The Story of a Crime – Maj Sjövall, Per Wahlöö

IMG_20141226_204741“Ever since the 70’s, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö were the godfathers of Scandinavian crime.  They broke the crime novels in Scandinavia from the kiosks and into the serious bookstores.”

Jo Nesbø

This story is in reality 10 stories or a series of 10 novels, written by husband and wife team, Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall between 1965 – 1975, featuring detective Martin Beck and his colleagues in the National Police Homicide Department in Stockholm.

They had never written anything together before – Maj Sjövall wasn’t even a writer – but somehow the idea came up of writing a series of crime books. “We realised that people read crime and through the stories we could show the reader that under the official image of welfare-state Sweden there was another layer of poverty, criminality and brutality. We wanted to show where Sweden was heading: towards a capitalistic, cold and inhuman society, where the rich got richer, the poor got poorer.”

They also wanted to create more realistic stories, get away from the long-standing convention of the lone genius detective. To achieve this they did meticulous research before each book and followed policemen to see how they really worked. They wanted to create credible policemen, and the result was Martin Beck and his similarly flawed colleagues. There is no one hero. The policemen irritate one another in the same way that anyone who has ever worked in an office will recognise. Mannerisms grate. Tempers flare. Yet they spend more time with one another than they do with their wives – those who can hold down a marriage, that is. Today we’re so used to realistic fictional coppers that it’s easy to forget that Beck is the prototype for practically every portrayal of a policeman ever since, in UK, America, or Europe. Also, Beck and his colleagues paved way for new writers using crime and criminal investigations as mirrors of society. 


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