It’s been almost three years since the third – and final – series of The Killing (Forbrydelsen) hit the TV screens, but the passing of time has not diminished the world’s interest in Sarah Lund et al. The good news for those who’ve started to exhaust their DVDs is that the characters also live on the printed page.
Crime writer, David Hewson, who was responsible for writing all three books of The Killing, took the time to answer some questions about his journey into Scandinoir, and why even the most hardcore fans can still expect some surprises when they turn the pages of a trilogy which is still very much his own.
How did you come to write The Killing trilogy? Were you already a fan of the TV show?
I was headhunted basically. I was in Italy researching the book that was to become The Flood when I got an email from my publisher. They were taking part in a big auction for the book rights for the series and had decided already I was the best person to write it. I had heard all the fuss about the show but since I was in Italy hadn’t seen it. The DVDs were waiting for me on my return. Seemed an interesting idea.
Given the worldwide popularity of the show and the multi-faceted plots of each series, did you feel under any certain pressure while writing the three books?
Only the usual: to produce a good book. It’s important to understand this was an adaptation not a novelisation. I had the right to change whatever aspects of the story I wanted in order to make it work in book form – which is why all three books end differently to the TV. They weren’t fan fiction they were meant to be books in their own right. So they certainly weren’t aimed at The Killing TV fans alone. In fact quite a few people now seem to think I wrote the books first and the TV followed. Lots of people now go to the TV from the book.
You spent time in Copenhagen to get an understanding for the city. Had you been to Copenhagen before? How similar is the city to its depiction in the TV show?
It was my first time in Denmark. I visited the key locations — the police station, parliament, the woods where Nana is murdered. Though to be honest that was more for the benefit of the books than to follow in the footsteps of the TV. The TV is mainly set in rainy dark November; when I was there the November weather was beautiful and everyone was very cheery. So it’s not a terribly accurate portrait of Copenhagen from what I saw — but it’s fiction so it doesn’t need to be.
Which character did you enjoy writing about, or exploring, the most? Were there any characters you would have liked to have written about in more detail but couldn’t?
Books and drama are very different because in a book you can go inside a character’s head and hear what they were thinking. So my Sarah Lund, for example, had to be more rounded, and more vocal than the TV version. I also made some big changes to her sidekick in the first book Jan Meyer who I felt deserved a broader background. I didn’t feel I needed to write more about anyone. The first series was 20 hours-long, which made for a very big book even though I cut out some scenes altogether. The next two were shorter but they’re still meaty books.
Which story line did you enjoy writing the most: book one, two or three?
I enjoyed them all in different ways. The first was the hardest because I’d never done anything like that before. The second was easier and shorter, and I think a bit warmer on the page than on the screen. With the last I was particularly keen to wrap up the three books as a trilogy about the character of Lund – something the TV couldn’t do because they wrote the scripts as they went, whereas I could write them with hindsight. So the end of book three — and the trilogy — is actually very different to the ending on TV. The way the TV concluded seem to me to go against the grain of everything we knew about Lund — a woman who always walked wide-eyed towards danger, never away from it. It was good to be able to change that and – unlike the TV – to bring back one of my favourite characters from series one, Troels Hartmann, as the political snake.
Why do you think the show and characters – particularly Sarah Lund – are still remembered and enjoyed to this day?
It was remarkable TV that’s now been copied around the world. It’s intelligent, unique, dramatic and very brave in depending more on character than the conventional tropes of TV crime shows. I’m forever asked if it will be back. That’s nothing to do with me, of course, but the TV people say no and I hope that’s correct. Three series was enough. Any more would spoil things.