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Unlike many fictional detectives, Jørn Lier Horst did want a desk job, and he turned full-time author in 2013. Photos: Jeton Kacaniku
Unlike many fictional detectives, Jørn Lier Horst did want a desk job, and he turned full-time author in 2013. Photos: Jeton Kacaniku

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Jørn Lier Horst – from policeman to crime writer

Norway’s Jørn Lier Horst has gone from walking the beat to writing about it. Is this much-lauded crime novel author the new Nesbø?

Jørn Lier Horst’s “writing studio” is, aptly enough, close to the Norwegian Police University College, in what is said to be Norway’s oldest wooden building. The setting is the scenic seaside town of Larvik, about two hours from Oslo, where Horst lives and works. After spending almost 20 years as a police inspector, he has been a full-time author for just a year and a half. The writer’s den at the Police University College is a way for him to keep in touch with his old career.

Horst-hitlisten

Læs Wisting-serien

Bundfald, 2010
Vinterlukket, 2011
Jagthundene, 2012
Hulemanden, 2013

Se også hans Clue-serie for børn

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Organized chaos reigns. The bookshelf is crammed with prizes and awards, with rows of his books in a number of translations. Horst is one of Norway’s leading crime novelists, writing for both adults and children. His crime series about Inspector William Wisting has nine parts so far.

William Wisting is not your usual crime novel detective. He is not the oft-seen ravaged, bitter type with an alcohol problem. Wisting is more of a stand-up guy; a humble and dedicated man who recognizes human nature and who wants to believe that the work he does with the police makes a difference.
“A lot of people ask if I am Wisting, but it would almost be bragging to say that because it is all his good qualities that are highlighted,” says Horst. “I had read about these detectives who go around drunk with three days’ stubble and have whisky on the nightstand. But what I wanted to create was a policeman who was more like the kind of cops I knew from my days in the force.”

‘A lot of people ask if I am Wisting, but it would almost be bragging to say that because it is all his good qualities that are highlighted’

Horst has always enjoyed writing and he wrote stories as a child. After school, he was accepted at both Journalism School and the Police University College. He chose the police, and writing was left on the back burner while Horst enjoyed a police career and started a family.
“Then one fall evening in 2001, I was at home in bed reading a Norwegian crime novel that was so bad I threw the book against the wall. ‘I could do better myself!’ I said out loud. And then my wife, who was lying next to me, said ‘Why don’t you then?’ We switched off the lamp and I spent the next half-hour tossing and turning. Then I got up and started writing what would become my debut novel. I never thought it would be anything more than just a book, but it was a big success!”

Eight further books about Wisting have followed, with more expected. He has also written a number of thrillers for children. For a long time, Horst continued working as a policeman alongside his writing efforts, but in 2013 he realized that he had to make a choice: policeman or author.
“It was not an easy decision. I have enjoyed being a policeman; it’s exciting and interesting. At the same time, it’s a serious job with a lot of responsibility. When I finished, I literally felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I do miss the work, but I’m not longing to go back.”

His experiences from his time with the police are important to his writing, not only in terms of the purely technical details of an investigation, but above all in terms of how crime affects both the victims and the perpetrators.
“I have met people who were victims of horrific crimes, and for many years it was also my job to talk to the perpetrators. Those meetings, when you are standing face to face with other people’s grief, despair, regret, they have probably contributed an authenticity that there would not otherwise have been.”

Text: Annina Rabe 

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