Per Fredrik Wahlöö (5 August 1926 – 22 June 1975) - in English translations often identified as Peter Wahloo - was a Swedish author. He is perhaps best known for the collaborative work with his partner Maj Sjöwall on a series of ten novels about the exploits of Martin Beck, a police detective in Stockholm, published between 1965 and 1975. In 1971, The Laughing Policeman (a translation of Den skrattande polisen, originally published in 1968) won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Novel. Wahlöö and Sjöwall also wrote novels separately.
Wahlöö was born in Tölö parish, Kungsbacka Municipality, Halland. Following school, he worked as a crime reporter from 1946 onwards. After long trips around the world he returned to Sweden and started working as a journalist again.
He had a thirteen-year relationship with his colleague Maj Sjöwall but never married her. Both were Marxists.
He died of cancer in Malmö in 1975, aged 48.
Wahlöö's career in journalism started in 1947 in Sydsvenskan in Malmö and continued in 1949 at the new Evening Post, where he was a permanent employee, to 1953. He moved onto freelance work in the 1950s, writing theater reviews and film articles for various newspapers including for the newspapers in Norrköping before moving to Stockholm. By May 1964 Per Wahlöö's journalistic path was said to be complete. Subsequently, he was involved in the New Left journal Tidsignal (Time Signal) (1965-1970) where he was part of the editorial board, among others including the writer Kurt Salomonson (sv).
A leftist tendency and a dramatically effective narrative distinguished Wahlöö's early novels about power and the right, for example A Necessary Action from 1962, which depicts Franco's Spain, and his Dictatorship series. From the mid-1960s, he wrote together with life companion Maj Sjöwall a series of detective novels with criminal investigator Martin Beck as protagonist. Several of them have been filmed, and a successful Swedish TV film series ran from 1997-2015, with Peter Haber as Martin Beck. The series was bought by the BBC in 2015, and shown in England with English subtitles.
Per Wahlöö died after an unsuccessful operation on the pancreas (necessitated by cancer) and is buried in the memorial garden at Malmo Sankt Pauli's central cemetery.
Wahlöö was the son of the journalist and writer Waldemar Wahlöö, who later married Karin Svensson. He was married to Inger Wahlöö, née Andersson, and to Sylvia Wahlöö, née Nilsson. His brother was Claes Wahlöö.[who?]
Novels written by Per Wahlöö alone (see Martin Beck for joint collaboration with Sjöwall)
- The Chief (1959)
- The Wind and Rain (1961)
- A Necessary Action (1962)
- The Assignment (1963)
- No Roses Grow on Odenplan (1964)
- Murder on the Thirty-First Floor (1966)
- The Steel Spring (1968)
- A Necessary Action (1969)
- The Steel Spring (1970)
- The Generals (1974)
He has been described as a part of "the couple who invented Nordic noir", and he is credited as one of the main inspirations for the acclaimed Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø.
If any crime novels deserve to be called modern classics, it is the ten police procedurals about Martin Beck and his colleagues. With them, the Swedish author duo Maj Sjöwall (b. 1935) and Per Wahlöö (1926-1975), virtually created the modern detective novel. Written in the 60s and 70s, the decalogue is nothing short of a national literary treasure, with countless contemporary imitators across the world. Together, the ten books chronicle the painful creation of modern society.
“The Godparents of Scandinavian crime fiction. /…/ Sjöwall and Wahlöö, beside writers such as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Georges Simenon, have shaped the genre and the readers’ expectations as to what crime fiction should be.”
“Rendered with crisp, elegant prose and tension so thick the reader could crack a tooth.”
“One of the most authentic, gripping and profound collection of police procedurals ever accomplished.”
“A superb series of thrillers.”
“Wherever their plots take us, Sjöwall and Wahlöö find ways to catch the reader on the back foot, making us reassess our take on the world.”
“One of the series that most inspired me. /…/ They changed the genre. Whoever is writing crime fiction after these novels is inspired by them in one way or another.”
“The first great series of police thrillers ... they caught the colour of the political times and are above all truly exciting.”
“[The Martin Beck series is] something very remarkable, a great series of novels about Swedish society which draws a picture of contemporary Swedish life with critical acuity and great force. Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö have provided a multitude of brilliant and vividly human portraits of people in all situations: murderers and police officers, drug addicts and lawyers, car salesmen and heads of state. I believe this album of Swedish crime will live a long time.”
“Their mysteries don’t just read well; they reread even better. Witness, wife, petty cop or crook — they’re all real characters even if they get just a few sentences. The plots hold, because they’re ingenious but never inhuman. The writing is lean, with mournful undertones.”
New York Times
“Pick up one book and you become unhinged. You want to block out a week of your life, lie to your boss, and stay in bed, gorging on one after another.”
“If you haven’t come across Beck before, you’re in for a treat.”
“The plotting, pacing and characterization are all exquisite.”
Independent on Sunday
“If you haven’t read Sjowall/Wahloo, start now,”
“The crime novel at its best.”
Crimetime Specsavers’ Honorary Award, The Lenin Prize, The Pepe Carvalho Award, The Great Caliber Award of Honor, The Riverton Honor Prize, The Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, The Danish Poe Club’s Award, The Gran Giallo Citta di Cattolica, The Edgar Allan Poe Award, Expressen’s Sherlock Statue See full list