A shortlist and a dilemma

PetronaAwardLogoThe shortlist for the 2016 Petrona Award has been announced. I have a soft spot for the award because it is given in honour of a much-missed reading friend and covers a category of books I’m very partial to (Scandinavian crime fiction that has been translated into English). But I’ve a bit of a problem with this year’s list

The good news (for me) is that I have read three of the six shortlisted novels

  • THE DEFENCELESS by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland)
  • SATELLITE PEOPLE by Hans Olav Lahlum tr. Kari Dickson (Mantle/Pan Macmillan; Norway)
  • DARK AS MY HEART by Antti Tuomainen tr. Lola Rogers (Harvill Secker; Finland)

Frankly I’d find it difficult to pick a winner just from these three though if pressed I think I’d give it to THE DEFENCELESS by the tiniest of margins. Though if you ask me tomorrow I might give a different answer.

Of the remaining three novels there is still time to read them before the winner is announced on May 21 and I already own 2 of them

  • THE CAVEMAN by Jorn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press; Norway)
  • THE DROWNED BOY by Karin Fossum tr. Kari Dickson (Harvill Secker; Norway)

My dilemma is with the final book on the list.

  • THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB by David Lagercrantz tr. George Goulding (MacLehose Press; Sweden)

It’s a problem for me on two levels.

Firstly, though less importantly, one of my self-imposed reading goals for this year was to read no books with Girl in the title. I could be heard muttering phrases such as bandwagon jumping under my breath as I finished the last one and vowed NO MORE! As a counter argument the series that this book is part of did start the current trend for Girl books so cannot really be said to be part of the pack which should probably qualify it for an exemption.

Secondly I have had a lifelong commitment to not reading series books that have been written by someone else after the original series author has died (is there a word for that in English? If so I don’t know it. I bet the Germans have a word for it, they always have good words for complex things). I adore Douglas Adams writing but have not read Eoin Colfer’s sixth installment of Adams’ five book Hitchhiker’s trilogy. Nor I have I read Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot or Eric Van Lustbader’s Bourne novels or Anthony Horowitz’ Bond. To me the borrowing of someone else’s creation and taking it in a direction that cannot possibly – however decent the intent – be what the original author would have done feels morally questionable and it has been my practice to avoid it. But am I wrong? The older I get the more wrong I seem to have been about most things (I did for example scoff at the absurdity of that Simpson’s episode where Lisa had to rebuild America after a Trump presidency) so perhaps I should change my thinking?

Anyone got any definite opinions on the matter? Am I being obstinate or principled? Is it really OK for someone to take someone else’s literary creation and have their way with them (so to speak). Should I read this Girl book or not?

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28 Responses to A shortlist and a dilemma

  1. kathy d. says:

    OK. I have an opinion on whether or not to read The Girl in the Spider’s Web. I read it and liked it, thought it well-thought-out and well-written. And I liked Stieg Larsson’s millennium trilogy.
    In fact, I thought it was better written than some of the three “Girl” books. And, as a woman friend (who liked Larsson’s books) said to me of the Lagercrantz, there was no gratuitous violence, no brutality against women and no misogyny, which were traits of the trilogy.
    And Lizbeth Salander is well-portrayed and plays a good role in solving the mystery.
    I think the book has been wrongly maligned and should be judged on its own.
    Also, it has nothing to do with the current fad of “Girl” books. I read “The Girl on the Train,” couldn’t put it down. After I read it, I asked myself if I just wasted a weekend. It’s not well-written and the three women characters are indistinguishable from each other.
    And I will not read “Gone Girl,” refuse to do it. And any book that is first person present tense with “Girl” in the title will not be read by me.
    But Lagercrantz’s book is not like that at all. It’s a book about a murder, a child with
    autism who sees it, some math symbols and an investigation with a brilliant Salander
    playing a key role.
    I’d like to see what you say about the books you have read and will read.
    I loved “The Defenceless,” and the book before it in the series.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ordinarily, Bernadette, I’m with you about reading follow-ons written by other people I also think, though, that there are just enough exceptions to prove the rule, so to speak. I know people who’ve read The Girl in the Spider’s Web and really enjoyed it, so perhaps you’ll have a good reading experience. I, honestly, probably won’t read it, but that’s me being a cranky, impossible dedicated purist.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jose Ignacio says:

    I fully subscribe your post Bernadette and have no interest in reading The Girl in the Spider’s Web

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Patti Abbott says:

    I also detest the trend of making past writers or minor characters major characters in a book. Create your own characters and breathe life into them. Don’t trade on other writers work. Even Shakespeare’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. vicky blake says:

    I think it depends how it’s done. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys takes the ‘mad wife’ in Jane Eyre and breathes some understanding and life into her so that she is no longer just A MAD WOMAN. I think that is a brilliant book. Also I’ve just read The Merseault Investigation by Kamel Daoud which is narrated from the point of view of the brother of the unnamed man who is killed in Camus’ The Outsider. I really enjoyed that as well. The trouble comes, I think, when you suspect it’s just publishers cashing in …

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Norman Price says:

    Bernadette, I agree with you. One of the main pleasures in reading crime fiction is the search for an original character, or an original plot twist, and both are becoming more and more difficult.
    I don’t want to read a new Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle, or Ian Fleming; I would prefer to read a new original Sophie Hannah, Val McDermid, or Anthony Horowitz. But then I am a pedantic old dinosaur.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. tracybham says:

    In general I agree with the points in your post, although I have read and enjoyed some continuations of some mystery series. (The Nero Wolfe series for one.)

    I had not planned to read THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB (mainly because I did not like the series itself that much… even though I read all three of them). But now I may consider it since it is on the Petrona Award short list. I am assuming that means it has some good points. But still not in a hurry to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. icewineanne says:

    Not a fan either, of publishers who keep a popular series alive by using other writers. I refuse to read the continuations. I’m also amazed that writers still use that unimaginative word ‘girl’ in the titles of their books.
    Where i differ is when authors use the same setting but tell the tale from a different point of view. I recently read Longbourn, told from the servants point of view & really enjoyed it, and the setting. Even though the setting & background characters were not original, the main story was. 🐸

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder if it isn’t perhaps publishers who push the Girl fad…or whatever the latest trend is rather than the writers themselves? Or perhaps that’s just me wanting to believe the best of writers? On one hand I suppose you can’t blame any of them given how hard it must be to get noticed these days and there are squillions more titles being published than there are people to read them. Even so I get so tired of the bandwagoneers 🙂

      For = 1, Against = 4, Wavering = 3

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  9. Anonymous says:

    I think that people should read the Lagercrantz book and then make a decision, not prejudge it.
    I say this as a fan of Stieg Larsson’s books. And since the eminent judges for the Petrona award put this on a shortlist, they thought it a good book.
    We all have different opinions about books; that’s a good thing.
    But I think readers will be pleasantly surprised.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anonymous says:

    That last message was from Kathy D. I’m at a different computer now.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kathy. P says:

    From what I understand, Stieg Larsson had already started writing, but not completed a 4th book in ‘The Girl’ series. Was Lagercrantz able to see what Larsson had already written and wove the rest of the plot around that, or did he just write a brand new book based on the previous 3? Either way, critics will always base their thoughts on what they like or don’t like. In my humble opinion, read a book and see for yourself, and ‘don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!.😉

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    • From what I’ve gleaned Kathy P Lagercrantz has seen Larsson’s notes but not used them as the basis for his book(s) (there are apparently more coming).

      To be clear I’m not proposing to judge a book I haven’t read. If I choose not to read it I’ll say no more. But I do feel a right to an opinion about the notion of one writer ‘borrowing’ (stealing?) another writer’s creations for their own purposes/gain. It has always felt morally questionable to me, not least because in many instances it would be illegal if the original creator were still alive. I’m yet to be convinced that a thing you have to wait for someone to die to do is a good thing, even if it might be perfectly legal by then.

      For = 2, Against = 4, Wavering = 3

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  12. Anonymous says:

    The two Kathy’s agree and the Petrona judges thought Lagercrantz’s book good enough to nominate it for the award.
    I agree everyone has their own values about this type of publication, but I who was a
    skeptic was pleasantly surprised with the book. But to each his or her own taste.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did notice the Kathy agreement…a Kathy Konspiracy? LOL

      I have no doubt the Lagercrantz book is good – I trust the Petrona Award judges and your own taste too. I’m just not convinced that he had a moral right to trade on someone else’s efforts (‘cos let’s face it, he’d have had a very different publishing experience if he wasn’t continuing a very famous series). But yes we can all agree to disagree and still be friends

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  13. I hated the Dragon Tattoo book so much that I wasn’t tempted to read any more, let alone additions from other writers. The word ‘Girl’ in itself wouldn’t put me off, though I do see your point. In general I very much dislike the idea of continuations of series, although can be persuaded by a book from another angle, as in Sargasso Sea mentioned above.

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  14. kathy d. says:

    I understand the moral dilemma here. I wanted to not like the Lagercrantz book, but my opinion of it outweighed the “ethics” of it.
    Does it matter that the author is dead? He isn’t losing money on Lagercrantz’s book’s publication.
    I’m still angry that Larsson’s family received funds from his estate and his partner of 32 years — who helped him with the books — received nothing. Under Swedish law, because they were not “legally” married, she received nothing.
    I wonder what she thinks about he Lagercrantz book.

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  15. kathy d. says:

    The plot thickens. I investigated further on the Larsson family vs. Eva Gabrielsson scenario. The Larssons wanted Lagercrantz to write the book; they said they’d give proceeds to the magazine Stieg founded. Gabrielsson was against Lagercrantz writing the book.
    According to Lee Child, NY Times reviewer of this new book, said that Gabrielsson said that Lagercrantz wouldn’t portray Stieg’s view of Blomkvist with passion and radical politics. That is true. That isn’t shown with Blomkvist’s character. He’s simply a journalist.
    Salander is really the hero. Her brilliance and difficulties are shown, and that, apparently,
    is what draws people to the books.
    My ethics and sympathy lie with Gabrielsson. Because of Sweden’s legal system, she was cut out financially and the Larssons cut her out in every other way.
    But I read the book and liked it. I will probably read others, but I hope that Gabrielsson can get some justice here with her claims.

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    • Kathy. P says:

      Completely agree with you there Kathy. I wasn’t sure about reading the book at first, but curiosity got the better of me, and I really enjoyed it too. I also agree that Gabrielsson was treated very badly by Larsson’s family (what a miserable bunch 😠), and that she’s missed out financially is grossly unfair. Larsson would no doubt be furious to know that this had happened, and I really hope that things turn out well for her. Swedish law appears to be an ass!

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  16. Oh I’m not going to read Spiders Web. Mostly on principle (even though I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with it) but I also failed to finish book 3 in the millennium trilogy as I lost interest – the 60 pages of political background killed it for me, particularly when two of the politicians had the same name – it’s fiction, you can change the name!
    Anyway, I’ve read Hiekkapelto and Tuomainen and (today – it will keep changing) Dark as My Heart wins.

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  17. (Both are wonderful; imaging being a judge!)

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