Have a Horrible, Horrible Christmas

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a widely acclaimed seasonal classic.
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a widely acclaimed seasonal classic.

REALLY!!!

No not really, but Christmas time is a great occasion for storytelling and all those stories need not be about nutcrackers and sugar plum fairies. In fact, if you step back and take a close look at some of the tall tales that circulate on these longest of winter nights, you will find that quite a few delve into the darkness of men’s souls. From Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, innovative storytellers have been more than willing to celebrate the Yule time with a grisly tale. And guess what……they have been very successful at capturing our attention.

My Story

Recently, Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds posted a Christmas Flash Fiction challenge. In this quest, he suggested that interested participants write a 2,000 word horror story about Christmas. To put things in his own words: “The holidays are in fact ripe with horror — meat and candy, mythological creatures who spy on you, winter hellscapes, animated toys. So many options for terror!”

My response ran a little over the suggested 2,000 word limit, but here it is anyway, a dark Christmas tale from the Canadian North Woods.

Le Loup Garou (the French-Canadian Werewolf)

a Short Story by Henri Bauhaus

The old timers said that the winters in the spruce forests of Northern Ontario were not as cold as they used to be. According to these elderly gents, there once was a time, when the Wendigo River would freeze solid as a rock from Thanksgiving till Easter. The frigid winter would even solidify Jim McKenzie Falls, a twelve foot high rock ledge that ran the breadth of the northward flowing river. They also often lamented that on some nights it would get so cold that your spit would freeze before it hit the ground.

But there was no need to tell Sam Wiggins that…for he learned all about the awesome North Woods winter, the hard way. The unfortunate event took place on an icy December night, when the trees of the forest were going snap, crackle and pop, as the temperature plunged well below zero. So cold were these solstice nights that not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Sam’s boss man, Patrick Munster, had given Sam and his crew both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. But in the year of our Lord, 1925, Christmas fell on a Sunday, so for the Monday following the most revered holiday, Mr. Cargill expected all twelve loggers to be present and accounted for at 8 a.m. at the Wendigo branch of the Tamarack Paper company. It mattered nil that Monday was Boxing Day and the Feast of Saint Stephen was nigh. To the delight of the paper bosses, Christmas had conveniently fallen on a weekend and come hell or high water Patrick Munster was going to get a week of work from his hardy gang. before the new year rolled in.

The loggers had put in a good day on the Friday before Christmas, so Patrick gave the whole crew the latter part of the day off. The earnest penny-pincher even had a modest cash bonus for all the men, including the ones, who had only been on the crew for just a few months. It had been a good year for the Tamarack Paper Company and the seasoned foreman had been given a small wad of cash and told to disperse it evenly among the crew. Patrick did so without fanfare or keeping even a token amount for himself, an unselfish decision that was rare amongst the company foremen.

Not only did Patrick know the woods well, but he also understood the ways of his men very well. For he knew that sooner or later many of them would end up in the same tavern and that one of the first subjects of conversation would be about their Christmas bonuses. When the subject did come up, Ole Patrick wanted it to be known that his crew got the best bonus possible. For his Christmas kindness, the old Irishman knew that he would reap the benefits in the springtime, when the work gangs were just getting together for the upcoming year.

With only an hour or so of daylight left in the gray, December sky, Sam and several of his fellow loggers headed straight for the Laughing Loon Saloon, which was located just a few doors down from the office of the paper company. From the twelve man crew, only Sam and two of his buddies, Gil McHall and Emit Harding, made it through the front door of the busy drinking establishment.

Once inside, they were promptly seated by an overworked barmaid, who quickly set the trio up with a round of O’Keefe’s Ale and a couple shots each of Seagram’s Canadian Whiskey. Sam lead the first toast.

With glasses raised he said: “Here’s to the overworked lumberjack and the cheap-ass timber company that can’t afford more than a couple days off for its dedicated employees.”

“Aye, aye,” said Gil and Emit in unison, as they clanked glasses together.

“And here’s to the two month furlough we got coming after the New Year,” said Emit, as he raised his second shot glass. “May God rest our weary bones.”

This time Sam and Gil chipped in with a hearty, “Hail, hail.”

After setting their empty shot glass on the round wooden table, each man instinctively started sipping their brew.

“So I hear you plan to spend the winter break up here on the river,” said Gil.

Sam responded. “You got that right. The company offered me some part-time employment and a bed in the bunkhouse until we get going again in the spring.”

“No shit,” said Gil. “Whatcha goin’ to be doin’?”

“Repairing snowshoes, sharpening axes and shit like that,” said Sam.

“That won’t last very long,” said Emit.

“I hope not,” said Sam. “Cause I was planning to set out some traplines, so I can catch me a bunch of snowshoe hares and maybe a lynx or two.”

“There’s always money to be made, ain’t there,” said Gil.

“One way or another,” said Sam, as he took a moment to down the beer from his heavy, glass mug. Then Sam summoned the barmaid, a sweet young lady named Heidi, who was aged somewhere around 30.

“You guys want another round,” asked the shapely lady, as she whirled by the table.

“Just the ale,” said Sam.

“No more whiskey,” inquired the barmaid.

“I’ll do another shot,” piped in Gil.

“Me too,” added Emit.

“One more shot all around,” asked Heidi, as she lay her hand on Sam’s shoulder and swung her long blond braids near enough the tired lumberjack, so he could catch a whiff of her spruce shampoo.

“Hell….make it two,” said Sam. “We got a lot to talk about tonight.”

“Be right back,” said Heidi, while swooping up the empty shot glasses and placing them on her circular tray.

Then she left the table and disappeared behind the bar.

“That’s one foxy lady,” said Sam, as he watched the barmaid fix up a new round of drinks for the hard-working timber cutters.

“You can look all you want to,” said Gil. “But that lady’s spoken for.”

“I can dream, can’t I,” replied Sam.

“No harm in that,” said Emit. “Just don’t get any nutty ideas as the night rolls on.”

“Don’t worry ’bout me, I’m headed up to Moose Crossing for the holiday,” said Sam.

“You ain’t goin’ up that ways tonight, are you?” asked Gil.

“I was kind of thinkin’ of it,” said Sam. “You have a problem with that?”

“No way,” said Gil. “It’s just that it’s a good five to seven miles on a three-foot snowpack.”

“I can handle that,” said Sam.

“Just checking,” said Gil.

“You’re not going to pass on some nonsense about the Loup de Garou,” said Sam.

“You mean the French-Canadian werewolf,” asked Gil.

Just then Heidi returns with the next round of drinks and sets them on the table.

“Here you go guys.”

“Thanks Heidi,” said Sam. “You’re a real sweetheart.”

“Just doing my job,” said Heidi. “By the way I didn’t overhear you talking about le Loup de Garou, did I?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” said Emit. “That ghastly creature, which only comes out on the longest nights of the year.”

“There’s no such thing,” said Gil.

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” replied Heidi.

“You’re pulling my leg aren’t you,” said Gil.

“I used to think like that,” said Heidi.

“What changed your mind?” asked Sam.

“A few midnight stragglers with the fear of death in their eyes.”

“Here at the Laughing Loon,” inquired Emit.

“Every winter, one or two show up with some weird tale about being followed by a strange creature. I used to pass it off as some drunken nonsense….but I just can’t do that no more.”

“Why’s that?” asked Sam.

“Some of them were stone cold sober!”

Heidi walks away leaving the three men to their drinks.

One hour later, Sam, Emit and Gil were outside the Laughing Loon strapping on their snowshoes, which had been left out in the snow, while the three men were inside drinking.

“You’re not serious about trekking up to Moose Crossing night,” asked Emit.

“Sure am,” said Sam. “And I hope you’re not serious about that French werewolf bullshit.”

“Of course not,” said Emit. “It’s just the night is turning into a real cold one and a lot can happen in five miles of night walking.”

Sam finishes lashing on his webbed walking contraptions and then stands upright.

“Don’t worry, Emit. I know where I’m going. Besides I got a rising full moon to guide me.”

“I’m sure Sam can take care of himself,” said Gil.

“Alright then,” said Emit. “See you bright and early on Monday.”

With those words, Sam left his two companions and began following a packed snowy trail down to the banks of the Wendigo River. The rising moon cast its rays across the frozen tributary, creating a spectacularly beautiful scene that rivaled the best paintings ever done. Sam reveled in the beauty of the wintry, nocturnal scene, for the white bark of the river birches sparkled in the moonglow with an eerie iridescence, unlike anything that Sam had ever witnessed.

About half way to Moose Crossing, Sam heard some heavy breathing that seemed to be coming up the trail from behind. At first, the solitary walker thought that there was another person out on the trail……after all it was a popular path that connected the two wilderness outposts.

But every time Sam turned around, there was nothing visible.

Another mile along the river trail and the breathing seemed to be closing in, so Sam increased his pace….not a good idea on a sub-zero December night. Soon, Sam came to a top of a knoll, where the snow was particularly deep and the shoeing was overly strenuous. Naturally, Sam stopped to catch his breath. It was at this juncture that Sam noticed a pair of green eyes glowing in the dark forest and he thought he could dimly make out the condensation of someone exhaling amidst the thick cover of spruce trees.

In no time Sam resumed his march through the December night, but now a new urgency pumped his body full of adrenalin and pushed him onwards to his final destination at an alarming speed. The heavy breathing did not stop, as Sam kept his eyes fixed forward…..too terrified to turn around.

As the trail descended from the small knoll, Sam used the downward slope to propel himself forward underneath the frozen canopy. Another incline and Sam was sweating profusely, as he made his tired legs lift his long, wooden walking aids along the snowy path. Each step seemed harder and harder and instinctively Sam knew he would not last long in this arctic environment at his present pace. If the phantom behind did not get him, his overexertion would. There was no way out.

Then at the top of the next hill a glimmer of hope appeared. It was the glow of an occupied cabin that seemed to be situated about a mile in front of him. Sam did not trust his own eyes, but he had no choice….And that was to propel himself forward, as best he could, and hope that his vision was real and that he would reach the place of human habitation before being consumed by the spirit behind him.

The last mile was the most physically excruciating and mentally terrifying minutes that he ever experienced in his 45 years on the planet. The breathing from behind got heavier and heavier. At times it seemed like the breath of the monster was all around him.

Finally, Sam was a hundred yards away from the lighted cabin. He couldn’t believe it. It seemed so real that he could smell the woodsmoke pouring out the chimney and he could barely distinguish the muffled sound of human voices. They were joyous sounds like those that might come from a merry party.

At last, Sam reached out for the metal latch that kept the cabin door closed tight and separated the warm heated interior from the frigid night. Sam wholly-expected the whole building to be a figment of his imagination, but it wasn’t, as he released the latch and stumbled across a finished maple floor with his snowshoes still attached to his feet.

Immediately, the joyful banter turned to dead silence. The first thing Sam noticed was a huge fire burning in a fireplace that was located to his right. Directly, in front of Sam was a long bar with a banner hanging from the ceiling that said: “Welcome To Hell”. The bartender had a bright red, painted face and two horns emerging from the sides of his head. Worse of all he had an uncanny resemblance to Jim McKenzie, the brave logger who had died ten years before in a logjam right above the waterfalls that now bore his name in honorarium.

When the bartender spoke, Sam passed out.

Immediately, a small crowd gathered around the exhausted logger. A woman splashed her drink in Sam’s face and he came to.

Sam looked at the bartender and blurted out: “You’re Jim McKenzie and you’re dead.”

Immediately, the sounds of laughter filled the one-room cabin.

“No sir,” then the bartender paused for a few long seconds. “I’m Doug McKenzie, Jim’s older brother. Even though Jim passed away ten years ago, people still get us mixed up. It happens all the time.”

“What the fuck is going on here?” said Sam.

Another loud burst of laughter passes through the twenty or so people gathered in the lonely cabin.

“Welcome to Hell Night!” said Doug. “We do this once a year right before Christmas.”

Slowly, Sam surveys the room and notices that all the people are in costume, most of them quite dreadful.

“You’re kidding me,” said Sam.

“I kid you not,” said Doug. “But I do have one question for you.”

“What’s that?” said Sam.

“What caused you to come bursting through the front door with your snowshoes still attached to your feet?”

“I was being followed by the Loup de Garou,”

Another deathly silence swept through the room.

Then the fire flickered and one of the windows fogged up from the outside. A few seconds later another window fogged up, as two wolf-like eyes could be seen glowing outside in the night. And they seemed to be looking into the cabin.

Then the eyes disappeared and faint footsteps could be heard leading away from the cabin.

When things returned to normal, Doug leaned over and spoke to Sam.

“That ain’t no werewolf!”

“Then what the hell is it?” asked Sam.

“It’s a ghost wolf,” said Doug.

“A what?”

“An appearance by a ghost wolf is rare,” said Jim. “But when they do appear, they always take somebody back with them.”

The End

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The Modern Day Fairy Tale

Little Red Riding Hood, from wikipedia, im
Little Red Riding Hood, from wikipedia, photo by Krakin

Strange Inspiration

One might think that recent Hollywood feature productions would be the major inspiration for my latest short story, a take on Little Red Riding Hood. But a much more likely influence are the cartoons that I saw as a youth, especially the Fractured Fairy Tales segment occasionally aired on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. For some strange reason unbeknowst to me, fairy tales never seem to lose their timeless qualities.

Other Toons

Growing up in the sixties, I was a great fan of Saturday morning cartoons. In fact so popular was the medium that some animated programs, the Flintstones and the Jetsons come to mind, were shown during prime time hours. However, when dealing with the adaptions of fairy tales to the TV medium, Rocky and Bullwinkle were not the only culprits. Influences from the Grimm Brothers, Hans Chritian Andersen and other folklorists would occasionally appear in other venues as well, such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Betty Boop and  etc. And then there were the feature films that Walt Disney made, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which were really forerunners to recent releases like Snow White and The Huntsman and The Brothers Grimm.

Snow White, Then and Now

Snow White as portrayed by Ginnifer Goodwin in the ABC series, Once Upon a Time, from wikipedia
Snow White as portrayed by Ginnifer Goodwin in the ABC series, Once Upon a Time, from wikipedia

Snow White, the cartoon character

 

My Literary Effort

My literary effort is entitled A Forest Tale and it is free this week at Smashwords. I wrote it for an anthology at Bette Noire that was devoted to the modern retelling of old fairy tales. The story was rejected in the final round, but it did receive a nice letter from one of the reviewers, (a rarity in my literary experience). The story is set in royal China and characters include a lady in red, a big bad wolf, a pompous king, some hunters and a diplomat from a faraway land. So here it is for your own reading enjoyment.

How Not To Write A Novel

The beach is a great place to relax, from Wikipedia, photo by Maria
The beach is a great place to relax, from Wikipedia, photo by Maria Ly

WSJ’s Take On How To Write a Great Novel

Not long ago, there appeared an article in the Wall Street Journal about How To Write A Great Novel. Even though the WSJ in the 21st century is not quite something that you would call a politically-correct enterprise, I decided to check out the piece anyway; as I have always wanted to create my very own Great American Novel. To my surprise he articlet was a great read, although the title was a bit misleading. That is because there was no writing advice here (Thank God), but instead, the reader was treated with a humorous essay on some of the odd habits, various writers exhibit during the writing process. Leave it to the Wall Street Journal to come up with an idea like this.

In the 1800s there existed a two cent piece, from Wikipedia, photo by Jerry Woody
In the 1800s there existed a two cent piece, from Wikipedia, photo by Jerry Woody

My Dilemma 

I would love to put in my two cents about how to write a novel, but the problem is I haven’t published anything of that length……just a few short stories and those venues were online. Fortunately, all is not lost, for I do have lots of experience with how to not write a novel. So for all you wannabe novelists out there here is the real deal………on how not to write a novel.

640px-Liquor_Cabinet_(4233482692)
the liquor shelves at the Hotel Tirolerhof, from Wikipedia, by xlibber

1. Go to an exotic location! – This is a complete waist of time. Chances you will be so enthralled and overwhelmed by your new environment that you will be unable to write. Wide sandy beaches, five star restaurants, spectacular hiking trails and world-class opera halls can make for a great vacation, but a lousy writing prompt. (However, if you stay in one place long enough to be considered an ex-pat, then this strategy might work)

2. Get Drunk! – True some of the greatest literary bards have been notorious alcoholics (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dylan Thomas, Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill come first to mind), but chances are that their best literary works preceded their descent into the bottle. (Then there’s always Hunter Thompson)

3. Get Good Writing Advice! – Yuck…..just the thought of this makes me sick.

4. Surf the Web! – There are a million places, where you find neat sites that eat up your time. Some of my favorites are StumbleUpon, Flickr, Astronomy Picture of the Day, the Smithsonian and National Geographic.

5. Blog! – Actually, blogging could help improve your writing skills, especially if you ever read what your written after its finished. Yet still, there is the issue of why I am I writing this silly post, when I could be working on bigger things. That’s exactly the dilemma I am facing now.

6. Go to the movies! – A lot of fascinating reads have been converted to  entertaining movies, plus there are a few select films that have been made about great writers. (I think Truman Capote rated two) All of this is fine and dandy, but it probably won’t put any words on your page.

7. Get a nice laptop with a state of the art novel writing program! – Kind of expensive and not really necessary. All you need is a lined notebook and a pen. Come to think of it a pencil on plain paper might work too.

8. Go To A Writers’ Conference! – Like number 2, this activity is best left until after you finish your manuscript unless of course you plan to write a novel about a writing conference.

9. Go To a Literary Event! (i.e. book reading or book fair) – A great place to meet other folks, who  are doing the same thing you are. Avoiding a w.i.p.

10. Go To the Library – This activity could be beneficial, if you can find a secluded corner, where nobody can bother. But stay away from the magazine rack, music room and stacks of fiction books. These things only act as distractions.

437px-París

 

Johny Depp Is at It Again

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean
Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean

Johnny Depp the Literary Agent

Johnny Depp is at it again…….and I’m not talking about another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, though it is quite possible that an additional jaunt through the Caribbean is in the works. (Why kill a good thing?) No, what has caught my interest this time is the 2013 release of a Woody Guthrie novel entitled House of Earth. And please don’t use the lame excuse that Mr. Guthrie has been deceased for almost 50 years…..That won’t work. You see Woody Guthrie published two books when he was alive. In case you aren’t aware of these literary efforts, they are titled Bound for Glory and Seeds of Man….and they’re both autobiographical. So it’s no great stretch to surmise that somewhere there’s a half-way-decent Woody Guthrie novel floating around.

Birthplace of Woody Guthrie in Okfusgee County, OK  Historic American Buildings Survey. Walter Smalling, photographer
Birthplace of Woody Guthrie in Okfusgee County, OK Historic American Buildings Survey. Walter Smalling, photographer

Woody Guthrie’s Posthumous Music Release

Mermaid Avenue is the name of the album and it featured Billy Bragg along with a band called Wilco and together they performed and recorded a whole slew of never-before-heard Woody Guthrie tunes. Overall, the collection is pretty good with my favorite being Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, a fun little tune about growing up in Okfusgee County in Oklahoma. What is most amazing about this selection of songs is that the lyrics were left behind by Woody. So without benefit of any musical notations, Billy Bragg took on the task of creating musical folk compositions from the bag of words. The outcome is pretty amazing really……and has resulted in additional compositions from the trove of leftover lyrics held by Woody’s daughter Nora (both by Billy Bragg and other musicians).

Woody Guthrie with the captioned guitar, This Guitar Kills Fascist, by Al Aumuller/New York World-Telegram and the Sun from wikipedia
Woody Guthrie with the captioned guitar, This Guitar Kills Fascist, by Al Aumuller/New York World-Telegram and the Sun from wikipedia

Publishing a Novel

Compared to Mermaid Avenue publishing the novel must have been easy. The manuscript had been around since the late forties, a time when Guthrie’s first two books had been released, but the first symptons of Huntington’s disease had not yet begun to show. The novel had been shopped around to various publishing houses, but there were no takers.

Now that the year 2013 has arrived, the book is in print and available in most bookstores. Credit goes out to Johnny Depp and Douglas Brinkley of Infinitum Nihil, who have decided to publish House of Earth, long after it was first finished in1947. Basically, this production company concentrates on film ventures with House of Earth being there first pure literary venture.

A farmer and his two sons during a dust storm in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936, Photo: Arthur Rothstein
A farmer and his two sons during a dust storm in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936, Photo: Arthur Rothstein

What’s Inside House of Earth

I have not read House of Earth, but I do know that the title is a reference to adobe construction, a building method that fascinated Woody Guthrie, when he was alive and well. Also, the storyline of this novel centers on struggles of those who lived through the Dust Bowl, which Woody did in Pampa, Texas. To find out the rest of the details, you’ll just have to read the book……or wait until the movie comes out.

New Shoes

cover image for New Shoes
Cover image for my newly, self-published e-book, New Shoes

The Cover

Today, I self-published a new 3,000 word short story at Smashwords. Tomorrow, I will probably add the ebook to Amazon. The story was easy to write, but coming up with a decent cover was a challenge. I can’t say I’m really excited about this one, but it will have to do for now. I used a couple of free images I found at Morguefile to create this undersea collage.

The Story

The story revolves around a young Louisiana fisherman named Jacque LeBeaux and a bunch of trouble he has gotten himself into with some not-so-nice mobsters. I don’t want to say too much, because it will spoil the sea adventure tale….. But I will say that there is a lot of banter and dialogue that goes on between the main character and his captors. You’ll just have to download it and read it to find out how things turn out.

Turmoil In The Land of the Pharaohs

 

Pyramids at Giza, photo by Ricardo Liberato from Wikipedia
Pyramids at Giza, photo by Ricardo Liberato from Wikipedia

With all the strife that is currently unfolding in Egypt, I thought I would take a quick look around the internet and see what I could learn about this fascinating country. I was especially interested in what kind of literary writing I might find on the subject. The results were quite revealing; for it seems that many fiction writers, when dealing with this large and populous North African nation are very much influenced by colorful history that goes back to the ancient population that flourished here long before the birth of Christ.

Many writers have chosen to set a story along the Nile, as did Agatha Christie, when she penned Death On the Nile, a mystery that was first published in 1934. This is one of her classics that features Hercule Poirot, as the main character, and is usually included with  “Murder On the Orient Express” and “Murder in Mesopotamia” as part of a mystery trilogy.

From here the list takes an interesting  journey into the past, including such titles as Memoirs of Cleopatra (by Margaret George), Nerfititi (by Michelle Moran), Palace of Desire (by Naguib Mahfouz), Crocodiles on the Sandbank (by Elizabeth Peters), Egyptian Art (by Cyril Aldred) and River God (by Wilbur Smith). All of these stories focus on either the near or distant past. Mahfouz is the one native son of the group. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988 and died in 2006. Overall, he is one of the most recognized of Arabic writers. Incidentally, his trilogy is set in the early twentieth century and not during the time of the pharaohs.

For a look at a more modern setting in contemporary, readers might want to take a look at The Yacoubian Building, a novel by Alaa Al Aswany, a modern Egyptian writer. The title for this book was found at a Lonely Planet forum site that was posted several years ago. Aswany, who also writes in Arabic, has been described as a social realist.

It should be noted that these titles come from a short period of web surfing. I have not read any of these titles, but the titles did catch my eye and I actually came away from the searching process with a tiny bit more of knowledge than before. Whether any of these titles will shed any light on the major story in the day is a mystery to me.

Winter In The Soul, A Cool Appraisal of Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Charles River
looking towards towards Cambridge, winter on the Charles River

“It is a world of bleak twilights and tortured souls. A world of cold dawns and dour sleuths. A world of frozen lakes and repressed detectives.”        Julia Keller of the Chicago Tribune.

So writes Julia Keller in a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, as she shares some thoughts  on the rise of the popular genre, most obvious by the rapid success of  Stieg Larsson’s trilogy and subsequent movie deals both in Europe and America.

There is an interesting blog located right here on wordpress that is solely devoted to the subject of Scandinavian Crime Fiction. This would include any writer from the nations of Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. There are as many as a dozen names, few of which would ring a bell with American readers or the American public. You can go to this blog and find out who is publishing what and where. Also you will find some interesting  comments and insights on why this part of the world has become the hotbed of the genre, because the perceived image of Scandinavia is that this is a place where a crime fiction writer would fine little inspiration because the murder rate s so low. But just like crossing a frozen lake on a cold winter’s day, there may be more trouble ahead than one realizes for there may be a current underneath the ice or a spring creating a thin spot; and if you fall through the ice in the middle of February in Northern Sweden you chances of survival are grim.

winter light
snow and shadows

But just as northern Minnesota was a great setting for a murder mystery in the film Fargo, so has Scandinavia merged to provide the setting for quite a few murder mysteries.  Although not really known as a crime fiction writer, Peter Hoeg may have set the scene for the emergence of this popular genre with his murder mystery Smyla’s Sense of Snow. He may have also opened the door to the reality the life in Scandinavia may be overrated a bit, for there are real conflicts between industrialization and the search for a comfortable life, a point that is very well underscored at least in the film.

So on these long January nights, while your curled up on the sofa next to the warm glow of a wood fire in the fireplace, you might want to pick on of the many offerings that are now being translated into English. But don’t forget that this part of the world has a summer time also and one with very long days and short nights; so short that in some places the sun only sets for a few hours each night during late June, when the summer solstice occurs.

As a subtle reminder of the summer warmth here is a picture of a fence that borders a park in Copenhagen, Denmark. The fence has been painting with all kinds of colorful and joyous animals. Of particular note is that the park is located just across the street from Christiana, an unique part of the city that was taken over and homesteaded by hippies in the 1970’s.

So long forom the snow-covered rocky coat of Maine,

Truly,

Everett Autumn

forest graffitti
animal graffitti in Copenhagen, Denmark