The hottest mystery series in the United States – and in the world – is Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, which begins with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” But who is Stieg Larsson, and just why are his books so popular?
Larsson’s colorful life in itself could be the plot of some book, and indeed, elements of his life abound in his novels.
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and its sequels, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. The central characters in each book are computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist, whose stories become more intricately entwined as the trilogy unfolds.
Although some critics have found fault with the series, praise for the characters has been nearly universal. Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times wrote, “It’s Mr. Larsson’s two protagonists … who make this novel more than your run-of-the-mill mystery: they’re both compelling, conflicted, complicated people.”
It’s apparent that Larsson based the fictional Blomkvist in part on his own life. Larsson, who was a journalist by day and novelist in his spare time, was an expert on right-wing extremism who headed a magazine called Expo dedicated to exposing Neo-Nazi and white power activity in Sweden. Blomkvist is also an editor of a similar publication, called Millennium in the novels.
In fact, Larsson and his long-time companion Eva Gabrielsson took measures to protect themselves from retaliation from right-wing groups that threatened them. They were never seen together outside their home and never married, apparently to prevent any paper trail that might cause the couple to be tracked by violent fascists.
Larsson also wrote novels in his spare time, first science fiction, but later on in the detective genre. He wrote the Millennium Trilogy manuscripts in only two years, and after finding a publisher, hoped to retire from full-time journalism.
But only months before the publication of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” Larsson died at age 50 of a massive heart attack. Some controversy also surrounded his death, and there was speculation that he had been poisoned by someone who resented his investigative work; however, this was proven not to be the case.
Larsson has not been forgotten, however. Anything but. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was published in Sweden in 2005; originally the title in Swedish was “Men Who Hate Women.” When it was later translated into English, it became the more marketable “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
Now a new controversy has arisen regarding Larsson’s death. His partner Gabrielsson is in possession of a partially completed fourth Millennium novel on Larsson’s laptop; however, Larsson left his estate to his father and brother. They’re now feuding over the rights to this and other manuscripts that Larsson left behind.
Fans are also arguing over who should be cast in an upcoming film based on the first book. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” has already been made into a critically acclaimed Swedish movie and now an U.S. version is planned, with David Fincher directing.
Brad Pitt and Daniel Craig are being considered for the role of Blomkvist, while actresses ranging from Natalie Portman to Kristen Stewart are rumored for Salander’s part.