The Bat: Back to the Beginning with Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole

Weekly Lizard

American readers were first introduced to the dark and brooding Inspector Harry Hole with Alfred A. Knopf’s May 2011 publication of The Snowman. And while that gritty, raw thriller can easily stand alone, it’s officially #7 in the series. So, how did it all begin for Harry? Finally—after subsequent releases of The Leopard, Phantom, and The Redeemer—readers can go back to the beginning and meet Harry Hole as Jo Nesbø first envisioned him. To whet your appetite we’ve got an exclusive letter from Jo Nesbø’s U.S. editor, Diana Coglianese, offering an exciting insider’s look at the birth of the series and the inspiration behind The Bat.

Dear Reader,

If you have only a passing acquaintance with Jo Nesbø’s addictive series of thrillers centered around detective Harry Hole, or even if you think you’ve read them all, you probably take for granted that the Norwegian Harry operates almost exclusively in his hometown of Oslo: with its frigid air, mountain ridges, gritty snow on sidewalks, and junkies lurking in alleyways. So it may surprise you to learn that the very first Harry Hole novel, The Bat—which for years was not available in the U.S., but has just been published by Vintage on July 2—is set not in Norway, but in Australia.

As Jo Nesbø has described, the inspiration for The Bat came to him mid-air, on a flight from Oslo to Sydney. This was not only the birth of the Harry Hole series, but also the beginning of Jo’s career as a novelist. In those thirty hours, he came up with his central character and an entire plot; when he arrived at his hotel in Sydney, he immediately started writing. You’ll find that, in the book’s opening pages, Harry himself arrives at the same airport as Jo and is staying in the same hotel. They may be plagued by the same jetlag.

It is a rare pleasure to see a beloved character out of his element, as Harry is in The Bat. The Australians can’t quite pronounce his name, so they call him “holy” (it’s pronounced “hoo-leh”). And Harry can’t get used to the heat or the cars driving on the left-hand side of the road. But he is the same gruff, determined, belligerent investigator, from his clashes with authority and struggles with alcoholism, to his unparalleled insights into the minds of killers.

Looking ahead to the second Harry Hole novel, The Cockroaches, also never before available in this country and forthcoming from Vintage Crime/Black Lizard: the setting is once again unexpected, this time Bangkok. The Bat and The Cockroaches together make for a fascinating excursion before the Oslo setting takes hold for the rest of the novels to follow. In fact, watching Harry navigate an unfamiliar territory makes the character and the series feel fresh all over again. Whether you are a longtime fan or a complete newcomer, The Bat offers the opportunity to discover Harry Hole—and Jo Nesbø—for the first time.

I hope you’ll enjoy.

Diana Coglianese
Alfred A. Knopf