Thursday 22 September 2016


It's been a while since I've read a Swedish crime novel, but I've recently finished Clinch by author Martin Holmen.

Martin was kind enough to submit to a bit of gentle questioning, but first here's a bit about the book....

The first book in the Harry Kvist Trilogy

You can put the gloves on the shelf but it takes a long time to wash their smell from your knuckles.

The writing's on the wall for Harry Kvist. Once a notorious boxer, he now spends his days drinking, and his nights chasing debts amongst the pimps, prostitutes and petty thieves of 1930s Stockholm. When women can't satisfy him, men can. But one biting winter's night he pays a threatening visit to a debtor named Zetterberg, and when the man is found dead shortly afterwards, all eyes are on Kvist.

Determined to avoid yet another stint in prison, Kvist sets out to track down the only person who can clear his name. His hunt will lead him from the city's slums, gangster hideouts and gambling dens to its most opulent hotels and elite nightclubs. It will bring him face to face with bootleggers and whores, aristocrats and murderers. It will be the biggest fight of his life.

Blending noir with gritty violence, Clinch is a visceral, compulsive thriller that packs a punch and leaves you reeling.

'Clinch is a dark, atmospheric, powerful thriller, the best debut novel I've read in years' - Lynda La Plante
Here's Martin.....

Is the writing full-time?

I still teach History two days a week.

What's been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

I would say all the hours I put into it. I like be on my own, working.
On another hand - being chosen by Val McDermid to be a part of the New
Blood panel this summer was quite an honor.

How long did Clinch take from conception to completion?

About two years, there was a lot of research involved.

Clinch is your first published novel, with another two in the trilogy
behind it - have you completed these or are they still works in

I'm wrapping it up now! The third and finishing installment SLUGGER will
be on my publishers desk here in Sweden by Christmas.

Does the time period of the trilogy remain pre-war 30s Sweden
throughout like Clinch, or do the latter books move on in time?

I'm sticking to the 30s and Stockholm, 1932 - 1935 to be exact.

Are we likely to see anything from you set in more contemporary
Sweden, or is your writing more focussed on the past?

I have some ideas but historical pieces will always be my priority I

Are there any unpublished gems in the bottom drawer?

Actually not. Beginners luck I guess. And maybe a tiny bit of talent.

What's your typical writing schedule?

All over the place. In phases I work very disciplined from about 8 AM to
2 PM, in other cases I can write 18 hours but I'm trying to stick to my
short days and take breaks.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

I really don't. I get almost all of my inspiration from books and

Are there any subjects off limits?

No, writing in a noir kind of way is sort of an exaggerated realistic
style and there should be an element of melodrama as well. In modern day
Swedish society I would say that very little is off limits.

What are the last five books you have read?

Well, three of them have only got Swedish titles and the others were two
old favorites: Turkish Delight by Jan Wolkers and The Diceman by Luke Rhinehart.

Who do you read and enjoy?

French and Russian realists and naturalist writers, the great American
novels of Dos Passos, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner, some pulp
fiction. A rarely read contemporary literature and quite rarely crime,
most of my favorites is from the 1880s to the 1940s I would say.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do and came close enough I
think. The best debut I've ever read is Hemingway's The Sun also Rises I
think. I could never have written a novel like Garcia Marquez' One
Hundred Years of Solitude for example but damn I wish I could.

Favourite activity when not working.

Threesomes. (Didn't AC give the same answer once in an interview, or have I misremembered?)

What's the best thing about writing?

To disappear.

The worst?

The finishing touches, like moving commas around.


Thanks to Martin for his time.


  1. Another fine author interview, Col. I envy Martin Holmen's six and 18 hour writing schedule. That's a writer's discipline.

    1. Prashant thanks. Got to admire his commitment really.

  2. That's a really interesting context for a novel - 1930's Sweden. And Prashant is right; that's real writing discipline.

    1. I liked the time frame of the novel and the location of events, which isn't always the case for me - most of my reading has contemporary settings. I've a lot of admiration for writers and the devotion they have to their craft. I'll be keen to read next year's follow on.

  3. I always enjoy your interviews, and he sounds nice. Stockholm in the 30s sounds a fascinating setting, very intriguing.

    1. Moira thanks. I did like this book a lot - not yet posted on it. 30s set books (and more so books written in the 30s) don't usually grab me, but this one did.