Tuesday 20 March 2012

Harry Hole and the Lynches

I'm afraid (no I'm not, I'm intensely relaxed about it) that the vogue for Scandinavian detective fiction has largely passed me by. I saw some of the English-language Wallanders, which had much to commend them, even if the plots were barely more plausible than Midsomer Murders, generally revolving around massive conspiracies, cover-ups and corruption involving almost all the dramatis personae. I also rather enjoyed the American version of The Killing, much of which was, I gather, a straight steal from the original, but with a different ending. Once I even had a stab at reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but retired hurt after a few pages. Now I learn (via a poster on Victoria station) that one of the biggest sellers, the Norwegian Jo Nesbo, writes novels about a detective called Harry Hole. Harry Hole? What kind of name is that for a detective? Imagine if Conan Doyle or Raymond Chandler has opted for Harrry Hole. - would they have found a readership? Anyway, Mr Hole, the hero of nine novels so far, has his own Wikipedia entry, one that reads almost like a caricature of the troubled Scandinavian detective (has anyone written a parody of this genre yet? They should.) We learn that he lost his mother - 'a descendant of the Sami people' - to cancer when he was in his 20s, and has never had a close relationship with his father. His younger sister has Down's syndrome. And he is of course both a heavy smoker and an alcoholic. Somehow reading Hole's profile put me in mind of the unfortunate Lynch family in Samuel Beckett's Watt:
'There was Tom Lynch, widower, aged eighty-five years, confined to his bed with constant undiagnosed pains in the caecum, and his three surviving boys Joe, aged sixty-five years, a rheumatic cripple, and Jim, aged sixty-four years, a hunchbacked inebriate, and Bill, widower, aged sixty-three years, greatly hampered in his movements by the loss of both legs as the result of a slip, followed by a fall, and his only surviving daughter May Sharpe, widow, aged sixty-two years, in full possession of all her faculties with the exception of that of vision. Then there was Joe's wife née Doyly-Byrne, aged sixty-five years, a sufferer from Parkinson's palsy but otherwise very fit and well, and Jim's wife Kate née Sharpe aged sixty-four years, covered all over with running sores of an unidentified nature but otherwise fit and well. Then there was Joe's boy Tom aged forty-one years, unfortunately subject alternately to fits of exaltation, which rendered him incapable of the least exertion, and of depression, during which he could stir neither hand nor foot, and Bill's boy Sam, aged forty years, paralysed by a merciful providence from no higher than the knees down and from no lower than the waist up, and May's spinster daughter Ann, aged thirty-nine years, greatly reduced in health and spirits by a painful congenital disorder of an unmentionable kind, and Jim's lad Jack aged thirty-eight years, who was weak in the head, and the boon twins Art and Con aged thirty-seven years, who measured in height when in their stockinged feet three feet and four inches and who weighed in weight when stripped to the buff seventy-one pounds all bone and sinew and between whom the resemblance was so marked in every way that even those (and they were many) who knew and loved them most would call Art Con when they meant Art, and Con Art when they meant Con, as least as often as, if not more often than, they called Art Art when they meant Art, and Con Con when they meant Con. And then there was young Tom's wife Magnee Sharpe aged forty-one years, greatly handicapped in her house and outdoor activity by sub-epileptic seizures of monthly incidence, during which she rolled foaming on the floor or on the yard, or on the vegetable patch, or on the river's brim, and seldom failed to damage herself in one way or another, so that she was obliged to go to bed, and remain there, every month, until she was better, and Sam's wife Liz nee Sharpe, aged thirty-eight years, fortunate in being more dead than alive as a result of having in the course of twenty years given Sam nineteen children, of whom four survived, and again expecting, and poor Jack who it will be remembered was weak in the head his wife Lil née Sharpe aged thirty-eight years, who was weak in the chest..'


  1. Hell's Teeth! Reading that makes me feel as poorly as I do after a trip to the plague village of Eyam!

  2. "Watt" - the funniest novel ever written.