LARS WINKLER – THE MAIN CHARACTER IN THE CRIME NOVELS OF JAKOB MELANDER – is a controversial figure at Copenhagen’s Police Precinct, and a man with many faces: Dad, police officer, former punk and part-time speed dipsomaniac …
In this video Jakob talks about Lars Winkler and how he came to be.
A writer interviews his main character
– Below text is a non-edited transcript of a conversation between Jakob Melander and his main character.
JM: Welcome, Lars. And thanks a lot for agreeing to sit down for this small interview.
LW: It’s not like I have a choice, is it?
JM: Hm. I’d like to begin with your past. It’s quite unusual for an officer of the law …
LW: I think I need a cigarette.
JM: Could you please not … (LW lights up a cigarette, and disappears in a cloud of smoke). Well, all right then.
LW: It was you, not I, who decided that I would be a smoker, remember?
JM: Well, we were going to talk about your past, not –
LW: So you’d like to talk about the 1980’es? Punk rock and squatting? Know what I think? I think you’re getting old. That your terrified that you’re going to forget. And now you’re using me to refresh your memory! Live through it all one last time. Am I right?
JM: It’s not me, you know, but the readers … Please, just –
LW: Well, one thing I can say is that through the what … three books you’ve managed to write about me up until now, it has always annoyed me, that you haven’t distinguished properly between punks and squatters. Of course the two movements had a close relationship, and some people were part of both groups. But to me, punk was an aesthetic revolution, and if it had any political dimension at all, it was through aesthetics: music and clothing, first and foremost. That was our way of saying fuck you to all the crap. Politics were no-go, the hippies and the students in the 70‘es had laid claim to it, and we – or I, at least – wanted none of that. It was a dead end, we had to take another route, another way. And that became rejection, negativity. The squatters, on the other hand, and the radical left, they were – are – very political.
JM: But as an officer of the law …
LW: When punk was in it’s death throngs, the squatter’s movement was already on the rise. And there were punks who went down that route as well, that’s true. But I withdrew. You will still remember, I hope, that I left for my father’s in New York?
JM: But earlier you were fighting in the streets – to paraphrase the Stones. How do you feel today, do you ever stop to think, that you might have thrown cobble stones at your later colleagues?
LW: I’ve never thrown a cobble stone in my life!
JM: That was what you told Sanne in The House that Jack Built, yes. But both of us know, that’s not the whole truth.
LW: All right, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. But as I said before: I left the scene. Too much violence. Somebody was going to get killed, eventually, and …
JM: Yes, and there was someone who ended up pretty badly, right? Could you please tell us about that incident?
LW: I think it’s about time we changed the subject.
JM: But your colleagues …
LW: Well, yes: thanks to you, it is now a public secret, what I did when I was sixteen. Others have been stealing motorbikes, went on drinking binges or driven under the influence. And strangely enough they can be excellent officers today. It is only I … Well, my colleauges in Homicide, they don’t care.
JM: And your friends from back then?
LW: I don’t see any of them!
JM: You don’t want to discuss this?
LW: Just stop, all right? This is becoming a little too schizophrenic for my taste. And don’t flatter yourself, by the way. This isn’t a particularly original idea in the first place. It’s not the first time, and author or “artist” conducts an interview with his own invention. The great American comic book author Will Eisner did an interview with his character, The Spirit, in the 1970‘es and the famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, he was American too, interviewed his dummy, Charlie McCarthy back in the 1940‘es, if I remember correctly. I think I said we were going to change the subject earlier?
Pause. Nobody speaks. JM is making coffee. LW lights yet another cigarette.
JM: Well, all right. We’ll try once more. Some have critized you for being a cliché of a crime hero – your private life’s a mess, you’re divorced, addicted to certain illicit substances and so forth?
LW: I think that one’s on you, my friend. But I must admit, I’m a bit hurt when I’m called a cliché! For once, I’ve never heard of a police officer in the combined body of crime literature that was a punk rocker. And as for the rest … I think you’ll have a hard time finding a main character from crime fiction from the western hemisphere, whose personal life ISN’T in some kind of a mess. He must have something to loose. His personal relations must be shaky at best, or else we won’t care about him, what happens to him and his project. Do you think anybody would want to read about a boy scout who helps old ladies across the street and cares about animals? There’s nothing wrong with that in real life, but in fiction … Oh, my.
JM: On that, at least, we agree. But did you have to be divorced? What do you say?
(LW thinks for a long time.)
LW: I don’t think anybody else have been commenting on this, but I might be wrong. Anyway, one of the special traits of the Scandinavian crime novel – or better: male police officers in Scandinavian crime fiction – is that they’re standing outside normal exsistence, looking in. For some – Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s Martin Beck, to name but one – one could almost call it a bonafide depression.
JM: And this relates to being divorced … how?
LW: That is precisely the point. The police officer is one of the few remaining male or masculine jobs left. Beside policing you have fire fighters and soldiers, and maybe a few more. And male Scandinavian crime writers, like you, you’re actually writing about being male in a post-feminist society. Men don’t know how to behave, how to react. Their wives have left them with their children and they’re doing quite all right without him, thank you. So he’s just standing there looking back in at what he’s lost, and can’t figure out how to fight his way back into his life again. You know, I think this is far more interesting that all the talk about the so-called socially-critical crime novel
JM: Well, isn’t it socially-critical as well? To me it sounds like your anti women’s lib?
LW: If you can try to rewind a couple of minutes, you won’t be able to find one single word on your fancy hard disc recorder, of me ranting against women’s lib. What I’m saying is that we’ve come a long way – not every where and not in all fields, but at least regarding familiy structure – in equal rights for women and men. And that’s great. That’s how it should be. But it’s easier to change the institutions and laws and all the things on the outside, so to speak, than it is to change our minds, our mentality. To memtaly adjust to the multitude of ways relations have changed. That is much more difficult. Much harder. Most Scandinavian males today has been raised with women’s lib and that this is good and right. And it is, really. But no one really knows how this affects being a man today. How do you do that?
JM: Well, obviously we all try …
LW: Exactly! We try, but up until now not with much luck, it seems. Another thing, in relation to what we talked about earlier – main characters being divorced and addicted to different illicit substances, as you call it … and let me add that when I do speed once in a while, it’s not just a random drug. Speed, amphetamine, was the drug, when I was a punk rocker, it was in perfect sync with the zeitgeist. David Bowie’s instrumental opener, Speed of life, off his Low-album, there’s another emblematic title for you. So speed is perfectly synced to my character. One could even say that it runs in my veins – well, we talked about being divorced, or chaos. A dramatic story demands a dedicated main character, one who goes against the current and forces the action and his world to change around him. If we, main characters like me, that is, if we where bureaucrats, we would shut down our computers at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and head home to the wife and kids. And there isn’t much drama in that. We need chaos in our personal lives, it is the necessary contrast to our total dedication. In our job we can at least create order in our small corner of the universe, our work. And that is also a rather well-known male line of thinking, but I guess you know that, right?
JM: I must say, I really can’t see how we’re supposed to go on from here …
LW: Well, I have nothing further to add. I’d like another coffee!