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

Trond Espen Seim as Varg Veum.

Down those mean fiords…

Norwegian writer Gunnar Staalesen has written twenty 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 Lew Archer-like compassion over wisecracks. No wonder Staalesen is 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.


  • “A Norwegian Chandler”
    — Jo Nesbo
  • “Staalesen is one of my very favourite Scandinavian authors and this is a series with very sharp teeth”
    — Ian Rankin
  • “This is the dark stuff right here.The comparisons to Chandler and Macdonald are justified, but Staalesens’ also dark as fuck, showing an almost Biblical penchant for putting Veum through his paces (alcohol, substance abuse, grief, heartbreak and imprisonment), suggesting crime fiction version of Job.”
    — Kevin Burton Smith


  • Bukken til havresekken (1977; aka “The Buck to the Sack of Oats”)
  • Din, til døden (1979; aka “Yours Until Death,” 1993)Buy this book Kindle it!
  • Tornerose sov i hundre år (1980; aka “Sleeping Beauty Slept for One Hundred Years”)
  • Kvinnen i kjøleskapet (1981; aka “The Woman in the Fridge”)
  • I mørket er alle ulver grå (1983; aka “At Night All Wolves Are Grey”)Buy this book
  • Hekseringen (1985; aka “The Witches Circle”)
  • Svarte får (1988; aka “Black Sheep”)
  • Falne engler (1989; aka “Fallen Angels”) Buy this book | Buy the audio Kindle it!
  • Bitre blomster (1991, translated as “Bitter Flowers”)
  • Begravde hunder biter ikke (1993)
  • Dødelig madonna (1993)
  • Skriften på veggen (1995; aka “The Writing on the Wall)Buy this book Kindle it
  • De døde har det godt (1996)
  • 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!
  • Ingen er så trygg i fare (2014; aka “No One Is As Safe in Danger”)
  • Wolver i mørket (2017; aka “Wolves in the Dark”) | Buy this book Buy the audio Kindle it!
  • Storesøster (2018; aka “Big Sister”) | Buy this book Buy the audio Kindle it!


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
    (2007, Vigmostad & Bjørke)
    Written by Gunnar Staalesen
    Art by Mike Collins
  • Bok 4: Hevneren Fra Solbris
    (2008, Vigmostad & Bjørke)
    Written by Gunnar Staalesen
    Art by Mike Collins
  • Bok 5: Død Mann Sladrer Ikke
    (2009, 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 | Buy this DVD set
    • 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)


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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