to forget his violent past. Hijacked by Islamic terrorists, Clay is given a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company’s oil-processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die. As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions.

And last, but certainly not least, is David F. Ross whose beautifully rendered Ayrshire-set, coming-of-age story The Last Days of Disco draws comparisons with Roddy Doyle and Irvine Welsh.

So make sure you keep up to speed with all Orenda Books’ latest news about their books and authors by following them in the Twitterverse @OrendaBooks

 

Confessions from CrimeFest: Part One

The Iceland Noir panel

The Iceland Noir panel

On a surprisingly hot Thursday last week I packed my weekend bag and headed to CrimeFest. Held in Bristol, from the 15 – 18 May the Royal Marriott Hotel on College Green played host to hundreds of crime writers and readers for a long weekend of panels and interviews celebrating and debating crime fiction.

Having checked into the rather gorgeous conference hotel, I hurried along to my first panel of the afternoon: Locked Rooms & Closed Locations: Writing Yourself into a Corner. Here, the panellists Nev Fountain, Thomas Mogford, Anotonia Hodgson, LC Tyler, and moderator, Charles (Caroline) Todd discussed the settings that inspired their own novels, how they’ve used elements of locked room or closed location settings in their writing, and the difficulties that can be encountered when writing a traditional locked room mystery with an entirely plausible ending.

Next, I trotted along to the Iceland Noir panel. Iceland Noir authors Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Quentin Bates, and Michael Ridpath, along with publisher Petur Mar Olafsson and moderator Barry Forshaw, talked about the rise of Icelandic crime fiction, the cold but beautiful landscape of Iceland, and the dreadfulness of the traditional Icelandic food! Each member of the audience was given a raffle ticket, and at the end of the panel one lucky person won an all-expenses paid trip to this years’ Iceland Noir crime writing festival in Reykjavik in November. Sadly that person was not me.

Then it was off to the bar, to catch up with friends, and on to the Crimefest Pub Quiz, hosted by crimewriter, critic, and quiz master, Peter Guttridge. Despite the amount of wine drunk, we were still able to do much better this year – rising one place from last to second from last! We didn’t mind though, it was still a lot of fun.

As I fell into bed in the early hours of Friday morning, I set my alarm for 7.30am and promised myself I’d get up in a few hours time to see the first panel.

Check out Confessions from CrimeFest: Part 2 to see if I managed it …

Author Interviews: CTG talks to Quentin Bates

Quentin Bates - Cold Steal

Quentin Bates – Cold Steal

Today I’m delighted to welcome crime writer Quentin Bates to the CTG blog for a chat about his fabulous Nordic crime novels and new book – Cold Steal, the atmospheric setting for his books – Iceland, and to find out more about his writing process …

As well as writing the fabulous Nordic crime novels featuring police officer and single mother, Gunnhildur Gísadóttir, you’ve had successful careers as a trawlerman, a teacher and a journalist. What was it that attracted you to becoming a novelist?
I wasn’t actually a teacher for very long and abandoned it as quickly as I could… But I’ve been writing for a living for a long time now, journalism and a few non-fiction books, mostly extremely dull technical stuff about shipping. I had always seen fiction as something of a mug’s game, extremely hard to get published and maybe even harder to stay published, so it was a challenge I couldn’t resist. I didn’t seriously expect the first Gunna story to get published, and certainly didn’t expect it to turn into a series.

Your new book, Cold Steal, is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?
This one involves a fairly disparate group of characters, including some of Iceland’s immigrants who I find interesting – having been in that position myself along time ago as an expat living in Iceland. There’s also a burglar who has been a thorn in the police’s side for a long time as he is exceptionally careful and leaves very few traces and is very successful until he breaks into the wrong house one night and finds himself facing far more than he had bargained for. Then there are a few killings, including a businessman and a few people placed in the difficult positions that call for desperate measures.

Your Iceland-set books always have a fabulous sense of place about them, what’s your secret to creating this?
I think it’s weather. Icelanders may live in centrally-heated houses, but they still live on the edge of the habitable world and weather has always been crucially important to survival in the past when it was a nation of fishermen and farmers, and a hard winter could mean not making it through to spring. So people are extremely conscious of weather; it’s in the blood, and Icelandic weather is extraordinarily changeable as it can rain, snow and hail all in one day, interspersed with blazing sunshine. I’m infected with this weather consciousness as well so I always have weather at the back of my mind and especially when I visualise a scene. One of my first questions to myself will always be what was the weather like?

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?
I’ve done both, the seat-of-the-pants method and the intricate plotting, and neither of them suit me. I’m somewhere between the two and have a fairly loose outline of what I want to touch on, like as series of waypoints, but not necessarily with a direct route between them. I don’t get on with over-plotting as I like the flexibility of using a good idea as it crops up along the way, and I don’t normally know quite how things are going to end until I get there.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to publication as crime writers?
This is purely personal advice, and everyone’s experience is different. I’d say just get on with it and stay with it. Don’t wait for a muse to strike, as if you do that, then she won’t. Try and do something every day as that keeps things ticking over in your mind. Unplug the router if that’s what suits you. And just enjoy it, laugh at your own jokes. If you don’t enjoy your own work, then probably nobody else will. Don’t go to anyone who loves you for an opinion. People who know what they’re talking about will give you advice, and it’s very much worth listening carefully to what they say, but also take notice of your own instincts and stick to your guns when the moment is right.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?
I’m not sure at the moment. There’s a kindle-only Gunnhildur novella planned for later this year although I’m not sure yet when that will appear, probably in the summer some time. There is more Gunna in the pipeline but I’m still mulling over ideas at the moment and I really do need to pay the day job more attention. November this year is also Iceland Noir, the tiny crime fiction festival in Reykjavík that I’m involved in organising with Icelandic crime writers Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir. It’s something of a labour of love, but we did the first one last year and it was just great – because when crime writers get together they do tend to be a lot of fun. They’re not precious or pompous, and they can be extraordinarily irreverent – these are people it’s just great to be around. That’s what happens when people who spend their days sitting over a laptop dreaming of murder get let out into the daylight. There’s an interesting line-up for this year, including rising stars Johan Theorin and Vidar Sundstol, and some more intriguing writers, and hopefully we’ll be able to add more between now and November.

Sounds great.

Thanks so much to Quentin Bates for dropping by. To find out more about Quentin and his Gunnhildur Gísadóttir Iceland-set crime series pop on over to his website at http://graskeggur.com/

And to learn more about the wonderful Iceland Noir crime fiction festival click here http://www.icelandnoir.com/

Events Alert: Iceland Noir Festival of Crime Fiction 2014

Iceland Noir banner

Iceland Noir banner

After a hugely successful first year, Iceland Noir – the first Icelandic crime writing festival – will be running again in 2014.

This year it will take place on Friday 21st – Saturday 22nd November at the Nordic House in Reykjavík, Iceland.

The lineup  is still under wraps, but registration is open and you can take advantage of the early bird ticket offer right now.

Hop over to the Iceland Noir Facebook page to find out more at: http://www.facebook.com/IcelandNoir

Click on the following link to book: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/iceland-noir-tickets-10220179833