My Books



“I actually could not put the book down. It is well written and kept my interest. I want more from this author.”
Reader review of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead on Amazon.com 

All books available in paperback and as e-books from major online bookstores.
See below on the right-hand side of this page for specific links to sellers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Scandi Book Bonanza

The wait is nearly over. As of this writing, the official release of the third Dallas Green novel—the sequel to Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead and Lautaro’s Spear—is slightly less than a week away. I will have much more to say about that in the coming days, but in the meantime I want to tell you about someone else’s books, which are also coming out in the very near future.

Danish author Claes Johansen is a tireless writer. I get exhausted just watching the volume of his output. If you a regular reader of this blog, you may remember when I wrote four years ago about his non-fiction historical tome Hitler’s Nordic Ally?: Finland and the Total War 1939-45. In that book he coherently explained the complicated situation in which Finland found itself before, during and after World War II and how it all played out. Originally written in Danish (Finland og den totale krig, published in 2013), the book was translated into English by the author himself. There are not many authors who would attempt that, but Johansen has lived many years in England and Ireland, and his mastery of English is impeccable, so he is in a unique position to do his own translating.

He now has three more English-language editions of his books—which he also translated himself—coming out in the next week or so, following one that was released in June. It is not an exaggeration to say there is something for everybody among their number. All four are or will be available in digital format from Amazon’s various international Kindle stores, from Rakuten Kobo, from Google and no doubt from other fine online sellers.

I have read all of them, and this is what I can tell you about them.


The Doubter
(available September 30): Needless to say, I took to this story immediately since it happens to fall squarely into my own wheelhouse of narratives about aimless 20th-century youth. The novel opens in December 1979 as our hero Thomas, the aptly named twentysomething doubter of the title, returns home to Copenhagen from an irresponsibly unplanned and surprisingly eventful sojourn in London. The story switches between Thomas’s time in England and his subsequent reacquaintance with his own country, family and friends. Through his eyes we experience the Denmark’s educational system, as the protagonist takes a teaching job, and life in its army due to compulsory military service. As we learn about his family and childhood, we get a critique of Danish society at the time with many people stuck in a lingering Hippie mindset. The real treat is getting the author’s insights and observations of the era’s music scene. The backdrop for the London episodes is the Mod Revival, harkening back to the 1960s swinging subculture. The film version of the Who’s Quadrophenia is invoked, as it was being filmed at the time. Johansen has an uncanny knack for capturing the speech of young Englishmen that makes the story feel very real. As Thomas joins a band in England and then in Denmark, we get plenty of young male bonding, and inevitably, there is also a girl. Personally, I enjoyed the author’s observations of how Danes view Swedes during a bicycle excursion across the strait between the two countries. Depending on one’s age and personal experiences, this book can make one feel very nostalgic.


The Boatman and the Boy
(available October 2): This historical epic about war, inhumanity and retribution begs to be made into a movie. The story begins in the war zone of 1950s French Indochina. A wounded private in the French Foreign Legion reflects on the prospect that he may have finally found the man he has been hunting for years. Flashbacks fill in the story, as the narrative takes us back to the Jewish district of a village in Eastern Romania during the 1930s. The author’s thorough historical research makes us feel as though we are there, experiencing the shifting political and military situation that makes victims of the villagers in the ruthless struggle between Nazism and Communism. By the time we get to the tense resolution, we feel as if we have personally witnessed the Holocaust, the Second World War and the birth of Israel. Because of the subject matter, some sections can be difficult to read. Others, however, lift the soul with hope. In the end we inevitably see that violence tends to go round in cycles. The seriousness of the themes nearly make you feel guilty for enjoying the adventure/thriller aspects.


Anita’s Homecoming
(available October 2): A different sort of espionage thriller, this novel draws on Johansen’s own knowledge of his country’s recent history. Anita is a former member of the Resistance during Denmark’s occupation by the Germans. Now that the war is over, she is based in London and has become an agent for British intelligence. She returns to Copenhagen for what seems like a straightforward assignment, but she is not fully prepared for the duplicity in Danish post-war politics or the ghosts, living or otherwise, of her former comrades. The story is an entertaining page-turner, but it also provides a pretext for the author to make his own cynical comments about the state of Denmark during and after the war. As Anita’s situation becomes unexpectedly more dire, we find ourselves invested in her fate and her survival. In a particularly nice touch, her survival may hang on something as simple as a linguistic misunderstanding.


Nicola and the Child Correction Centre
(available now): Johansen also writes for younger readers, and this magical adventure story exhibits plenty of the darkness we associate with Scandinavian literature. Young Nicola might have been oblivious to the fact that she lives in a dystopian society but for the fact that she inadvertently learns about the Child Correction Centre. Once she does, though, she cannot let go of the mystery, and her pursuit of it could well be the end of her. Even if it is, though, perhaps the end may only be the beginning. I defy any reader to figure out exactly where plucky Nicola’s nose for enigma-solving and putting wrong to right will lead her. Rest assured things will definitely not be all sweetness and light along the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment