Jo Nesbø (Oslo, 29 March 1960) is a Norwegian writer, musician, economist, former football player and reporter. His works have been translated into over 50 languages, and by 2022 had sold some 55 million copies worldwide, making him the most successful Norwegian author of all time. He is one of the world’s bestselling crime writers, with ‘The Leopard’, ‘Phantom’, ‘Police’, ‘The Son’, ‘The Thirst’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Knife’ all topping the Sunday Times bestseller charts. Known primarily for his crime novels featuring Inspector Harry Hole, Nesbø is also the main vocalist and songwriter for the Norwegian rock band Di Derre. In 2007 he released his first children’s book, ‘Doktor Proktors Prompepulver’ (Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder). The 2011 film ‘Headhunters’ is based on Nesbø’s novel ‘Hodejegerne’ (The Headhunters). Nesbø was born in 1960 in Oslo and grew up in Molde. He graduated from the ‘Norwegian School of Economics’ with a degree in Economics and Business Administration. Nesbø played top-flight football for Molde FK until he tore the cruciate ligaments in his knee, and had to concentrate on other aspects of his life. Nesbø is also a dedicated rock climber, starting to climb seriously at age 50: in 2023, he realised his ambition to climb a French grade 8a sport route. He worked as a freelance journalist and a stockbroker before he began his writing career: when commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, ‘The Bat’.
The Harry Hole series
The series follows Harry Hole, a tough detective working for Crime Squad and later with the National Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos), whose investigations may take him from Oslo to Australia, Thailand, West Congo, Switzerland or Brazil. Hole takes on seemingly unconnected cases, sometimes found to involve serial killers, bank robbers, gangsters or the establishment, but spends a significant amount of time battling alcoholism and his own demons. The Harry Hole novels are multi-layered, violent and often feature women in peril, as typified by ‘The Snowman’. On the return of Harry Hole in ‘The Thirst’, Nesbø said: “I was always coming back to Harry; he is my soul mate. But it is a dark soul, so it is – as always – both a thrill and a chilling, emotionally exhausting experience. But Harry and the story make it worth the sleepless nights.” A film adaptation of The Snowman, with Tomas Alfredson directing (replacing Martin Scorsese, who executive produced), and starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, and Charlotte Gainsbourg, premiered in October 2017.
The Doctor Proctor series
Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder, originally published in 2007, was Nesbø’s first children’s book. They are illustrated by Mike Lowery. The series is set in Oslo, Norway and follows the story of Doctor Proctor, a crazy professor waiting for his big break, his next-door neighbor Lisa and her peculiar friend Nilly, a short redheaded boy. The ruthless twins Truls and Trym Thrane sometimes lurk in the background. Doctor Proctor’s first major inventions are a powder that makes the user fart (and the farts don’t smell) and the “Fartonaut Powder,” which makes the user fart so powerfully that they blast into space. In book 2 he invents a bathtub that allows the user to travel through time. As of 2018, there are 5 books in the series. In 2014 a live action film adaptation of the first book was made, and is only available in Norwegian. A sequel, Doktor Proktors Tidsbadekar, was released in 2015 with German involvement. Both films received mixed reviews.
The Olav Johansen series
The books ‘Blood on Snow’ and its sequel ‘Midnight Sun: Blood on Snow 2’ were published in 2015. This series follows Olav Johansen, a fixer for Oslo crime boss Daniel Hoffman. In Blood on Snow, Olav has just found the woman of his dreams: the only problem is that she’s his boss’s wife and that his boss has hired him to kill her. A film adaptation of Midnight Sun, titled ‘The Hanging Sun’, directed by Francesco Carrozzini and starring Alessandro Borghi, Jessica Brown Findlay, Sam Spruell, Peter Mullan and Charles Dance, premiered at the 79th ‘Venice International Film Festival’ in September 2022. In October 2013 Warner Brothers had bought the rights to ‘Blood on Snow’ (for a screen adaptation to be produced by and possibly starring Leonardo DiCaprio); on April 2017, the screen rights were purchased by Tobey Maguire’s Material Pictures and Lawrence Grey’s Grey Matter Productions, and that Maguire would make his directorial debut on the projected film adaptation.
In 2011, the Nesbø story ‘Twelve’ was adapted by Magnus Martens into the film ‘Jackpot’ (Norwegian: Arme Riddere), a black comedy crime mystery film. In 2014 it was announced that Nesbø would contribute a re-telling of the story of Macbeth as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project, described as a ‘crime noir’ version of the tragedy. His Macbeth is set in 1970 in an unspecified location that combines aspects of Scandinavia and Scotland, and involves an Inspector Macbeth of a paramilitary SWAT team targeting bikers, drug dealers, and his police colleagues. It was published in April 2018. In 2016, it was announced that there were also plans to adapt his stand-alone novel, ‘Sønnen’ (The Son), as a film, to be directed by Denis Villeneuve, with Jake Gyllenhaal as producer and Channing Tatum in the lead role. On 5 April 2017, it was announced that Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur was working on a new adaptation of ‘I Am Victor’, a short story by Nesbø previously planned as an NBC television series but not completed. ‘Okkupert‘ (Occupied), based on a concept by Jo Nesbø, is a television series produced by TV 2 and Yellow Bird, the Swedish production house responsible for the Wallander TV series, and the films ‘Headhunters’ and ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. The series is a political thriller which envisages what would happen if Norway were to be invaded by Russia to seize the nation’s oil resources. The first season premiered in October 2015, the second in September 2017, and the third in January 2020.
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