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Issue 99 - Worth the Wait

Whisky Magazine Issue 99
October 2011

 

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Worth the Wait

Jefferson Chasefinishes his look at Swedish crime fiction.

I'm concluding my tour of Scandinavian crime fiction with a look at a novel that should never have taken as long to get into English as it did. Klas Östergren's Gentlemen was published in Sweden in the early 1980s, but it took all the way until 2007 for an English translation to appear. The book was worth the wait. Östergren is like a mad marriage of Thomas Mann, Raymond Chandler and Truman Capote.

The narrator is an impoverished bohemian writer with the same name as the author, and his life takes a turn for the weird when he meets a chap named Henry Morgan: Henry selected a key and opened a door in the foyer. Then he disappeared behind a curtain and silence descended. The light went out, and I fumbled my way to the switch…Finally I heard a couple of doors opening and shutting behind the curtain and out stepped Henry Morgan with a half bottle full of Doctors whisky.

“It's nice when people trust you,” he muttered with satisfaction and opened the doors to the lift.

“Just don't ask any questions.” The two soon become flatmates and friends, although the narrator is never sure what's true and what's not about his new buddy.

Henry's back story, if genuine, is impressive. A gifted boxer and skilled jazz pianist, he begins an affair with the lover of a major industrialist, joins the army to distance himself from the destructive relationship, then defects and flits around Europe, including England: He spent a year over there, and I have no intention of recounting all t...

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