Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Crime Fiction
A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, markinng a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.
I’m so delighted to be helping to kick off the blog tour for The Man Who Died today! I have a fantastic guest post from the author to share today.
Two and a half years ago I found myself at another curious crossroad. Life has a habit of doing that: taking you down one road as far as you can go, then suddenly announcing that this where it ends. ‘Thanks a lot’ you might say, but it doesn’t really solve the geographical problem.
I had recently published my fifth novel The Mine, and I was trying to think of the next book. I wanted to write and needed to write – because that is what I do and have to do in order to be happy – and I was trying to get started, but it wasn’t happening. It wasn’t happening for several reasons.
One reason was that by that time I had written five very dark novels ranging from the icy North of The Mine to the dystopia of The Healer and I honestly felt I had given all I had in that direction, at least for the time being. (You never know about the future. I might decide tomorrow that I’m going to write something that is darker than all those five books combined.) I also realized a far more serious predicament. I had held back.
I had been restraining myself in my writing. I vividly remember a scene in one of the earlier books that I was writing and suddenly saw that I could make it funny. Very, very funny. But it didn’t fit the overall mood of the story. It would have stood out like a pink suit at a funeral. So I kept that alternative scene to myself and actually forgot about it for a while. Then, as I was searching for a new story, I remembered the scene and the feeling I had had at the time. It was almost an epiphany. It was obvious what I needed to do.
What are some of my greatest loves as far as artistic influences go? Noir. Comedies.
I was on my way. I watched and re-watched all that I had always loved so much, starting from The Marx Brothers. I love their lunacy, intelligence, sheer lovable insanity. I watched Fargo again. What a great, great film it is. (The television series is brilliant, especially season 1.) I re-read Elmore Leonard’s novels. I discovered they were even better than I remembered. He was one of the writers that got me into this writing life to start with. Same with Lawrence Block. He’s written both dark books (his Matt Scudder books are simply great noir novels and highly recommended) and lighter, funnier books starring burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr. I returned to those as well. It was like finding a well of fresh water all over again.
Most importantly, I followed my instinct. It’s such a cliché – to follow one’s heart – but there you go. It is true. Especially if you’re a writer. You simply have to write what you have to write. No way around it. And so many happy things followed that turn in the crossroads.
I told my literary agent what I was going to do. He said go for it. I didn’t have much in the beginning. Just a man going to see his doctor about flu-like symptoms and then hearing that he has been poisoned over a very long period. Then: enter the mushrooms and the mushroom business that was perfect for a host of reasons. One: I didn’t know anything about it. Two: I made nearly all of it up. Three: it had just the perfect amount of absurdity to it.
At first I was unsure of the setting. I had previously set all my novels in Helsinki and had made the city I love one of the characters in the books. Now I wanted to change that with everything else. I only had to look in my own past. I spent my childhood summers in Hamina, a small seaside town about two hours from Helsinki. I made it the golden, sunny, offbeat place that I remembered.
I had a blast writing the book that became THE MAN WHO DIED. By that, I don’t mean that writing was easy. It never is. But I knew I had a good story and the tone I had been missing even though I hadn’t really known it. I felt free. I was able to paint with all the colors, to go as far as I wanted, because now it all fit. It was the kind of story I wanted to tell.
I think I learned my lesson. As a writer, I need to trust my heart and instinct. If I love to laugh and be moved, and if I find life both tragic and comic I can’t exclude neither one. And what I hope to achieve as a writer – what I would like to do – is make the reader see the same and make the reader laugh and perhaps cry while enjoying a wild ride filled with twists and surprises.
Because, sometimes, the truth is the funny thing, and vice versa.
About the Author:
Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. The Mine, published in 2016, was an international bestseller. All of his books have been optioned for TV/film. With his piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and The Man Who Died sees him at his literary best.