LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
The Swedish writer Henning Mankell's new book is called "The Troubled Man." That might be a good name for his entire best-selling series of novels about Kurt Wallander, a morose police detective who lives and works in southern Sweden. Mankell joined us from Radio Sweden in Gothenburg. The new book is sure to provoke mixed emotions in fans, it's the first Wallander novel in about 10 years, and it's also likely to be the last. I asked Henning Mankell why.
Mr. HENNING MANKELL (Author, "The Troubled Man"): Well, maybe I'm a little old-fashioned. In the times where everyone is talking that everything in life is a process, I am keen on dots...
WERTHEIMER: You mean like a period?
(Soundbite of laughter)
WERTHEIMER: An end of a sentence.
Mr. MANKELL: It's like a period you see. Yeah, yeah, exactly. You say period, yes. So I'm old-fashioned to believe in periods. And I really thought that now is the ending to make the final period of the stories of Wallander.
WERTHEIMER: Now, this book is about a Cold War incident involving the relationship between Sweden and the Soviet Union. And one of your characters is a retired submariner.
Mr. MANKELL: Yeah, that's true.
WERTHEIMER: Is their reality in this - history and all of this?
Mr. MANKELL: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I would say that during my lifetime, one of the worst political scandals in Sweden was absolutely what happened surrounding the affair of the submarines in Swedish waters in 1982, where there were supposed to be Russian submarines close to Stockholm. And the military of Sweden never got one up. And what we know today, is that there were no Russian submarines. If there were any submarines, they were most probably American. So this is probably still one of the worst scandals, politically, we have seen.
WERTHEIMER: Now, in the story, the Swedish submariner who is the, sort of, father-in-law of Wallander's daughter goes missing.
Mr. MANKELL: Yes.
WERTHEIMER: And then his wife goes missing.
Mr. MANKELL: Yes. And that is the sort of plot that starts everything in this book; that suddenly one person disappears and now his wife disappears. And then I tried to tell the story about all this hypocrisy, and all the lying concerning the Swedish neutrality during the '50s and the '60s, and even up till today. That is the basic story of this book.
WERTHEIMER: Well, it's a complicated political tale that you tell. And you set yourself an interesting problem here. Poor Wallander has a very complicated situation to investigate, and he's trying to work it, while his health is slowly growing worse.
Mr. MANKELL: Well, I believe that life is very complicated. And in a way, the only way you can show life in a truthful way is to show how complicated it is as an individual, but also your relation between a complicated life and the complications you have inside you. So in that sense, I'm quite happy that I dared to write this rather complicated novel, as you say.
WERTHEIMER: I wonder if I could just ask you to read something, which sort of illustrates that. Throughout the book you give little hints. This fairly dark detective seems to be even more introspective than we've seen before. He drifts off into reveries, sad reveries, often about death.
Mr. MANKELL: Yeah.
(Reading) He stood by the window and gazed out at the old water tower, the pigeons, the trees, the blue sky emerging through the dispersing clouds. He felt deeply uneasy, an aura of desolation all around him. Or maybe it was actually inside him, as if he were turning into an hourglass with the sand silently running out. He continued watching the pigeons and the trees until the feeling drifted away. Then he went back to his desk and continued doggedly reading through the reports piled high in front of him.
WERTHEIMER: You've said, many times, that you are nothing like Kurt Wallander. But do you or have you been having those kinds of relatively bleak little moments, as well?
Mr. MANKELL: Well, I'm very glad to say no to that question. I don't believe that I'm scared of dying. And what really scares me is, if I, one day, ain't physically fit, will be told by my wife or by someone: Henning, you are losing your head, you don't know what you're saying, you're forgetting everything. That really, really scares me. And I think that is the sort of fear that many people have and I've wanted to talk a little about that fear. I think we have to accept this as a real, real scary thing that could happen when you get old.
WERTHEIMER: For those of us who love the Wallander stories, are you thinking that there might be a way that you would continue this? Or maybe think of something else to sort of satisfy that - the fact that they are popular and people wait for them?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. MANKELL: Well, at least I do not do the same mistake as Conan Doyle, that killed off...
(Soundbite of laughter)
WERTHEIMER: Killing even bringing him back.
Mr. MANKELL: ...Sherlock Holmes and then had to bring him back to life again. There is another perspective to, and that is that his daughter is also a police officer. So, who knows is the best answer I can give you.
WERTHEIMER: Okay. "The Troubled Man" is the 11th and perhaps the last novel about Kurt Wallander by Henning Mankell. Mr. Mankell joined us from Gothenburg in Sweden.
Thank you so much.
Mr. MANKELL: Thank you.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
From NPR News, this is MORNING EDITION.
WERTHEIMER: I'm Linda Wertheimer.
MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.