First, the photo – an explanation. Much of Seven Graves, One Winter is set in Nuuk, and this is the view from our apartment on the day I was given the keys. We had yet to move in. Jane was in Denmark for her brother’s wedding, while I was sleeping in temporary accommodation while waiting for our apartment. Our containers had arrived from Qaanaaq, but I had yet to discover one of them had leaked – the containers sat on the beach in Qaanaaq as there is no dock, and the sea came in – so this photo is one of those “blissfully unawares” moments, the calm before the storm, as it were. Incidentally, this is Petra’s apartment, meaning this is her view too. 😉
Now, back to Seven Graves on Sundays!
Chapter 10 is very much Gaba’s chapter. I’m giving nothing away, and for readers who have read many of my stories, Sergeant Gaba Alatak will already be a familiar character. I needed him to round out the team, and, like many of my characters, Gaba is inspired by real police officers I met in Greenland, and one in particular. I’ll never say who that officer might be, of course, but suffice it to say I was very impressed by him, slightly intimidated, but impressed. However, Gaba has a good portion of dramatic license pumped into him. The real deal was far more human, of course.
In getting ready for my author panel at Iceland Noir, I recently had a chat on skype with the moderator. We talked about the difference in public attitudes towards the police depending on where you live, and your background. As a foreigner in Greenland, I had close contact with the police. I had to report to them with my Visa and work permit, which was problematic as my employers – the council – assumed I was Danish because I spoke the language and had a Danish personal registration number (almost like a US Social Security number – which I once had, many years ago). So, I lived illegally in Greenland for about 18 months until it was resolved.
The resolution came about with a showdown at the police station, and I remember sitting on the stairs – the police station was a small house at the time – while the police chief explained that he was in his right to put me on the next helicopter, while the headteacher said if he did that, she would throw his kids out of school. I’m pretty sure the police chief had the legal right to do what he intended, and the headteacher was bluffing.
It helped that the chief’s kids enjoyed my English classes. 😉
The chief is not Gaba, although I was impressed by the chief too, and enjoyed many long chats about all kinds of things. We swapped DVDs during the dark winter months, and discovered a shared interest in war movies, the more realistic the better.
More than that, though, my experience of the police in Greenland was wholly positive, including the year I taught at the Police Academy which remains one of the best, perhaps the best teaching jobs I have ever had. I felt like I was really doing something for the community, if that makes any sense. Anyway, when we lived in the small communities, the police were very much a part of our lives. We went to the same birthday parties, the same Christmas markets, the same funerals. They were our colleagues, and our friends. Sure, apart from being an illegal alien in Greenland, I didn’t break the law, so my interaction was always positive, and a lot of fun – role playing at the academy comes to mind. I guess what I’m trying to say is that apart from the odd ‘bad cop’ thrown into my stories for dramatic effect, the police characters I write about are positive, helpful, if a little macho – Gaba, I’m looking at you – people. They are also often low-ranking officers.
A journalist in Barcelona once asked me why I write about constables, not detectives, and the simple answer is I only really met constables, and the Danish equivalent of sergeants, with a few exceptions. And, in the remote communities, it was usually the constables who acted as detectives anyway. 🙂
But back to Gaba!
Like many of my characters I return to them often, putting them into different series and even writing short stories and novellas just for them, both to explore their backstory, and to see if there is interest – on my side and the readers’ – to develop those stories into something bigger. Gaba has, over time, become an important character in the Greenland Missing Persons series, just as he continues to be a central character in the Greenland Crime series.
Just wait until I talk about Constable Atii Napa when she makes her debut in Chapter 14. 😉
There are 12 more Sundays left in the year, so I’ll stop this Sunday blog post here.
Chapter 10 is now LIVE for all patrons, from the “Behind the Scenes” tier for 25 DKK and up, on my patreon page.
There’s a lot to read on my patreon page now, not just Seven Graves, One Winter. Please ask if you want to know more.
Alternatively, you can buy Seven Graves, One Winter (digital and physical formats) starting from $0.99 USD.