by Jorn Lier Horst, Norway
In Norway, Easter is peak season for reading crime fiction. This is a strange phenomenon that has also spread to TV, radio and newspapers. Crime stories are everywhere at Easter time, with miniature crime puzzles even printed on milk cartons.
|Crime Puzzle on 24 million milk cartons in Norway at Easter|
The crime tradition may of course be linked to the original roots of the Easter celebration, stemming as it does from a gory and dramatic crime story, namely the trial of the religious fanatic Jesus of Nazareth. However, the connection between the crime genre and the Christian festival is nonetheless a distinctively Norwegian institution. People do also celebrate Easter in other corners of the globe without resorting to reading crime fiction.
A number of explanations are suggested for the roots of this peculiarity. For example, it’s true that in Norway we have the world’s longest Easter holidays, and crime novels are especially popular holiday reading. In the past it was also true that crime literature was mainly published in paperback editions, easy to transport in a rucksack into the mountains at Easter. In fact, Norwegian mountain ranges are littered with old, tattered crime books that were never carried down again!
Another, more speculative, theory is that our springtime thirst for blood and attraction to crime is a relic from pagan times when blood sacrifices were offered prior to summer to ensure abundant harvests.
|Mistaken newspaper advert from 1923|
|First Norwegian Easter Crime fiction|
It is more probable that market forces have played a greater role in the development of this Easter crime fiction custom than we like to admit. It all began more than ninety years ago, when the author Jonathan Jerv wrote a crime novel in 1923 about a robbery on the Bergen train, with both action and publication taking place at Easter. On the weekend before Easter Sunday, the publishers splashed a large advert on the front pages of all the major national newspapers with the book title, Bergen Train Robbed Last Night, in bold letters. It would have taken a very observant reader to notice that this was in fact a publisher’s advert rather than a newspaper headline. People believed that the train had been hijacked. The campaign was so successful that the book was completely sold out within a short time, and a new season for the publication of crime fiction was established.
So the question is: what are you going to read this Easter?
Jorn Lier Horst