Bloody Scotland – Arne Dahl talks murder, crime fiction and…haggis

Arne Dahl is no ordinary Swedish crime writer. For one he has two names (a real one and a pen name), he has a map open on the table in front of him ‘looking for somewhere to bury a body’ and he likes a mean feast of haggis…

Well I am here today to talk about Bloody Scotland with him so he is definitely getting into character!

Hej Arne

Arne Dahl © Sara Arnald 2011
Arne Dahl © Sara Arnald 2011

Do you think that when you visit Stirling for the Bloody Scotland festival you may want to use the setting in a book?

I really love the Scottish landscapes in general, they are quite unique, all in their own way. And Stirling is such a brilliant little medieval city, with such an amazing history, that it well deserves a good killing. I need one more visit to decide where to bury the corpse.  (For those of you in Stirling between 11th and 13th September for Bloody Scotland…watch out 😉


Why do you enjoy Bloody Scotland? Are there parallels between the landscape of Sweden and Scotland for you?

There are definitely enough similarities to make you feel at home as a Swede, yes – the people, the landscape, the political attitudes – the weather. But basically it’s about the feeling of being truly welcome.

How have you felt getting your books written as a television series?

It’s a different kind of writing, and I have been doing enough of that myself to realize how difficult it is to transform novel prose into television language. And in general I think they did a great job. But there were distinctive worries beforehand, I promise.

Why do you feel Sweden and Stockholm are good settings for crime novels?

Maybe it’s because of the clash between beauty and horror. Maybe it’s because of the relative distance to the real violence of the world today. Maybe it’s even because there is this (slightly misleading) idea of Sweden being some kind of perfect welfare state. And it’s always a bit of fun watching perfection crumble…

Strandvägen (c) I99pema/Wikicommon Strandvägen, the coastal street of Östermalm, the most luxurious part of Stockholm, with absurdly big and posh apartments. Home of one of the first victims in Bad Blood.
Strandvägen (c) I99pema/Wikicommon
Strandvägen, the coastal street of Östermalm, the most luxurious part of Stockholm, with absurdly big and posh apartments. Home of one of the first victims in Bad Blood.

Do you share any similarities with Paul Hjelm?

Quite a few, I fear, not least his shortcomings. On the other hand, my storytelling is based on a kind of collective approach, where all the members of the A Unit are equally strong as protagonists. I suppose they all represent me, in different ways, but Paul is probably the most realistic representation…

What kind of research did you bring into your creation of the A Unit which seems to have quite a mix of characters within it!?

What I wanted was simply a somewhat representative mix of people from the Swedish society around the turn of the millennium. Normal, reasonably well-functioning citizens – with their fair share of personal problems – that just happen to be police officers. The basic idea was simply to put a number of realistic characters together, plunge them deep into darkness, and see if the circumstances would make them function as a real team. And I think they did.arne dahl europe blues

Will you be sampling any Scottish cuisine on your visit here? What Swedish food would you recommend to us?

I definitely have a haggis every time I go to Scotland – and this time will be no exception – but the core of your cuisine is of course the whisky. Last year I went to Islay to enjoy the local cuisine…

Swedish food is a rather short story. It’s basically about different kinds of more or less raw fish, like salmon and herring. But if you want a special tip, I suggest looking at the YouTube clips with Americans trying to eat “surströmming” (“soured herring”), a fermented, very smelly fish from northern Sweden. That should make you feel welcome in Sweden. 

With that, the very thought of having to try “surströmming” again ( I can still smell it from the first time I tried it) I’m off before he gets the chance to offer it again. Haggis however is another matter and more apt of course for the Bloody Scotland festival. It’s been a real pleasure to meet you Arne, to practise the Swedish again and to revisit Stockholm (Although I will see Strandvägen and many other places in a whole new light!) Hej Hej!

Arne is appearing at Bloody Scotland  –

Saturday 12 September from 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm