In the movie version of Hollywood’s obsession with Scandinavian crime fiction, this is the point where the rich, doting pursuer has a fickle change of heart and turns his attentions to the next exotic locale with its own surging subculture of sexy-creepy detective novels. Act three: Jilted lover exacts a bloody revenge.
But Hollywood’s affections for all things snowy and sinister has yet to reach its tipping point, given that Summit Entertainment recently revealed its plans to produce an English-language remake of Jo Nesbo‘s Headhunters, about a successful corporate recruiter who pads his income and his ego with the valuable artwork he steals from the homes of his clients.
The novel’s haute monde setting — which combines the visceral allure of museum-quality paintings and the soigne art connoisseur anti-hero scheming to steal them — holds a natural appeal to the same U.S. audiences who flocked to watch George Clooney and Brad Pitt play Vegas-style Robin Hoods in the “Oceans 11” films. That said, Nesbo’s novel delves into much murkier moral terrain when a big heist gone awry leads the protagonist into a dark underworld populated by sadistic contract killers, deeply corrupt corporate tycoons and some of the most gruesome crime scenes ever conjured. A Norwegian film adaptation of the book screened at Cannes earlier this year to favorable reviews and will receive a stateside release later this year.
For all Headhunters‘ promise to become a slick crime caper — complete with a lead role tailor-made for Ryan Gosling bedecked in tailor-made suits — it’s hard not to wonder whether cold-climate thriller ennui won’t have set in by the time all these Nordic policiers make it to the big screen. By the time the English-language version of “Headhunters” hits theaters, many of its target moviegoers will have already seen David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Kenneth Branagh’s rendering of Henning Mankell‘s Italian Shoes, and Stephen Gaghan’s take on Leif GW Persson’s Evert Backstrom novels.
And once the backlash to Scandinavian spooks does inevitably take hold, where will Hollywood go for its international crime fix? Fortunately, Northern Europe is far from the only foreign region to spawn a vanguard of literary crime fiction. In fact, detective fiction is thriving in countries and cultures as disparate and far flung as Nigeria, Japan, Italy, and Ireland. And while it still may be too early to predict which of these will provide the source material for the next wave of crime movies, here are three international locations Hollywood should consider when planning its next literary heist.
Japan: Earlier this year, connoisseurs of literary crime hailed Natsuo Kirino‘s Out for its crackling originality, twisted humor, and gruesome sense of irony. The story follows four female factory workers who conspire to cover up the murder of one of their abusive husbands. Other promising Japanese contemporary gothicists include Shuichi Yoshida, Keig0 Higashino. New Line has already snatched up the U.S. rights to Out, and the other two have already been heavily adapted in Japan.
Italy: Gianrico Carofiglio, the godfather of contemporary Italian crime fiction, is poised to lead the invasion with his award-winning novels centered around an anti-mafia crusading lawyer, Guido Guerrieri. Carofiglio’s stories have already been translated for the small screen in Italy and it’s only a matter of time until his compulsively compelling storytelling solidifies a base of fans in the States. Giancarlo de Cataldo and Massimo Carlotto also rank high on the list of highly cinematic Italian crime writers.
South Africa: For those who like their crime fiction as straight-up and unsentimental as a police blotter, you’d be hard pressed to find meaner streets than those found in South Africa’s mystery novels. Richard Kunzmann‘s Dead End Road tracks the increasingly bloody feud between two siblings and business partners who come under suspicion when one of their wives turns up dead and missing both breasts. The best of South Africa’s artful fiction includes Andrew Brown‘s Cold Sleep Lulaby and Mike Nicol and Joanne Hichens’ Out to Score.
Who are some of your favorite international crime writers still flying under the radar in the U.S.? Where do you think/hope Hollywood travels to import its next shipment of literary detective thrillers?