Mystery Authors You May Have Missed
Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

PhotoBiography
Per Wahloo was born in Goteborg, Sweden in 1926. After graduating from the University of Lund, he worked as a journalist, covering criminal and social issues. While on assignment in Franco’s Spain, he was deported from that country for his “radical views.” Upon his return to Sweden, he wrote a number of television and radio plays and became managing editor for several magazines before becoming a full-time writer of political and science fiction novels. In 1961, he met Maj Sjowall who was born in Stockholm in 1935. Thinking of herself primarily as a poet, she also worked as a journalist and magazine editor. Over coffee, the couple discovered a shared interest in writing mystery novels and in subsequent conversations, developed their idea of a jointly-written series. Along the way, they also fell in love and married in 1962.

What they wrote: The couple conceived the idea of a series of novels, one to be published each year for a period of ten years, which would emphasize not the sensational aspects of crime but the day-to-day gritty realities of a policeman’s life. They created as their hero the clever but depressed Martin Beck, and surrounded him with a colorful cast of co-workers. As both Sjowall and Wahloo were critical of their country’s conservatism, they hoped to document the deterioration of public life in Sweden while at the same time, describing improvements in Beck’s life as he learns to break free from beaurocratic strictures. With these rather lofty goals in mind, it is perhaps surprising that their first book, Roseanna, published in 1965, was a runaway success. The contrast between the brutality of the crimes and the humanity of the hard-working police team, along with touches of satiric humor, struck a winning chord with readers not only in Sweden but in many other countries. The novels have been translated into English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish, among other languages. In 1973, the fourth novel in the series, The Laughing Policeman, was made into a film starring Walter Matthau. Wahloo died in 1975, just after completing the final Martin Beck mystery.
 

List of works
  Roseanna (1965) Murder at the Savoy (1970)
  The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (1966) The Abominable Man (1971)
  The Man on the Balcony (1967) The Locked Room (1972)
  The Laughing Policeman (1968) Cop Killer (1974)
  The Fire Engine That Disappeared (1969) The Terrorists (1975)
     
Awards
Edgar Allen Poe Award — Best Mystery Novel of 1971 for The Laughing Policeman
HRF Keating’s 100 Best Crime & Mystery Books for Roseanna
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association’s 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century for The Laughing Policeman
 
What the critics say
“Together with Ed McBain, Sjowall and Wahloo were pioneers of the modern police procedural. Their novels still sparkle with intelligence, humour, authenticity and excitement.” — London Times, 5/12/01
“If you haven’t read Sjowall/Wahloo, start now.” — Sunday Telegraph, 11/25/00
“The plots hold because they are ingenious but never inhuman.” — New York Times, 4/21/93

 

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