Varg Veum

Created by Gunnar Staalesens

"The red of the sunset between the scattered clouds lay like an open wound over the mountains on Sotra, with Mount Lyderhorn to the north-west like a tusk.

-- from Der hvor roser aldri dør

Down those mean fiords...

Norwegian writer Gunnar Staalesen has written a dozen or so books, numerous short stories and even two graphic novels about hard-working and even more hard-drinking privatdetektiven VARG VEUM, a former Child Welfare worker and "slightly" alcoholic divorced father of one son, who plies his trade (and his drinking) in Bergen, Norway.

As far as I know only a handful of the novels have appeared in English, but At Night All Wolves Are Grey is a truly superb, bleak read, well worth looking for. I didn't enjoy the second, whose title I can't remember, half as much, but At Night is a definite keeper.

Staalesen was inspired by hard-boiled American detective fiction, and cites Raymond Chandler as his prime inspiration, although it's hard to believe Ross Macdonald doesn't figure in the mix somewhere. Staalesen's more straightforward prose style, even in translation, may not quite match Chandler's but there's definitely a shared affinity for barroom wisdom (Varg's tipple of choice is aquavit), poetic flourishes and sharply observed characters, but keen-eyed readers will find also it difficult not to note his tendency to opt for his Lew Archer like compassion over wisecracks. No wonder Staalesen is considered a pretty big deal in Norway, where he's considered a serious literary figure, using crime as a vehicle for exploring the human psyche.

In fact, in Bergen, there's even a statue dedicated to Veum, located right outside the Strand Hotel, where he maintains his office.


  • Bukken til havresekken (1977)
  • Din, til døden (1978; translated as "Yours Until Death," 1993)...Buy this book..Kindle it!
  • Tornerose sov i hundre år (1979)
  • Kvinnen i kjøleskapet (1980)
  • I mørket er alle ulver grå (1983; translated as "At Night All Wolves Are Grey") ...Buy this book
  • Svarte får (1986; aka "Black Sheep")
  • Falne engler (1986)
  • Bitre blomster (1987, translated as "Bitter Flowers")
  • Begravde hunder biter ikke (1992)
  • Skriften på veggen (1995; translated as "The Writing on the Wall)...Buy this book...Kindle it
  • Som i et speil (2002)
  • Ansikt til ansikt (2004)
  • Dødens drabanter (2006; translated as "The Consorts of Death")...Buy this book...Kindle it
  • Kalde hjerter (2008; translated as "Cold Hearts")...Buy this book...Kindle it
  • Vi skal arve vinden (2010; aka "We Shall Inherit the Wind").. Buy this book.. Buy the audio. .Kindle it!
  • Der hvor roser aldri dør (2012; aka "Where Roses Never Die).. Buy this book.. Buy the audio. .Kindle it!
  • No One Is Safe in Danger


(These are possibly not all Varg Veum stories. My Norweigan isn't quite what it should be...)

  • "Fra en privatdetektivs barndom" (November 1954)
  • "De dødes dal" (November 1970 – February 1971)
  • "Det siste de gjorde" (September 1975)
  • "Dødelig ekko" (7 fjell, Bok 2) (September 1977)
  • "Gunnar Reiss-Andersen, sa han" (January 1978)
  • "Ved enden av korridoren" (October 1983.
  • "Vintermassakren" (November 1983.
  • "Deilig er jorden" (December 1983)
  • "Kilroys bombe" (February 1988)
  • "Den siste Bøschen" (October 1989)
  • "Død og tannpine" (October 1992)
  • "Det ufullendte" (March1993)
  • "Han var jo broren hennes" (October 1994)
  • "Det store spranget" (1995)
  • "Siste reis" (April 1995)
  • "Krake søker make" (October 1995)
  • "De døde har det godt" (February 1996)
  • "Skyggen" (February 1996.
  • "Blondine til besvær" (May 1999)
  • "Det siste de gjorde" (September 2000)


  • Hekseringen (1985)

Includes seven stories about Varg Veum

  • De døde har det godt (1996)

Eight more stories about Varg Veum.


  • Bok 1: De dødes dal
    (2004, Westwind Forlag AS)
    Written by Gunnar Staalesen
    Art by Mike Collins

  • Bok 2: Dødelig Ekko
    (2005, Westwind Forlag AS)
    Written by Gunnar Staalesen
    Art by Mike Collins

  • Bok 3: Vintermassakren
    Vigmostad & Bjørke)
    Written by Gunnar Staalesen
    Art by Mike Collins

  • Bok 4: Hevneren Fra Solbris
    Vigmostad & Bjørke)
    Written by Gunnar Staalesen
    Art by Mike Collins

  • Bok 5: Død Mann Sladrer Ikke
    Vigmostad & Bjørke)
    Written by Gunnar Staalesen
    Art by Mike Collins


    (2007-12, [Norway])

    Based on characters created by Gunnar Staalesens
    Starring Trond Espen Seim as VARG VEUM

Good stuff. Trond Espen Seim plays Veum with a certain lanky, slightly scuzzy charm.

  • Series One.. Buy this DVD set
  • Bitre blomster ("Bitter Flowers")
  • Tornerose ("Sleeping Beauty")
  • Din til døden ("Yours Until Death")
  • Falne Engler ("Fallen Angels")
  • Kvinnen i kjøleskapet ("Woman in the Fridge")
  • Begravde hunder ("Buried Dogs")

  • Series Two
  • Skriften på veggen (2010; aka "The Writing on the Wall")
  • Svarte får (2011; aka "Black Sheep")
  • Dødens drabanter (2011; aka "The Consorts of Death")
  • I mørket er alle ulver grå (2011)
  • De dåde har det godt (2012)
  • Kalde Hjerter (2012)


More eyes from northern Europe...

Contributed by Geoff Bradley, with additional information and commentary supplied by Kevin Burton Smith. Illustration by Mike Collins, taken from cover of the De dødes dal graphic novel.

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