Not so ordinary Jo
Nesbo is trying to look on the bright side of things. “They were very nice to me,” he says. “They’re putting me in their hall of fame for not winning so many times.” The judges praised Phantom for being “less savagely violent” than his previous books. and violence is certainly something that Nesbo appreciated from an early age.
He came from a family of voracious readers and storytellers. “My mother was a librarian and my father used to sit in the living room reading every afternoon, and he told stories. Long stories we had heard before, but told in such a way that we wanted to hear them again.”
At age seven, Nesbo asked his father to read him Lord of the Flies – because he liked the bloodstained cover. “My father read it and I thought I could have made the story more exciting myself. I had already begun to impress friends my age , and some older children, with my gruesome ghost stories.”
Gruesome is a word that’s often applied to his books, but the gore is never less than inventive, as in his standalone novel Headhunters, in which terrible things are done to a dog and an outdoor toilet has a use you’d not imagine in your worst nightmare.
Nesbo insists that his characters are imaginary, though some don’t agree. A prominent Norwegian publisher felt he had been used as the model for the villain in The Snowman, while in The Phantom there were some unfortunate parallels with a nymphomaniac female politician he describes, and a real life character in Norwegian public life.
In real life, Nesbo is divorced and the father of a teenager girl. “There is nothing so scary, he says, as being a parent. “I had stopped being afraid of things until I had my daughter, even my own death. When I became a father all my fears came back.
“I was a free man until I had a child. Once, when I collected her from kindergarten and we were crossing a road and I reached down for her hand and it wasn’t there, I had a second of sheer panic. I had to go back to childhood to feel that fear.”
The Bat is published in paperback by Vintage