As the criminal proceedings of the afternoon extended into the evening, it was time to travel to Scandinavia, to catch up with Jo Nesbo. I was hoping for two things: 1) that he would appear (after a cancellation in Edinburgh 2 years ago) and 2) he would not be the hooligan in a hoodie (as per current publicity photograph).

Sigh of relief on both counts.

He shared the stage with Mark Billingham (who I have never read but now shall).  They discussed the lucky breaks they had getting into publishing – Billingham on the strength of just a few pages (I forget how many), Nesbo with the first publisher to read his book.  Both agreed that it takes a couple of books for an author to find his own voice.  Billingham was quite deprecatory about his first novel Scaredy Cat and needed to be put in his place by a member of the audience who was having none of it!  They talked about editing.  Nesbo’s editor wanted to cut a scene from The Redbreast on the grounds that it was beyond belief.  It was a true experience based on Nesbo’s father’s wartime experience!

Nesbo is keen to distance himself from his literary creation, Harry Hole.  He’s nothing like me, he said, but he was tempted to change his mind when one of Norway’s most beautiful actresses confessed to being in love with Harry!

They discussed the psychology of their characters and whether it was realistic to expect them to continue to function with all the existenial and physical damage their authors inflict upon them.  It’s fiction, said Nesbo, and besides happy is boring when it comes to crime fiction.

Why has Harry not yet appeared on screen?  Nesbo’s extremely protective of his creation – he prefers each reader to have their own vision of Harry rather than one imposed upon them by film.  Besides, he said, there isn’t an actor alive who can play Harry!  But it might happen one day.  Nesbo is in discussion with a production company though terms have yet to be agreed …..

As this event ended World Book Night began.  Lots and lots of free books began to be distributed in the foyer.  I spotted Life of Pi, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Fingersmith.  I picked up my copy of the latter and I took my seat next to fellow blogger Marieke of Athyrium Filix of  at Sarah’s Waters event.  I had intended re-reading Fingersmith, Sarah Water’s 3rd and breakthrough novel (perhaps Nesbo and Billingham were right after all) but my book group decided this was the month to read a 600+ page chunkster.  So that fell by the wayside.  Marieke, however, had just read it for the first time and was full of the enthusiasm that filled me when I first read it. 

The very bubbly Sarah Waters was full of enthusiasm for World Book Night.  40,000 free copies of Fingersmith to be given away. What a print run!, she said.  The 1st print run of Tipping the Velvet was 5000 and that took a couple of years to sell out.  She was humbled by the comments of the givers who had applied to give it away and, fresh from the Trafalgar Square event on the previous night, genuinely excited by everything world book night related.  She was particularly enthused by all the book-related TV coverage.  Indignantly she asked, who decided that sport gets all that TV coverage and reading doesn’t?

Waters was very generous in the insights she gave to her writing processes, interests, and made a few teasing comments about her next novel.   I’ll point you once more to Marieke’s blog because her write-up is comprehensive and time is on the short side today. (I’m afraid there’s a not so small matter of a 600+ page novel to finish for tomorrow.)

With 300+ free copies of Fingersmith in the audience, it came as no surprise that Sarah Waters agreed only to sign purchased copies of her books.  Fortunately I had remembered to bring  my copy (even if I hadn’t remembered to charge the camera).  So World Book Night ended with the collection of a rather special signature in a rather special book.