Masters of crime: Scandinavian crime fiction in a media industries perspective

Scandinavian crime fiction or Nordic Noir – a hybrid genre of mystery, police procedural and whodunit – has recently invaded the book markets across the world. Books by Høeg, Larsson and Mankell sold in millions worldwide and became the mainstay of English, German and Chinese-language bestseller lists. Ever since their astronomical market success, the global publishing world seems to be on the lookout for the ‘next Scandinavian crime king or queen’. Supermarkets and high street bookstores conspicuously sport the genre, while online fan forums burgeon. Against this backdrop the study tries to answer: Why is Scandinavian crime fiction so successful? How does a local genre become a global publishing brand? Situating the research The majority of existing studies explain the success through textual – structuralist, semiotic or cultural readings of the genre: it is a mirror of the welfare societies that reflects their dark underside (sick, lonely and misplaced individuals) amidst lugubrious atmosphere of eternal winter nights and bleak landscape. This is both exotic and seductive for foreign readers, as it is bewildering, against a backdrop of widespread Nordic stereotypes of endless happiness and peace. But does a market success come about so organically? Where do books come from? Educated not to judge books by the cover, we tend to conceive of books as made out of thin air. Yet, books do not come out of nowhere. They are the product of a long series of institutional and individual actors (publishing houses, editors, literary agents, professional writers, translators, booksellers) and the cooperative and competitive links between them, that constitute a field (Bourdieu). In contrast to text-based studies, I propose a media industry study of Scandinavian crime fiction from within its Danish publishing context, whilst taking the genre seriously on its own structuralist and semiotic terms. This entails an empirical study, interviews with central agents in the publishing field and participant observation of the production of the genre in an industrial context: how do editors go about assuring textual quality or designers about cover design or managers about cross-platform promotion? How do literary agents negotiate and represent the genre and writers abroad? How the publishers market the genre in fairs and festivals? How do crime fiction writers string a livable wage? The aim of the research The aim of the research is to situate market success simultaneously in an industrial production context, and in a genre’s formal specificity. To this end, an analytical model for a genre-cantered industry-level analysis of media production will be developed.

Last updated by: Administrator User 01/10/2014