Prolific Norwegian author Jo Nesbø released his latest crime novel Sønnen (The Son) this week, a mere nine months after putting out his last book. Hollywood stars are already clamouring to turn it into a movie, he has several other film and TV adaptions in the works, has signed on to retell Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and both the stage and screen versions of his foray into children’s literature are drawing crowds in Oslo.
Nesbø has abandoned popular policeman and star of his last 10 crime novels, Harry Hole, to write stand-alone thriller Sønnen reported newspaper Dagsavisen. The drug addict protagonist, Sonny, has spent 12 years in prison confessing to the crimes of others in exchange for a steady heroin supply. Things turn around when Sonny learns new information about his late father, who he thought had killed himself after being uncovered as a corrupt police mole.
Nesbø’s publisher Aschehoug had such great faith in the book’s success it ordered a first print run of 185,000, its second highest to date. “Our biggest edition ever was Politi (Police, Nesbø’s previous novel), with 220,000 sent out last autumn,” said Aschehoug’s head of communications, Mona Ek. “The expectations are definitely high. This is incredibly exciting.”
Hollywood has already come knocking. On Monday night Nesbø dined with actor Channing Tatum, who visited Oslo for the sole purpose of meeting with the author. Newspaper Dagbladet reported the meeting was to discuss a film adaption of Sønnen. Production company Warner Brothers has already bought the film rights to the book.
More adaptions underway
Other Nesbø screen projects in the works include a film based on Snømannen (The Snowman) to be produced by Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio is lined up to produce and possibly star in Nesbø’s yet to be released Blood on Snow, HBO is adapting Hodejegerne (Headhunters) into a television series, and locally TV2 is producing Okkupert (Occupied). Last year NBC made a pilot called I am Victor based on Nesbø’s ideas, but has yet to announce if a series will follow.
If Snømannen proves a success, rights holders Working Title and Universal want to turn more of the Harry Hole books into movies. Scorsese was originally set to direct as well as produce the film, but after he had to put the project on hold work got underway to find a new director. Nesbø gets the final say.
“I have already said no thanks to several directors that Working Title have suggested,” Nesbø told newspaper Aftenposten, but wouldn’t be drawn on who they were or if any Norwegians were among them. He also refused to give any more details about the Sønnen adaption and his meeting with Tatum.
As well as his 12 novels, Nesbø has also written four Doktor Prokter children’s books. More than 90,000 people saw Doktor Proktors prompepulver (Doctor Proctor’s fart powder) when it opened in Norwegian cinemas last weekend, and by Wednesday around 106,000 tickets had been sold. Maipo Productions expects around 500,000 Norwegians will see the film in cinemas, and plans to release the sequel Doktor Proktors tidsbadekar (Doktor Proktor’s bathtime) next year. A stage adaption is playing at Oslo’s National Theatre until May.
Harry Hole steps aside for Shakespeare
As if Nesbø didn’t have enough on his to-do list, he also agreed to reinvent Macbeth for modern audiences as part of Shakespeare’s 400 year anniversary in 2016. He’s one of a number of internationally acclaimed authors picked for the project.
“As a mystery writer, it was cool to be asked,” Nesbø told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “A noble quest. I think the organizers would like to have exciting encounters between different genres and storytellers. They saw the potential in allowing a crime writer to drop on Shakespeare.”
Nesbø said he was actually no great Shakespeare fan, but Macbeth has timeless moral dilemmas that are every bit as relevant today. “I’m not acutally going to make a Shakespearean story or compete with him in anyway,” he said. “I can use this to tell a story my way, and I’m looking forward to it.”
The 53-year-old has a secret to fitting everything in. NRK spoke to Nesbø in Thailand, a place he has visited regularly since 2001 to combine climbing, relaxation and writing. “I get more done in Thailand in a month than I do at home in four months,” he explained. “There isn’t as much happening, so there is nothing else to do but write.”
But there is one casualty of Nesbø’s busy schedule. While he’s promised Harry Hole will return in the future, Nesbø said he’s done with the protagonist for now. “I have spent so much time with him, and he’s a very intense guy,” he said. “Then a few months go by and I want to hang out with him again. This is healthy for both Harry and me. We’ll take a break from each other for a few years, then we’ll see if our paths cross again.”
Nesbø is also the singer, songwriter and guitarist of band Di Derre, which is playing shows again this year 20 years after the release of the group’s first single Jenter (Girls). He played professional football for Molde before working for several years as a successful stockbroker. He also worked as a journalist, before starting Di Derre and writing his first crime novel at the height of the band’s success. He has sold more than 20 million novels in 46 languages worldwide.