What’s the difference between The Killing I and The Killing II? Ten hours for a start. The second Sarah Lund series was half the length of the first. Did that make my life easier when it came to adapting this second series and turning it into a novel?
A bit. The first series is a marathon effort and produced a marathon book, the longest I’ve ever written (and I still cut a fair bit from the original!). The second series, though, still comes from the fertile imagination of Søren Sveistrup. It’s a complex, winding story in which Lund searches for the truth behind a series of murders linked to the Danish military. Are terrorists to blame as the police originally believed? Renegade soldiers? Or someone linked to the Danish political establishment?
It’s still an epic tale, and a long book, though not as long as the first in the series. It also posed some different challenges. In the first series my job was principally to tailor an existing story to the medium of fiction. That entailed cutting and a new ending to satisfy the reader. The second story posed new problems.
For a start it had a local dimension that wasn’t apparent to the average viewer/reader unfamiliar with Danish history. The war memorial where the story begins, Mindelunden, is no ordinary place. It’s built on the spot where the Nazis used to execute Danish partisans. Once again Søren imbues the opening with some sinister meaning that only becomes apparent later on.
So I had to draw out that Danish context and make it meaningful to a wider audience. This is a story about war, the effect it has on soldiers, their families and politicians who send their troops to distant conflicts they may hate themselves. Alongside the driving narrative there’s a broader social tale about people locked into fixed positions they can’t escape, however much they try.
This gave me an opportunity to expand a little on the character of Lund and her boss Brix, an important player in this tale. And I was able to change things a little too to meet the needs of fiction. The alterations I made to the original story gently pushed the books into a kind of parallel universe alongside the TV series. The characters are the same, and the stories pretty much too. But sometimes things will swerve in a new direction. I can promise Lund devotees a few surprises here, but they’re not there for surprise’s sake.
Books are different to drama. They demand more in the way of explanation and resolution. I have to answer things that on the screen can go unanswered as we bask in the skills of some of the finest actors to appear in front of the TV camera. I hope I’ve done Søren’s original justice.
The Killing II is published by Macmillan