The Girl on the Train — The Movie

 

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The Girl on the Train is a rare type of movie in today’s Hollywood landscape–an adult oriented thriller that is not based on a comic book.  It is not completely original–it is based on a best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins, but I’ll take what I can get.  I am also in the camp who has read the book, so if you have not, I am sure the movie will be a completely different experience.  That said, I thought it was a very well done adaptation of this wildly popular crime novel, which surprised me given that early reviews were mixed.

Unreliable Narrator

One of the central concepts of the movie is that the unreliable alcoholic narrator blacks out when she drinks.  This would seem to be a difficult part of the novel to portray on film, but the director does a good job of putting the audience in Rachel’s shoes and showing what that is like.  The director portrays this using a shaky camera with a focus that keeps shifting as she stumbles her way through each scene.  Then the next day, her memories rush back in jumbled flashes.

Impressive Cast

I was also impressed by the cast.  Emily Blunt carries the movie as the main character in another impressive performance–she proved she has range with Sicario, one of my favorite movies of last year, and she shows that again here.

I did not know Haley Bennett before this movie, but she was also good in a key role.  And then some very good actors turned up in relatively small parts, which is always a bonus–Lisa Kudrow as a former acquaintance, and Edgar Ramirez as the therapist.  Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, and Allison Janney were also part of this solid cast.

Overall I recommend it, whether you are curious to see how they adapt the novel or just looking for a solid crime thriller.

Meet Tove Alsterdahl

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Tove Alsterdal, welcome to TheCrimeHouse!

How did your writing career start?

With an idea that was so good I had to write it. I was a freelance journalist writing drama, and I first imagined the story as a movie, but it would’ve cost at least SEK 40 million since it takes place in six countries, so I decided to write a novel instead. It was partly about those who die in the Mediterranean, and was published in 2009. It has been sold to several countries and will become a British TV series. With that novel I discovered I could do it.

How would you describe your novels for someone who has never heard anything about them?

They are crime novels without a traditional detective, international thrillers without spies. The victims are the main characters, and they have to solve the mystery to survive. The stories always have elements of reality and love is often the driving force, not evil.

How do you react if I say that I don’t experience your novels as crime novels, but more like contemporary history?

I like to combine the present and the past and be inspired by reality, but never at the expense of suspense. I hide another story within the crime novel, a classic destiny drama. It is more about life than death.

What does your writing process look like, how much of your time is spent on research vs. writing?

I do a lot of research. Even if the story is fictional I want it to feel real, and much of it is. I read a lot and travel to all the places where my characters are active, find the houses where they will live and often even meet the people they will meeting. But the biggest job is always the writing and once I write I must forget about the research, it just needs to be there as knowledge in my body, as if I have experienced it myself. You should never write about something just to show off how much your know.

Do you have a synopsis or do you just write?

Both. I created a detailed synopsis, my stories are too complex so they demand it and I need to know where I am going. But when I start writing I always make changes and I have to be open to new things.

In what stage of the process do you let someone else look at your work and who is it?

I let Liza Marklund in even at the idea stage, we have always discussed our stories and read each other’s texts from the first 30-50 pages until the end. No one else gets to read it until she has finished, she is my extra set of eyes and the one who ensures I don’t get blind and get lost.

Do you have any writing role models? If so, who? And why?

John le Carré, he is the master of international thrillers. You can say I follow in his footsteps but without major politics and spies. In my novels it is the common people that cross borders and they are driven by the dream of a better life, not power.

Joyce Carol Oates is another role model, her novels usually begins with death, but without being crime novels, and she also blurs the line between the genres, which makes me feel at home.

Let’s say that you would write the next novel with another author, who would that be?

No idea. I happily work with others when I write for theatre and film, but I have a difficult time imagining writing novels with someone else. If I were to do it, it would have to be with someone passionate about the same idea and the idea would have to be stronger than my will to decide everything on my own. Maybe it will happen, but with whom I don’t know.

What advice do you have for our readers who are aspiring writers?

Write! If your idea is strong enough then spend the time and do the job that is needed. It takes several years, so get started. A novel doesn’t write itself. Sometimes it has to be bad before it gets good, it’s not magic, it’s a process. And don’t glance too much at others, write what gets you started, what affects you.

Our readers are, as always, very eager to get to know our fantastic Swedish crime writers, so many thanks for taking the time to talk to us!

Sincerely Mi

 

Note: This interview has been translated from Swedish. The original interview was published on Deckarhuset Oct 13, 2016.

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Those Who Follow

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I like conspiracy thrillers, but it is definitely an art to write them. The trick is to get the reader to believe – at least while they are reading – that this could happen in real life. Then it needs to be suspenseful, have gory details, plenty of cliffhangers, interesting characters and an intricately woven plot. I must say I am impressed; this is a really good conspiracy thriller. The Norwegian writer Ingar Johnsrud has done a really good job!

Doomsday Cult

A mass murder is discovered on a farm outside Oslo, where a Christian doomsday cult is located. Someone has shot and killed several of the men, but the rest of the men, women and children are missing. The mass murder gets extra media attention when they discover that among the missing people are the daughter and grandchild of a famous politician. The cult has been feuding with an Islamic group, which becomes a suspect, but is it really that simple?

World War II Connection

The theme is a political powder keg with cultural contradictions. When the story is connected to experiments in racial purity dating back to the 1930s it becomes even more interesting. The main character Superintendent Fredrik Beir is forced to cooperate with a new partner Kafa Iqbal.

 

Original title in Norwegian: Wienerbrorskapet

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Norwegian Noir

 

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Norwegian crime writer Torkil Damhaug has really outdone himself with his novel A Fifth Season (En femte årstid). While I recognize Damhaug’s special storytelling techniques this novel differs from his earlier ones. It is rawer and horror takes a more central role than in his typical psychological characterizations and his in-depth explorations of the characters’ inner life. Relationship issues are still included and they are a rewarding part of the reading. Maybe we can call the genre “Noir Existentielle”?

Cannot Put It Down

A Fifth Season takes place during a 38-year time span and it is set in Hammerdal, a small town outside Oslo. Four young people, high on drugs, decide to lock a dull, persistent classmate in the basement of an old and rundown factory. In short, one of them dies, one disappears, and the others are faced with consequences they could never have imagined. One of them has a father who is a policeman; another one has a father who is a convicted murderer, who is mentally unstable. Damhaug really gets under my skin and it is very difficult to put down the novel as it gets close to 3:30am, on a weekday…

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Writing with a Partner

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The Importance of Communication

Today at Crimetime Gotland 2016 there are several seminars with author conversations. The most interesting this morning was an event with Michael Hjort & Hans Rosenfeldt and Cilla & Rolf Börjlind. They discussed what it’s like to write with a partner. To each write a chapter, or to each write about a character requires communication.

Michael Hjort says “It’s too bad if I suddenly realize that I want to kill a character, but forget to check if Hans has written about the character as a living person, 80 pages later.”

Books vs TV

Both writing duos struggle with inconsistencies when they have written a few books in a series, e.g. the first book gets adapted for TV and they make adjustments, then they write the next novel with the main characters in the TV version in their mind and all of a sudden a character has a different gender in different versions. As an example Cilla Börjlind mentions Olivia’s best friend, who in the book Spring Tide is a woman but in the TV adaptation is a man. In book #2 she is a woman again, but in the next TV production she becomes a he again…

So, if you want to write with a partner it is absolutely necessary to know exactly what’s going on in the other’s text, to make sure everything makes sense in the end.

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Crimetime Gotland 2016 Has Started

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Crimetime Gotland 2016, Sweden’s new Crime Writing Festival has started. My first seminar is their Writing School. We are a happy gang of aspiring crime writers who have sharpened our pencils (…or rather turned on our laptops) to note everything that some of the best and most beloved crime writers have to share. Our coaches are Anna Jansson, Johan Theorin, Emelie Schepp, Marianne Cedervall and Sören Bondesson. Could it be any better?!

“I hope it will help me kick-start my story”

It will be a lot of fun, says Camilla Wäverstam from Borås, Sweden. “I visited Gotland a few years ago and had an idea, an embryo, and I started writing. But I got stuck pretty quickly, but the idea remained.”

waverstamLast year I came to Gotland to attend the first ever CrimeTime Writing Festival, Camilla tells me.

“I was mostly a spectator and attended as many events and seminars as I could, but this year I am more focused. I will attend the Writing School and I hope it will help me kick-start my story and I will continue to write.”

TheCrimeHouse thanks Camilla for sharing her dreams and we wish her the best of luck with the novel she has started.

 

Note: this has been translated from Swedish. The original post is available on Deckarhuset.

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Snow White Must Die

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Brilliant Crime Novel

What a great first read this summer! Snow White Must Die is the first novel in a German series by Nele Neuhaus about police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein.

The story begins when a man in his thirties is realeased from prison after having served ten years for a murder of two young women whose bodies were never found. To return to a small town where something horrible happened and where everybody knows everybody is a recipe for disaster. But what really happened that evening ten years ago? When another girl disappears the witch-hunt begins…

Page Turner

Nele Neuhaus’s strength is the plot. There are so many twists and turns and that it quickly becomes a page turner. And she is very skilled in tying it all together. The characters are also great. There are plenty of people you can relate to, like, feel sorry for, and hate. Thankfully the “bad guys” never turn into bad guys a’ la Disney. Pettiness, greed, selfishness and jealousy go a long way.

Luckily I know German because I am seriously considering ordering the next novel in the series instead of waiting for the translation. The fact that my German is a bit rusty may be a good thing, because that means the novel will last longer.

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