The Snowman by Jorg Fauser

‘Right now, I’d say information is big business.’

In the early 1990s, a friend of mine started receiving packages addressed to an ‘H. Warner’ to his shared house in Acton. You know what it’s like with a previous tenants’ mail. You let it build up and up, until one day curiosity gets the better of you…

Well, H. Warner had some pretty specific tastes. One of the packages contained a videotape called Erotic Dwarf. Low on production values, it comprised of a hand flicking carefully through the titular magazine for the camera. My friend was struck by one thought: ‘Who would try to make money out of stuff like this?’

Meet Blum.

Malta is getting a little hot for Blum, and not because of the weather. He can’t move on his Danish hardcore, the police are on his back because of some of his past deeds, (the art counterfeiting, the butter scandal) and he’s running low on funds. So when a consignment of cocaine lands into his lap, Blum sees his chance for the big deal he’s always wanted. The Macguffin sets us up for a chase narrative, Blum leaping from city to city with his contraband, looking for a score.

Probably no crime novels are more authentic than those that focus on the criminal, and of those novels, probably the most accurate focus less on Dostoyevskian philosophers than grubby bottom feeders. The Snowman is original for its focus on the economics of criminality, and how the world of control and crime intersects. Blum’s new venture exposes him to writers and artists, dilettantes and businessmen. Strangers becomes lovers become enemies. Enemies become friends become informers. Informers become… well, the relationships blur. Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam, Bruges, all flash by in the text, as the background to various bar and hotel room interiors, Blum navigating them all like a corrupt Tintin. Espionage lingers at the border of criminality. The Snowman is the only book that I know of which employs the numbers stations, although in keeping with the pervasive sense of derangement, it is used as a motif for Blum’s paranoia, and not plot device.

In life, Fauser resembled an extra from a Fassbender film. A journalist and poet, as well as a novelist, he claimed the Beats as direct influences, and it’s clear from The Snowman that the insights into the drug pyramid come from direct personal experience. He died on his birthday, walking the wrong way along an Autobahn either drunk or high or making a statement, no one really knows.

‘Blum lay down and listened to the junkies- one had been constipated for six days, the other was talking about some dirty deal or other, and they both seemed to be discussing the same thing, interchangeable symptoms of the same condition, the same incurable illness. He saw the day slowly dawning behind the trees, the city coming to life, going on again, Frankfurt am Main in the Federal Republic of Germany.’


Text © Daniel Bennett

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