Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 book facts

I haven't done a book facts posting since 2010. Because I wrote so few book reports this year, I decided I would compile some stats for the 2015 books.

I read 69 books.

39 mysteries
10 fiction
8 nonfiction
3 children's books
3 young adult fiction
2 young adult mysteries
1 middle grade fiction
1 graphic novel
1 graphic nonfiction
1 spy fiction

publication dates:

1920s - 2
1930s - 3
1940s - 6
1950s - 11
1960s - 5
1970s - 4
1980s - 5
1990s - 3
2000s - 30

3 library books (all kindle)
10 rereads

54 kindle
15 print

43 by men
26 by women

I don't usually read as many by men, but this year continued my love of Arthur Upfield's mysteries, and I've now read all of them except the one that wasn't on kindle. I love these books of Australia, even though they aren't one bit politically correct when it comes to the Aborigines. Since I haven't written about all of them, and if you are interested, you may have an introduction to the series here -which I see that I wrote a year ago today! Reading is such a personal thing, and you can never tell if someone else will be as thrilled by a book as you are. Tom read one, and felt very ho-hum about it, and wasn't inspired to read anymore. Whereas, I still think about them, and look forward to reading everything Arthur Upfield ever wrote. I own print versions of his short stories, and some books about his work.

I've posted a couple times about my 'new' study. It is now completely done - painting finished, everything arranged, and a new chair bought. I've wanted a glider rocker for many years, and we got one for ourselves for Christmas. As I've said, there are no electronics, not even a clock in this room. It is gated off from Raya and Lucy so the grandchildren can play without having the toys stolen by the dog! I walk through the gate and feel I'm almost in another world. This is my long-winded way of saying that I now have a perfect place to read my print books, and my reading aspiration this year is to read more of them during the days and evenings. I still use my kindle at night for ease of handling.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Today's picture / Christmas day

I didn't dream of a green Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Today's Christmas cd/Tracey Thorn - Tinsel and Lights

I had been thinking of posting something for the solstice which happens tonight just before midnight my time. But instead I wanted to share this album I've been listening to. Tracey Thorn is probably best known for being half of Everything But the Girl. You can read more about her here. This Christmas offering from 2012 is sublime. Serious, thoughtful, unique. I love her voice. She does many original songs, as well as Joni Mitchell's River, and Ron Sexsmith's Maybe This Christmas which I featured two years ago, when my beloved Hazel Nina was 12 days old and weighing around two pounds.

Here is a video of the song Joy.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Once and Again: Read a Second Book by that Awesome Author Challenge

My one reading goal in 2016 is to read more print books. The past couple years have been quite full (!) and much of my reading has been at night on the kindle. I'm hoping to spend more time in the study/library

with my beloved paper books.

In anticipation of this, I have joined a reading challenge from my blogging friend who lives on Prince Edward Island (one of my favorite places on the earth). It is called Once and Again: Read a Second Book by that Awesome Author Challenge, and you may read about it, and join if you wish, here.

The authors I plan to read:

Anita Desai: I read The Artist of Disappearance in 2012, and loved the writing. I plan to read Feasting, Fasting and/or Clear Light of Day.

Allegra Goodman: I have read Kaaterskill Falls many times, and Paradise Park once, and have meant to read more by this author. I want to read The Family Markowitz and/or The Cookbook Collector.

Julia Stuart: I read The Pigeon Pie Mystery in 2013, and enjoyed it. I am going to read The Matchmaker of Périgord.

Rosy Thornton: I read The Tapestry of Love in 2011, and have meant to read other books by her. I own More Than Love Letters, and Ninepins, which the author actually sent to me. I will read one or both of them for this challenge.

Edwin Teale Way: I read Springtime in Britain, and have wanted to begin his seasonal journeys across the United States so shall read his 1951 North with the Spring, during springtime, of course. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Qdj - The Old Farmer's Almanac

If the past year has been a prosperous one, and you have a surplus of money or provision, cheer up your poor neighbors by helping them from your abundance. Happiness is never gathered faster than it is when trying to make others happy.
December 1890
The Old Farmer's Almanac

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pasta and Chickpea Stew

For this week's Weekend Cooking offering, I made Pasta and Chickpea Stew. It is a variation on a recipe in

I soaked a cup of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) overnight. This morning I cooked them in a large pot, adding water whenever it got low. First on high heat, then turned down to medium. They took maybe three hours to soften, but I didn't have to hover over them. I could come in and out of the kitchen to occasionally check. When they were soft, I added a cup of my tomato sauce (recipe here). Then I sautéed two good-sized garlic cloves in olive oil with added rosemary at a very low temperature for about ten minutes, and added it to the beans. In a separate pot, I cooked some macaroni, and stirred it in. I think there was about 2 cups cooked. And that's it. This made a delicious, filling, healthy, excellent supper.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What I Learned from TV - November 24 (and part of a poem)

Each time I do a post about What I Learned From TV, I’ll begin with the explanation from the first posting:

Now that my kids are grown, and Tom has retired, I’ve been able to go back to my natural sleep pattern which is to stay up late and get up late. Tom’s natural rhythm is just the opposite. So, he’s the lark and I’m the owl. 

And what this owl does in the late hours is watch television- not in the traditional way but through Hulu, Netflix, TunnelBear, and Acorn TV. Most of the shows are British, though I am a great fan of a few American television shows, and have been watching some from other countries now that we have TunnelBear. Some of these shows Tom will watch in the mornings, but some of them are all mine. So, when I hear a great quote from a show I know he’s not going to watch, I’ll leave him little post-it notes near the computer keyboard. I had a notion this morning to begin a new ‘letter topic’ called What I Learned From TV so I can put up some virtual post-its for you to read and, hopefully, enjoy. Some are funny, some are educational, some are wise.

Several from Lewis

Upon viewing a sign that says - "fresh tomato's"
Lewis: I can hear you tutting even if you're not.
Hathaway: I don't like misplaced apostrophes.

A fellow policeman says to Lewis, Hathaway, and Dr. Hobson - 
Oxford on a summer's evening - is there a lovelier place in the world?
Hobson: Not a one.

Hathaway and an old friend run into one another in a bookstore. She has a book of Housman's poems, and says:
I mislaid my copy. You know how one sometimes has a hankering? I couldn't remember if it was 'happy highways where I walked, or went.'
Hathaway: Went; definitely went.
She says: Silly, I know, but it suddenly seemed the most important thing in the world to me that I knew.

I know that most of us understand exactly what she meant! Here is the part of A Shropshire Lad that they were talking about.

Into my heart an air that kills
  From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
  What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,         
  I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
  And cannot come again.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Nine years and a day

I began this blog on November 22, 2006. I cannot believe it has been that long. Nine years before that day my children were 15 and 12, and now they are parents. It boggles my mind. Time is the strangest thing. 

In a lot of ways this blog is a journal of our lives. I refer to it all the time. I check it for recipes, or for when something was planted. And I go back to old posts and read the comments. Sadly, a fair few are from people who have disappeared from my blogging life. Some have died, and others are just gone. I miss them. 

Pretty much since our granddaughter was born, I haven’t been around as often as I would like. The reasons, of course, are very, very wonderful. Hazel, Campbell, and Indy. Gradually, slowly, I am making my way back to writing my letters and visiting your blogs more often. 

Thank you all for staying around during these past years of writing just over 100 posts a year. Thank you for coming by even when I haven’t had the chance to visit you. Thank you for being my friends. Even though we’ve not met, I know you and care about you as I do anyone I know in my offline life. I am grateful beyond any words I can say.

I’ll end this with a picture of last evening’s sunset and one of Lucy waiting for Tom in the car. Both photos taken by him.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Today's picture/Sagittarius

Today at 10.25 am EST, the sun entered sagittarius. This poster hangs in Hazel Nina's bedroom.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

I can't believe it has been a week since I posted. Busy days with the grandchildren!

If you have never visited Beth Fish Reads, there is a section called Weekend Cooking.

Here is the description:

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

My offering this week is a quote from Gladys Taber. 

What's cooking is always evident, because we have no ventilating fans to whisk odors out.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

German's Sweet Chocolate Cake

Many years ago, Tom’s sister baked us what she called a German sweet chocolate cake. I had never tasted anything like it. When I was in the baking chocolate section of my local co-op the other day, I happened to see a package, and bought it.

I've never heard it referred to as German's, but clearly that's what the package says. I've seen it both ways on the internet. 

Last week I made the cake with Hazel Nina. So much fun! Before we even began she nibbled on the chocolate bar

and loved it!

She stirred the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

And then whisked the eggs. 

After we mixed everything together came the best part!

The cake was excellent! Both Tom and Matthew, Hazel's daddy, thought it was the best chocolate cake they had ever had.

I thought that the traditional coconut pecan frosting might be not be quite the thing for a toddler, so I made a regular confectioners' sugar frosting. 

And now for the recipe.

German's Sweet Chocolate Cake

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Over very low heat, melt together:
1 pkg. (4 oz.) Baker's German's Sweet  Chocolate
3/4 cup butter
Let cool a little, and put in mixer. (you can do it with a hand mixer, or just stirring well)
Continue beating, and add:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together:
2 cups flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Turn mixer down to low speed and add the dry mixture alternately with 1 cup of buttermilk.

Bake in 9x13 pan which has been greased with cooking spray for 25-30 minutes.

Easy to make and wonderful taste! Highly recommended.

You may visit Weekend Cooking to read more food related postings.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Today's picture/Not one, not two, but three goofy girls

When we take care of Hazel Nina, I text Margaret pictures so she can see her daughter on her breaks. On Tuesday I sent this one

And Margaret sent this back to us

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Today's poem by Galway Kinnell

The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak

The man splitting wood in the daybreak 
looks strong, as though, if one weakened, 
one could turn to him and he would help. 
Gus Newland was strong. When he split wood 
he struck hard, flashing the bright steel 
through the air so hard the hard maple 
leapt apart, as it's feared marriages will do 
in countries reluctant to permit divorce, 
and even willow, which, though stacked 
to dry a full year, on being split
actually weeps—totem wood, therefore, 
to the married-until-death—sunders 
with many little lip-wetting gasp-noises.
But Gus is dead. We could turn to our fathers, 
but they help us only by the unperplexed 
looking-back of the numerals cut into headstones. 
Or to our mothers, whose love, so devastated, 
can't, even in spring, break through the hard earth. 
Our spouses weaken at the same rate we do. 
We have to hold our children up to lean on them. 
Everyone who could help goes or hasn't arrived. 
What about the man splitting wood in the daybreak, 
who looked strong? That was years ago. That was me. 

Galway Kinnell (1927-2014)

Monday, November 9, 2015

No Man is an Island

Four years ago, I discovered a wonderful singing couple named Joey and Rory, and wrote about their album here. I have followed their lives ever since, via their website, and by reading Rory’s beautiful blog. I rejoiced at the birth of their daughter Indiana. And now I cry along with many, many others as Joey’s life is slipping away. When the baby was three months old, the doctor found cervical cancer. That was in May 2014, and now the end is drawing near. I don’t know her, but I care deeply about this woman and this family. Often now his blog won’t come up for a few minutes, and there is a message that it could be due to capacity problems. So many people visiting and writing the most heartfelt words. Other people just like me who don’t know these people but feel their pain and sadness so deeply. 

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 
John Donne

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Today's picture/evening time

What my television watching evenings look like. Tonight is an episode of Lewis.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why I love this time of year

This letter is an answer to a question from my friend Les, who is thankfully back blogging again. At the end of her post from yesterday, she asked:
I'll leave you with a question of the day: Do any of you actually like daylight savings time?
My answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ The morning after the time change, when I awaken, I feel like my life is just beginning. I’ve thought a lot about this, and I think I have figured it out after nearly 68 years. I am basically kind of a lazy person. Even as a kid, I remember going outdoors mainly for the good feeling of coming back inside. I love kitchens and studies and living rooms. I like to cook in the kitchen, read and do desk stuff in the study, and watch television and visit with people in the living room. I love my garden, but not necessarily the doing of it. I like the results. I like looking at my flowers from a bench. Unhealthy as it may be, I must admit that I am a sitter. I do take a walk most days, especially now we have Lucy (a good reason to have an active dog!) and I do yoga. I have always exercised to some degree but again, it is just so I can sit with less guilt. When I read books or look at magazines, it is the interiors I enjoy. I pore over word or photo descriptions of rooms in a house.  

All this is a lead-up to why I love this time of year. The early darkness means I can turn on my lamps and make the house feel cozy. I have more hours where I can be inside doing what I want to do in those rooms that I love. The summer is mostly too busy for me. Too much activity, too many people and occasions, too much outside stuff to do. I don’t get enough of that quiet, alone time that I need. The months from November through March allow me that time.

A year ago, I learned that there is a seasonal affective disorder in reverse. It was a really big deal for me to find out about this. It was just amazing to learn there are others like me. I am certainly NOT like the extremes listed, and in fact the only adjective that really applies to me in relationship to summer is what I’ve kind of talked about - ‘agitation.’ I don’t get depressed in the summer, but I do have a longing for more peace, more solitude, more November. And here is the article. Thanks for bearing with me. I expect there aren’t many who feel as I do, but then again, readers are usually an introverted bunch so you may well understand.

The article is from here:

You know what today is, right?

That whole Daylight Saving thing is over, which means it gets darker earlier.

For a lot of people that might be a downer. You get home from work and it's pitch black outside. Maybe you skip that run because it just feels too cold and dark. Then you feel bad because you skipped your run, and you open a bottle of whiskey instead.

Ok, we're getting carried away, but you get the point. Some people are SAD in the winter months — literally SAD — they have seasonal affective disorder. They'd much rather frolic in the summer sun.

But guess what? SAD can happen in reverse.

"There are people who have a very hard time dealing with the summer," says Norman Rosenthal, a psychiatrist and professor at Georgetown University. "For some people, warmer temperatures and brighter days can lead to depression, agitation, weight loss, insomnia ... in extreme cases, even thoughts of suicide."

Rosenthal was the first to name and describe the disorder, and he's known as the pioneer of SAD research, starting back in the '80s.

It's the summer version of SAD. For these people, this is the day that things start to get better.

Rosenthal says the gradual drop in temperature creates a calming feeling, as opposed to the agitation that the summer heat can cause. It's also the time when those of us who simply like winter can spike our tea, get the cozy plaid blankets out of the attic and watch television — I mean, read books.

For more on the upsides to winter, we found Jack Fitzpatrick. He's from Minnesota, so he's something of an expert on the cold and dark. We can all learn something from his attitude.

"I love the transition," Fitzpatrick says. "There is just so much time to spend inside because you don't want to be outside. You're just kind of hanging out. Sitting, eating food."

Allen Nguyen didn't grow up with Minnesota winters. He's from New Orleans, but he hates the heat. Cold weather is where he feels most himself.

"I can go outside when it's very serene, when it's very snowy or even when it's a nice fall day," he says. "It just feels a lot better to me. It's just hard to explain."

I'm with you, Allen. And he waxed philosophical too.

"When it gets cold, inside of me, I sort of understand that there's an end to things, a completion to the year," he says.

See? Daylight Saving Time is deep.

So don't just enjoy the extra hour of sleep, be excited about the change, the chilly weather and cozy, darker nights. It's the best time, Fitzpatrick says, to do the following:

"Sit, take a bath, wrap up under blankets and not talk to anyone."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Today's picture/regional foods

So pretty I had to take a picture. Only the avocados were from far away - Mexico, but organic and fair trade. The lettuce is hydroponically grown in the next state over.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Easy and fun homemade ice cream

A few years ago we gave an ice cream maker to Margaret and Matthew.The other day I borrowed it, and we made vanilla ice cream with Hazel Nina. A fun time was had by all! 

It is easy as can be to make, and the result is better than any vanilla ice cream I’ve ever tasted. As you must know by now, my sugar choice is Sugar in the Raw but for this recipe I thought I should use a finer white sugar. On top we sprinkled broken brownie pieces from this recipe.

Vanilla Ice Cream 

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/8 cups granulated sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Put the freezer bowl into the freezer a few hours before you make the ice cream.
In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the milk and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. 
Turn the machine on, and pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. 

The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.


You may read other food related posts at Weekend Cooking

Monday, October 19, 2015

Today's picture/Old toy

I just walked into the study and caught the sun highlighting Tom's old toy, which now the grandchildren happily play with.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An Afternoon with Hazel Nina - October 13, 2015

I was so excited when I came up with this topic and thought I'd post quite often about the fun afternoons spent with our granddaughter. But I've posted only once, and that was over a year ago! I can't believe it, but yes, I guess I can. Life is busy, busy these days. Although we take care of Hazel Nina only twice a week now, instead of the four days we did for a year, we still often see her and her cousins, Campbell Walker and Indy Thomas so the days literally fly by.

Today, Tom drove down to get her at 11, and brought her up to the house. We took a walk up the hill with Lucy. The dog always, always grabs limbs of trees left over from the logging, and today just for a joke, I put one in my mouth and Hazel of course mimicked me.

and decided it didn't taste very good.

We came home and walked around the yard for a while, came inside and played with a wooden toy that was Tom's when he was her age, and then she wanted to watch her favorite television program, Postman Pat. A whole blog entry on that show is coming up soon.

Earlier today, Margaret sent us a picture of Hazel watching Postman Pat at her house with dear Piglet the pug, and her toy, Jess the cat (PP's cat on the show).

And then we had our first baking day! We recently bought a "Little Helper" for the cousins to use when they come to visit Grammy and Grampy. It is the best thing. It is adjustable so it will be useful for years, and the child is much safer than when standing on a chair. We made chocolate chip cookies - this recipe.

As the cookies were baking, she fell asleep on my shoulder,

and she hasn't woken up yet to taste her cookies.

When she does wake up, it'll be time to go home. Another perfectly wonderful day with our dear, dear granddaughter.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Quote du jour/my friend

Today I went to a surprise 70th birthday party for a friend. When asked how he did it [made it to 70], his answer was 'I didn't die.'

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Couscous Tabouli

Seven years ago I posted my tabouli recipe which you may find here. Well, today I made a variation using couscous instead of bulgur, and it is just great. I've also made it with quinoa before, which is equally good. I've had people tell me they like my tabouli, and that it is different from others they've tasted. This may be because I don't use onions or cucumbers.

Couscous Tabouli

Mix 1 cup of couscous with a teaspoon of salt, and pour one cup of boiling water over it. When the water is absorbed, add:

1/4 lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, put through a press
a bit of mint (dried works fine)
chopped parsley
chopped tomatoes - I used the local, colorful heirloom tomatoes available this time of year

Sorry the photo is blurry. I took a lot of pictures, but those little couscous were blurry in every one!

Please do visit Weekend Cooking for great food related postings.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What I Learned From TV - October 7

Each time I do a post about What I Learned From TV, I’ll begin with the explanation from the first posting:

Now that my kids are grown, and Tom has retired, I’ve been able to go back to my natural sleep pattern which is to stay up late and get up late. Tom’s natural rhythm is just the opposite. So, he’s the lark and I’m the owl. 

And what this owl does in the late hours is watch television- not in the traditional way but through HuluNetflixTunnelBear, and Acorn TV. Most of the shows are British, though I am a great fan of a few American television shows, and have been watching some from other countries now that we have TunnelBear. Some of these shows Tom will watch in the mornings, but some of them are all mine. So, when I hear a great quote from a show I know he’s not going to watch, I’ll leave him little post-it notes near the computer keyboard. I had a notion this morning to begin a new ‘letter topic’ called What I Learned From TV so I can put up some virtual post-its for you to read and, hopefully, enjoy. Some are funny, some are educational, some are wise.

First from Inspector Morse: Weddings and funerals - they loosen tongues in my experience. 

And echoed in Lewis: At funerals and weddings people tend to let their guard down.

From Bones: Bird droppings are extremely toxic. Bird guano's been known to carry more than 60 transmittable diseases.

From Longmire: History gets heavier the older you get.

From Lewis: Lewis says, "You know what I'm doing? I'm trying to think like Morse." To which Hathaway replies, "Does that mean we're going to the pub?"

Monday, October 5, 2015

The death of Henning Mankell

Henning Mankell, the Swedish creator of the Inspector Kurt Wallander series, in Stockholm in June. CreditTt News Agency, via Reuters
Henning Mankell, the Swedish novelist and playwright best known for police procedurals that were translated into a score of languages and sold by the millions throughout the world, died on Monday in Goteborg, Sweden. He was 67.
The cause was cancer, said his literary agent Anneli Hoier. Last year, Mr. Mankell disclosed that doctors had found tumors in his neck and left lung.
Mr. Mankell was considered the dean of the so-called Scandinavian noir writers, who gained global prominence for novels that blended edge-of-your-seat suspense with flawed, compelling protagonists and strong social themes. Among the others are Arnaldur Indridason of Iceland, Jo Nesbo of Norway and Stieg Larsson of Sweden.
But it was Mr. Mankell who led the way, with 10 mystery novels featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander, a gruff but humane detective troubled by self-doubt, overeating, alcoholism and, eventually, dementia. Most of the action in those books takes place in and around Ystad, a real-life town of 18,350 inhabitants on the Baltic Sea, about 380 miles south of Stockholm, which has become a magnet for Wallander buffs.
Mr. Mankell's "Faceless Killers," published in 1991, won the Glass Key award. CreditOrdfront
Mr. Mankell divided his time between Stockholm and Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, where he was the artistic director of the main theater, Teatro Avenida.
“I came to Africa with one purpose: I wanted to see the world outside the perspective of European egocentricity,” he wrote in an essayfor The New York Times in 2011. “I could have chosen Asia or South America. I ended up in Africa because the plane ticket there was cheapest.”
Though Africa was rarely the main setting for Mr. Mankell’s detective novels, it informed his sensitivity to the mistreatment of non-European immigrants in enlightened Sweden.
“Solidarity with those in need run through his entire work and manifested itself in action until the very end,” Robert Johnsson, Mr. Mankell’s literary agent for Sweden, and Dan Israel, with whom he founded the publishing company Leopard, said in a statement.
In “Firewall” (1998), he managed to adeptly intertwine financial cybercrime with colonialism. That novel begins with the discovery of the body of what appears to be a heart attack victim lying in front of an A.T.M. in Ystad and the seemingly unconnected murder of a cabdriver by a teenage girl on the outskirts of the town.
The novel ends with the villain — a white doctor in Africa driven by anticolonialist rage — flying to Sweden in a frantic attempt to ignite a meltdown of the global financial system. Wallander saves the day, but only after stumbling into the conspiracy through his hapless affair with a woman who is the villain’s accomplice.
Mr. Mankell grew irritated over attempts by readers to trace elements of his life in Wallander’s. Still, the parallels were there. Born in Stockholm on Feb. 3, 1948, Mr. Mankell was abandoned by his mother, along with his two siblings, and they moved in with their father, a judge, in Sveg, a small community in northern Sweden.
Through his father’s court activities, Mr. Mankell learned about criminal cases in a small-town setting not unlike Wallander’s investigations in Ystad. And like the author’s mother, Wallander is an errant parent who abandons a child — though the two reconcile in the course of the detective series.
Mr. Mankell, whose grandfather was a composer, passed on his love of classical music to his famous detective. Wallander spends many lonely nights listening to Mozart operas or walking the windswept beaches of Ystad with his dog, Jussi — named after Jussi Bjorling, the great Swedish tenor.
And Wallander’s repeated failures at lasting romances echoed the author’s own: Mr. Mankell was married four times, the last to Eva Bergman, daughter of the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman. “It shows I am an optimist,” Mr. Mankell said in a 2013 interview with The Guardian.
Mr. Mankell embarked on a literary career early. Hoping to emulate Joseph Conrad, he went to sea in the Swedish merchant marine at 16. But he quit when, after numerous voyages, he got no further than the British industrial port of Middlesbrough.
Besides, when he was 19 a play he had written was produced in Stockholm. A year later, he was named an assistant theater director and traveled around the country with touring productions.
It was not until 1991, when he was 43, that the first of his Wallander novels, “Faceless Killers,” was published. In the opening scene, Ystad police officers, led by Wallander, are called to an isolated farmhouse, where they find the owner, an elderly man, tortured to death. His wife, who has been bludgeoned, survives only long enough to utter a single word: “Foreign.” That incites Ystad mobs to attack local immigrants in revenge. The novel won the Glass Key award, given annually to a crime novel written by a Scandinavian.
Mr. Mankell’s popularity grew with each Wallander mystery. In “Sidetracked” (1995), a series of aged men, apparently model citizens, are killed in increasingly grisly fashion and then scalped by the murderer.
In “One Step Behind” (1997), three young revelers, dressed as 18th-century nobles, are found shot to death in a forest. And in “The Man Who Smiled” (1994), a depressed, alcoholic Wallander comes out of brief retirement to investigate a double murder that may be linked to a wealthy philanthropist.
Like almost all of the Wallander mysteries, these best sellers were adapted for television. The British actor and directorKenneth Branagh played Wallander in several BBC broadcasts. Perhaps the most successful Wallander screen portrayals were for Swedish television and starred the Swedish actor Krister Henriksson, whom Mr. Mankell often said came closest to his own image of the detective.
Income from his novels and their screen adaptations made Mr. Mankell a multimillionaire. But he continued to espouse often controversial left-wing views.
A virulent critic of Israel, he denounced the two-state solution as fraudulent. Writing for a leftist political blog, Pulse, after a visit to Israel and the West Bank in 2009, he called for “the fall of this disgraceful apartheid system.” In 2010 he was aboard one of the ships in the flotilla that tried to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. In a confrontation with Israeli forces on one of the boats, nine people were killed. Mr. Mankell, who was on another vessel, was arrested and deported back to Sweden.
He is survived by his wife, Ms. Bergman, and a son, Jon.
Mr. Mankell chafed at his failure to reach a broader audience outside of Sweden for his many works besides the Wallander series. In all, he wrote more than 40 volumes of fiction and 40 plays.
But some critics suggested that, like other mystery writers seeking higher literary recognition, Mr. Mankell could not escape the stylistic limitations of the detective genre.
In a 2007 Times review of his World War I-era naval novel “Depths,” Lucy Ellmann asserted Mr. Mankell was “encumbered with all those irritating little habits mystery writers can develop: staccato sentences, paragraphs and chapters,” as well as “that old audience-grabber, plot for plot’s sake, in the form of a murder every now and then (even the cat gets killed).”
Mr. Mankell eventually tired of Wallander. He ended the detective’s career with the publication of “The Troubled Man” (2009), in which Wallander bows out of the police force because of Alzheimer’s disease. “I shall not miss Wallander,” Mr. Mankell told The Guardian in 2013.
But his readers and many reviewers did.
“Detective Chief Inspector Kurt Wallander has solved his last case,” Marilyn Stasio lamented in a 2011 Times review. “Making this news more bitter, the alcoholic, diabetic, antisocial and perpetually dour Swedish detective is at his gloomy best in ‘The Troubled Man.’ ”