Crime king Jo Nesboe's tale of revenge has echoes of his own father

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[April 10, 2014]  By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) Jo Nesboe, one of Scandinavia's most successful crime writers, explores revenge and father-son dramas in his latest thriller "The Son", which tracks his own story of learning his father had fought with Hitler's army.

Together with Sweden's Stieg Larsson and fellow Norwegian Karin Fossum, Nesboe is one of the biggest stars of the Nordic Noir genre that has enthralled legions of international readers by exploring the darker side of these prosperous societies.

A former footballer, stockbroker, journalist and rock star, Nesboe has sold more than 20 million copies in some 40 countries worldwide. Hollywood has been knocking at the door and wants to adapt several of his novels.

His latest book tells of a young man in prison who listens to the confessions of other inmates and absolves them of their sins. He escapes from jail when he finds out during a confession a secret about his disgraced father.

"I wanted to build a story around the idea of an avengeful God and the article of faith on Jesus as the executioner of an all powerful God who judges who lives and who dies," he said.

"What if we took it seriously and saw an avengenful son who exacts revenge for him and his father?" Nesboe, 54, told Reuters in a cafe in his western Oslo neighborhood of Majorstua.

The book may have been Nesboe's way to explore his own relationship with his father, especially his discovery as a teenager that he had fought with the Germans on the eastern European front.

Norway was occupied by Hitler's armies during the Second World War. King Haakon VII and the government went into exile, while at home Vidkun Quisling  whose last name is a byword for traitor in English  set up a Nazi puppet government.


"This is something that has certainly a clear parallel to my own discovery that my father fought with the Germans during World War Two, which he told me when I was 15," said Nesboe.

"It is the same age, more or less, when Sonny (the book's main character) discovers that his father had been a traitor. It could be coincidence. Or it could be that I am unconsciously writing about my own father."

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He remembers the shock he felt at the news. "He was a guy I truly admired and respected. I remember, the first picture I got was of my father wearing the German helmet. It was impossible for me to try to picture that.

"I had grown up in a generation watching war movies in which a German soldier was the representation of evil. My father did not fit the bill," he said.

The author is currently working on a new version of Macbeth that may see Shakespeare's tragedy of power and murder set among cops in 1970s Norway or Scotland.

"Macbeth is a crime story. It is a story of murder and deceit to begin with, and of power and greed," said Nesboe.

"I will probably put it in the 1970s. It will not be kings and queens, but the fight over the position of chief of police ... It could be in Oslo, it could be in a city anywhere. Or it could be in Glasgow or Edinburgh."

The project is part of an international publishing initiative that aims to retell the Bard's plays for a modern-day audience. Margaret Atwood will adapt The Tempest. Jeanette Winterson will retell The Winter's Tale.

Nesboe said he would probably not use Shakespeare's own words, even though he finds them "so poetic and powerful".

"It feels almost impossible to use the original dialogue and make your own story," he said.

(Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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