Mt. Hekla erupted and lava spewed down the face of Iceland’s most notorious volcano.
The February 2000, volcanic explosion was an open invitation for me, only one year into my new life in Reykjavík writing for Iceland Review, to jump in an SUV and speed towards what Europeans once called the ‘Gateway to Hell.’
Mt. Hekla has erupted over 20 times since 874 A.D., making it Iceland’s most active volcano. The stratovolcano has belched up 10 percent of the tephra produced in Iceland over the last 1000 years. The nearly 5,000-foot mountain has also accounted for one of the largest lava outflows in the world over the last millennium, around 8 km3.
None of these facts were in my mind after news of the eruption broke. I wanted to see lava.
I could barely contain myself during the drive through the electric, winter-white landscape. The bright sunlight reflecting off the snowy tundra made me understand the definition of snow-blind.
About 30 minutes outside of Selfoss, a small town in South Iceland on the road to nowhere, the landscape turned black. It looked burnt. The scorched earth meant the mountain lurked ahead.
After a spinout in the ice that forced us to shovel the SUV out of a snow-bank, we arrived.
We could only drive so close to Mt. Hekla, but from where we stopped the SUV, I could see lava bubbling over.
This is Iceland, I thought to myself. All was quiet, as my travel partners and I stood watch. So silent was the landscape I could nearly hear my heart beat. With my pulse quickened, it felt beguiling to breathe. The mountain was alive. Threatening.
Twelve years after this spellbinding moment, a Nordic thriller was born. My debut novel, The Ring Road, a blend of crime and dark fantasy, is now out on Amazon. Barnes & Noble has named The Ring Road a Nook First Pick. For those without Kindles or Nooks, the novel is readable on the iPad and other tablets, and is in PDF format. The Ring Road can also be found at The Rogue Reader.
The Ring Road takes place after a glacial volcano awakens with a series of eruptions, stranding ex-cop Hobson at 66° North where human behavior is as unpredictable as the weather. Hobson’s quickly ensnared in a bizarre murder investigation involving Gummi, a road-weary homicide detective; Jon Kari, an amoral entrepreneur; Snorri, a brutal pimp; and Úlfar, a homicidal sheep farmer. As Hobson falls in with a group of enigmatic tourists trying to survive the volcanic aftermath, the chase for a killer pushes them all to the edge of the inhabitable world.
“The Ring Road blends the inventive plotting of Jo Nesbo, the dark fantasies of Stieg Larsson and the hardboiled anti-heroes of Elmore Leonard in a dark-hearted crime drama set in the fire and ice of the world’s most enigmatic island,” Adam Chromy, publisher at The Rogue Reader, says.
While I was writing The Ring Road, Eyjafjallajökull erupted, releasing a volcanic cloud into the atmosphere that caused European nations to ground air traffic, stranding millions of travelers across the globe and costing airlines €150 million (USD 196 million) a day for six days, according to London’s The Telegraph.
Like the song ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles, you can visit Iceland but you can never truly leave. Not only does the sublime, surreal Icelandic landscape stick in your subconscious, but the tiny, wind-swept island located in the middle of the North Atlantic can strand a traveler in Asia who is trying to fly to Europe.
Iceland’s reach is endless.
I began revising The Ring Road. What if an American tourist named Hobson, traveling through Iceland on his way to Europe, became stuck in the country due to a massive volcanic eruption? Suppose Hobson, an ex-cop trying to weed away the memories of his failed marriage, became tangled up in a murder investigation while he and a group of tourists tried to flee the carnage the volcano inflicted upon the countryside? And what if a series of traumatic events, brought on by both natural causes and personal transgressions, introduced Hobson to the best and vilest sides of humanity?
The Scando crime thriller unfolds while the novels’ characters struggle along Iceland’s Ring Road, which circumnavigates the country over an ever-changing, unforgiving, dangerous netherworld.
Could an eruption really wreak havoc on an entire nation? Yes. In 1783, Laki erupted continuously for eight months, generating so much ash, hydrogen fluoride and sulphur dioxide that it killed one in five Icelanders and half of the country’s livestock.
It was a nuclear winter. The Laki eruption actually changed the Earth’s climate.
In The Ring Road, the heroes and anti-heroes navigate this cruel climate as they try to survive the worst nature, and human beings, have to offer.
Edward Weinman - firstname.lastname@example.org
Edward Weinman is a former feature writer for Iceland Review. His debut thriller, The Ring Road, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at theroguereader.com. Edward co-wrote the film A Little Trip to Heaven with Baltasar Kormakur. A psychological thriller starring Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner and Julia Stiles, Little Trip screened at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
Edward is filling in for Zoë today.