Posts

Crime novels set in Greenland: Christoffer Petersen

Image
My last two blog posts described my researches in Greenland for my novel The Wanderer . Compared to Iceland, there are very few crime novels set in Greenland that are available in English. The only author I know of who writes these is t he British-Danish crime novelist Christoffer Petersen. His books feature the Greenlandic detective constable David Maratse and give a terrific picture of life – and death – in Greenland. Chris himself spent seven years living in Greenland and his knowledge and understanding of the country and its people shine through. They are fascinating novels, and great murder mysteries too. I asked Christoffer to post here about living in and writing about Greenland: Greenland. Where to start? I could begin by saying that Greenland was never on my radar. I grew up on Jack London stories, devouring them and everything else remotely connected to them. I developed a passion for the Arctic as a teenager, and it has consumed me for much of my life, guiding my decis

Vinland: Gudrid and her husband discover America

Image
  In my last blog post, I described how Gudrid the Wanderer wandered from Iceland to Greenland. But she didn't stop there. The two Vinland Sagas disagree on who first made landfall in North America, which became known as 'Vinland'. One saga says it was Bjarni Herjólfsson, who got lost on the way to Greenland, the other says it was Leif Eriksson, Erik the Red's son. These days Leif seems to get all the credit. Anyway, Leif, Thorfinn Karlsefni and Thorfinn's new wife Gudrid made a series of expeditions to Vinland, or Vínland in Old Norse, so called because of the discovery of grapes there.  By the way, the photograph above is of Eiriksfjord in Greenland from where Leif Eriksson and his wife Gudrid set sail for Vinland. The iceberg seems to be giving me the finger, I'm not sure why. The sagas describe the establishment in Vinland of temporary settlements at 'Leif's Booths' and 'Keel Point', as well as a tantalizing journey far to the south to

Greenland: Gudrid the Wanderer wanders all over the place.

Image
  I first heard of Gudrídur Thorbjarnardóttir, or Gudrid the Wanderer, when I was visiting my ecclesiastical contact, the Reverend Sara . She showed me her church, an amazing modern building with an altar bathed in light reflected off water, in the Reykjavík suburb of Grafarholt. The church was dedicated to Gudrid. She told me about Gudrid's travels from Iceland to Greenland to North America and back again, and then on to Rome, all around the year 1000 AD. I found this extraordinary; I still do. As I discovered more about Gudrid, I determined to write a book about her. But writing a twenty-first-century detective novel about a Viking explorer is not easy. It took me several years to alight on a way of doing it, but I got there in the end.  A TV crew is making a documentary about Gudrid, following in her footsteps to Greenland and North America, when someone is murdered. Magnus investigates. The resulting book is called The Wanderer . Before Magnus could get on the case, I needed t

Major Wise: Britain's dodgy Head of Intelligence in Iceland in World War II

Image
  Those of you who have read my recent novel, Whale Fjord , will have come across an unpleasant character named Neville Pybus-Smith, the head of British military intelligence in Iceland during the British occupation in 1940-41. Well, Pybus-Smith is loosely based on a real character named Major Wise. One of my most fortunate discoveries when researching Whale Fjord, was an Icelander named Jökull Gíslason. Not only is Jökull one of Iceland's leading experts on the country's history in World War Two, he is also a police inspector. And helpful. The perfect source for me! He has written an excellent book, Iceland in World War II , which I referred to frequently while writing Whale Fjord . He also wrote a fascinating article, entitled  Spymasters , about the dodgy Major Wise. He has permitted me to reproduce it here. "Major Alfred Roy Wise was the British spymaster in Iceland. He is a confusing character, described by his subordinates as pleasant and amiable while he was c

New Magnus crime novel out: Whale Fjord

Image
  My new Magnus novel is published! It's called Whale Fjord and is number 7 in the series after Death in Dalvik. Iceland 1940 . Britain invades Iceland. Lieutenant Tom Marks is a British officer tasked with defending Whale Fjord. He meets Kristín, a young widow from a nearby farm, who has a small son. Tom is smitten. Iceland 2023 . Inspector Magnus Ragnarsson is called to the shores of Whale Fjord where the skeletons of a man and a woman have been discovered, both shot with British wartime bullets. Magnus uncovers a web of anger and revenge that stretches back eighty years and forward to a shocking murder in Reykjavík. 'Magnus is a complex and totally compelling character, fitting perfectly into the bleak and intimidating settings of Ridpath’s Iceland.’ – New York Journal of Books The book will be available worldwide, in paperback or as an ebook through Kindle (only). The ebook price is £2.99/$3.99 for the next week or so, but will go up to £3.99/$5.99 after that. This is th

World War Two in Iceland: the Subject for a New Book

Image
Very few people outside Iceland realize that Britain occupied the country in 1940; I certainly hadn’t heard of it until I started writing novels set there. Royal Marines landed in Reykjavík in May that year and they were soon relieved by the British territorial 49th Division from Yorkshire – nicknamed ‘the Polar Bears’ – and a Canadian brigade including the exotically named Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa and Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal.  At its height, at the end of 1940, there were over 25,000 British and Canadian troops defending the country. This has always seemed odd to me – I would have thought they could more usefully have defended Britain from the Germans just across the Channel. But Major-General Curtis, the commanding officer in Iceland, was adamant they were needed. No one thought to check with the Royal Navy, who were equally certain the Germans could never have transported an invading force to Iceland and, more importantly, supplied it once it had landed.  In the summer of 194

Winter in Iceland

Image
The higher the latitude, the greater the difference between summer and winter. Iceland is only just below the Arctic Circle, so in midwinter it is dark nearly all the time. Daylight is only a few hours. In practice dawn turns into dusk at lunchtime.  As you can imagine, this has a depressing effect on locals. They go to work in the dark; they come home in the dark. It was even worse in the old days when most Icelanders lived on isolated farms. They essentially stayed indoors all winter in their living quarters above the animals whose heat kept them warm. They knitted, they read, they milked the cow, they moved hay about. They hibernated. Because of its proximity to the Arctic Circle, in theory, the sun is visible for a short period every day in Iceland, even at midwinter. But that is not true for the town of Ísafjördur in the West Fjords, which is wedged between high mountains. There they last see the sun on 16 November and it returns on 25 January. They have sólarkaffi - coffee and