Best 1968 Adventures (6)

By: Joshua Glenn
December 24, 2017

One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1968 adventure novels. Happy 50th anniversary!


Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s police procedural Den skrattande polisen (The Laughing Policeman).

Why did a gunman kill eight people — including Detective Åke Stenström, from the special homicide commission of the Swedish national police — on a Stockholm bus? Stenström’s colleagues — including phlegmatic Martin Beck and left-leaning Lennart Kollberg — investigate. Despite tremendous political pressure — because massacres like this are extremely rare in Sweden — the cops painstakingly, even ploddingly follow one lead after another. Eventually, the come to suspect that the intended victim was Stenström — who in his spare time was investigating the murder of a Portuguese prostitute sixteen years earlier. This is the fourth in Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s so-called Martin Beck series; and it’s considered one of the best.

Fun facts: The Laughing Policeman won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. The novel was adapted as a movie in 1973; set in San Francisco, it stars Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern.


Let me know if I’ve missed any 1968 adventures that you particularly admire.


Adventure, Lit Lists

What do you think?

  1. Excellent choice from an excellent series of novels. The film’s all right if one hasn’t read the book, but otherwise, sheesh! Great cast, stylish and all that, but that script! It’s certainly no Taking of Pelham One Two Three, or Charley Varrick. If the novel had to be adapted, it deserved the then-off-the-TV-menu full season treatment. Basically, a season of The Wire. What makes the novel great is pretty much uncinematic, especially with only a couple of hours at your disposal.

    Another personal favourite from the series is The Man Who Went Up in Smoke”. For me, it was truly a “they can do *that*?” epiphany.

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