Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hope springs eternal

It is my pleasure to introduce Ragnar Jónasson.  He is the Icelandic writer of the DARK ICELAND crime series set in the remote, northern Iceland town of Siglufjordur.  He is published in Iceland by Veröld Publishers, in the UK by Orenda Books, and in Germany by Fischer Verlage.


 
Ragnar was born in Reykjavik and works there as a lawyer. He is also a teacher at Reykjavik University Law School and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen of Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic.

Ragnar lives in Reykjavik with his wife and daughters.

I recently had the pleasure of reading an advance manuscript of Ragnar's upcoming mystery, SNOW BLIND with its interesting protagonist, Ari Thor -  a young policeman who has just arrived in the small town of Siglufjordur. Ari is an old Icelandic word meaning “Eagle” and Thor is a reference to his namesake from Old Norse mythology.


The remote town of Siglufjordur

Siglufjordur



SNOWBLIND chilled me to the bone - not only because of its setting in a cold Icelandic winter, but also because of the story.  Here are some of the reviews:

A solid thriller with all the Scandinavian ingredients – from human interaction to evil." – SonntagsZeitung

"He maintains a considerable pace from the first page to the last, the characters are vivid and the dialogue authentic. Snowblind is not a feel-good crime novel: Siglufjörður is no place for a latte-macchiato investigator. Here you need men with snow shovels." – BÜCHER Magazine.

Few crime writers have made such a strong entrance into the Icelandic literary market. Ragnar is already making his way abroad. It should be celebrated, that not only the two towers, Yrsa [Sigurdardottir] and Arnaldur [Indridason] know the art of writing a good crime story.” - Kristjón Kormákur, Pressan.

SNOWBLIND will be released in English by Orenda Books on June 15th, 2015.

Please welcome Ragnar, who is obviously dreaming of taking a break from his writing.

Stan - Thursday.

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I’m planning a trip to France in the summer of 2016.
It has little (but maybe something) to do with the fact that the weather was very, very poor in Iceland last summer. We hardly saw the sun, and the rain just wouldn’t stay away. We aren’t sure why the weather treated us so badly, but to make matters worse we’ve just experienced a horrendous winters, with one storm after another. Even now, in April, spring is upon us with yet another storm, and this morning there was snow on the streets of Reykjavík. The weather has definitely been providing Icelandic authors with some pretty good settings for dark, cold crime novels, but it hasn’t really been good for anything else.
Sometimes I actually wonder if the bad weather is actually following me. I spent Easter in London, and I got the feeling that it was doing its best to imitate Iceland. The sun didn’t shine until the day I left for the airport to return home. So maybe, staying in France for the summer of 2016 will be a blessing for the people of Iceland.
But, in truth, the real reason for a potential visit to France in 2016 is the Icelandic national football team. In 2011 we (I say “we”, but I personally had nothing to do with it … even if I wish I had) hired the brilliant Swedish manager Lars Lagerbäck as the national coach (a post he now shares with an Icelandic co-manager). 
Lars Lagerbäck
Since then the national team has risen to new and brilliant heights.  I refer you to this wonderful graph:


When Lars (we call everyone by their first names in Iceland, Swedish coaches included) took over, our national team was ranked below the top 100 by FIFA, but now we find ourselves being the 35th-best football team in the world. A couple of years ago, Lars almost took us to the World Cup in Brazil. It was unbelievably close, so close (a narrowly lost play-off game) that tears spring to the eyes of most Icelanders, just thinking about it.
And now, under Lars and his co-manager Heimir Hallgrimsson, we are second in our qualifying group for the European Championships, which will be held, yes, you guessed it, in France in the summer of 2016. Second place, should we hold onto it, gives automatic qualification to the finals, and just to make it clear, Iceland has never ever qualified for a major football tournament. If this can be achieved, the Icelandic nation will go football crazy. (If we miss out on second place, there will probably be more crimes committed in Iceland than in an Yrsa Sigurdardottir novel). The home games of the national team are already sell-out events, and I can’t even being to describe the atmosphere at the national stadium on 13 October last year, when we (again I say “we”, although I’ve never been called up to play for the national team) beat the Netherlands, rather convincingly by 2 goals to nil.
And Iceland’s greatest footballer, Eidur Gudjohnsen, previously of Chelsea and Barcelona fame, has even found his form after having been without a club for some time; now he is back in the national team, scoring goals for both Iceland and his new (and old) club Bolton Wanderers in England.
Eidur Gudjohnsen
Now we need to remain focused and try to hold onto the second spot in our qualifying group. In the meantime, I might book my ticket to France, just in case.
And if we don’t make it there, perhaps I’ll visit anyway. I’ve heard it rains more in Iceland in the summer than in France.
Ragnar - Thursday

8 comments:

  1. Welcome, Ragnar! I find it difficult to believe that Iceland's football team hasn't consulted you with regard to coaching positions, nor even considered you for a position on the team. Perhaps you could land a position in the Public Relations department? You're already doing a fine job of that! :-)

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    1. Thanks. Yes, isn't it strange? :) I have however been called up to an English national football team (a team of English crime writers who played against crime writers from Scotland at Bloody Scotland Festival in Stirling last year; we lost heavily!)

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  2. Can the Scotland team borrow your coach once you have finished with him. We can't even find the team bus never mind the right goal mouth!
    And, yesterday it was brilliant sunshine here and very warm, until ten AM when it started to rain, then hailstones at lunchtime, then snow in the afternoon. By evening there was a deep and nasty frost....

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    1. Absolutely not, sorry. Lars is ours now. (I actually think that he's retiring after 2016.) It sounds like you're describing a typical day in Iceland.

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  3. Sorry to take so long to drop by, Ragnar (and Stan), but I've been without Internet access for the last few days. On summering in France v. Iceland, I dare not take a position for fear of what might possibly befall me at the hands of a single named Icelandic author. But on "Snowblind," which I too had the grand privilege of seeing in advance, I echo Stan's sentiments. It is simply brilliant.

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  4. As an aside to you, Mr. Trollip, I love your new photo and take it as a call to arms to rally the troops--and tropes--around that movement sparked last fall at Ragnar's wonderful Iceland Noir.

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