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Snuten i skymningslandet. Svenska polisberättelser i roman och film 1965-2010 Michael Tapper, Snuten i skymningslandet. Svenska polisberättelser i roman och film 1965-2010 (The Cop in Land of Twilight. Swedish Police Narratives in Novels and Films 1965-2010)

Nordic Academic Press,  2011.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson in SBR 2012:2

Review Section: Non-Fiction about Crime Fiction

Reviewed by Anna Paterson, with added thoughts on publishing foreign non-fiction

Crime fiction has been coming up in the world during the 45-year period that defines Michal Tapper’s subject: what was regarded as an undemanding line in leisure reading has become a cultural phenomenon substantial enough to be analysed in works like this exceptionally well-documented doctoral thesis.For the non-specialist reader, Snuten skymningslandet is actually tremendous ‘leisure reading’ in its own right and my personal nomination for bedside-table book of the year – large enough to be always there for you, a great source of information and an articulate companion to a literary genre.

But, above all, it is a study of recent social and cultural history as it is reflected in the more or less distorting mirrors set up by crime fiction writers,and a careful investigation into the structure and influence of crime fiction as popular art on screen and in print,not only in Sweden but also in Europe and the USA. Space does not allow me to list or comment on even the authors under discussion, let alone discuss the treatment of their books and films and TV series, but I can confirm that all the well-known names are included. So are many of the less familiar figures, like the prolific and once much-read Olov Svedelid (184 books in total) and the semi-fictional character Johan Falk, an admired film super-cop based on a real police infiltrator. Cultural and political aspects are mainly integrated into the discussions of each writer’s body of work.

In summary, The Cop in the Land of Twilight is a major work of contemporary non-fiction, excellent reading and a wonderful source of reference – but will it ever be translated?

Thoughts on publishing foreign non-fiction:

‘Probably not’ is the answer to that question. The road to the market place is rocky. One obstacle is that, as a rule, non-fiction does not sell well. Some books, usually about cooking or health or life stories, may become exceptions, but the sales outlook is bleak overall. The corollary is that serious non-fiction – mainly the stock-in-trade of academic publishers – is seen as dubious. When translation is required, the anxiety level goes up. Fiction from abroad is beginning to get through the barrier of publishers’ distrust, but foreign non-fiction usually has to come complete with a package of 100% funding of everything from translation (often technical and hence expensive) to illustration and marketing. Because academic publishers are used to a grateful clientele of salaried academic writers, whose status can only increase if they get a book out, authors’ advances are negligible or, often, nil. The money spent on marketing tends to be minimal, too, the effect of which reinforces all concerned in their belief that ‘non-fiction doesn’t sell’.

I would like to think that by focusing, from time to time, on Swedish nonfiction, Bookshelf might help to draw attention to some of the valuable new writing in this tiny but disproportionately vigorous and interesting area. AP.

Other reviews by Anna Paterson

Other reviews in SBR 2012:2

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