To me it is all about finding my own way

Jussi Adler-Olsen is a Danish crime author. The Purity of Vengeance is the fourth novel in the Department Q series.

Until the end of the 60’s, Denmark had a policy that favored eugenics with marital control, castration, abortion and forced internment. Do people who feel nostalgic about this period still exist?

The 1960’s are indeed years that people look back on with fondness. Lots of good things happened. What I have done is to do an “upside-down” iceberg – I have taken the tip, one of the smaller parts, something nobody is proud of – and placed it at the center of attention thus bringing this awful injustice to the attention of my readers.

However, have no doubt that at all times in the history of mankind it will be possible to find examples of violations or abuse.

Department Q has been around for a few years now, with more and more people following the adventures of inspector Mørck and his team. How do you live alongside these recurrent characters?

The first I ever wrote in the series of Department V were the three long and exciting stories of Assad, Carl Mørck and Rose which bind the whole series together. My aim was – for the first time in history of crime and thriller stories I think – to create not only a standard development of the main characters personalities, interactions with each other and in their private life, but also to create a story in itself which is unpredictable. It has been very exciting and still is, so many times the characters can even surprise in the process of writing with their wit and unpredictability. More than anything at the moment it is their unpredictability that fascinates me. Like my readers, I am also curious what they end up doing in the plot when I am writing.

Isn’t Assad a difficult name to have these days, even for a fictional character?

Assad is a dazzling example of an immigrant who is an equal to any of us. He is at least as well educated, perhaps even better so and he has no problem what so ever to work alongside someone from a different culture. Assad is created to be Carl’s catalyst. He is the one who can bring this lazy detective to take an interest in his job and his surroundings. And Assad is a man with lots of humor, great intelligence and an uncanny talent as a police detective.

When you take a close look at how I have described Assad throughout the books Carl has also from the very beginning shown respect for Assad’s faith – even to the point of helping him learn how the cupboard in the cellar, which is Assad’s office, is placed so that Assad can be certain that his praying mat is directed towards Mecca. Carl too is someone who has an understanding of the needs of people coming from another culture.

Assad is obviously not a common stereotype, but who is when it comes to each individual given the right opportunity to prove themselves? Let’s get rid of the labels and stereotypical thinking of our surroundings. It brings nothings but simplicity.

As regards to the name and its origins – remember – we do not yet know the whole story about Assad’s life.

Is there a rulebook for Scandinavian crime novelists where rule number one is: you must describe the daily life of your investigators?

To me it is all about finding my own way. As an author it is important not to try to be someone else, but to be yourself and find your own voice, which in my opinion is valid in all aspects of life. It is a matter of being honest in your relation to the reader. I have always striven to find my own way – one which has never been trodden by anyone else -this has in fact been the case throughout my life. And once I have found my way and the text is written it is a good idea to get a feel of the flow. Not necessarily by reading aloud but reading for yourself inside your mind. Step back an imaginary five steps and take a good look at the text through the eyes of a reader. It may well take 15 or even 20 extra revisions to the text before it is ready. But it is right there in the deepest depth of the novel that a book with a good plot, a good string of text, and credible characters lie.

And as for your question regarding the daily life of my investigators: what do we really know about them?

There are multiple historical periods in your novel. Was it hard to divide the plot?

Not really – I am quite a structured person. In fact I have a very detailed synopsis that I work from. I love challenges and one challenge in this book was to switch between the periods in time. To me it was fun, exactly because it was challenging. But without my synopsis it would never have worked. It is more detailed than you can imagine – I even check the weather reports for the particular days I write about.