This is a continuation of co-author Dan Burstein’s interview with Liz French of RT Book Reviews. See this post for the first installment.
LF: Which myths or misconceptions do you and your contributors address in The Tattooed Girl? What item in the book do you think will shock and/or surprise readers?
DB: I think there’s a huge amount of material in our book that fans of the Larsson books will find new and revelatory. As I have indicated above, we probably have the best detail and analysis of anything that has yet been published from any source on the “mystery of the fourth book.” We also have the most carefully researched, factually accurate biography of Larsson himself — including his childhood years, his interest in radical politics, his travels to Africa and elsewhere, the ideas in his early science fiction writing, his relationships with Eva Gabrielsson as well as the other important people in his life, etc.
We have some remarkable insights into small details: As many readers know, the first book was supposed to be titled Men Who Hate Women (and that is the title it had in Swedish — Larsson was adamant that the title not be changed). Soon after Larsson’s death, the UK publisher decided to re-title it The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Many people have heard this story. You can think what you want about whether we ever would have known about these books if the original title had been retained. But an important detail that will be new to readers of our book: Lisbeth’s tattoo, for which the UK and U.S. books ended up being titled, is described dramatically differently in English translation than in the original Swedish. In English, Lisbeth has a dragon tattoo on her shoulder blade; in Larsson’s original she has a huge dragon tattoo that sweeps all across her back from her shoulder to her buttocks.
I also want to call attention to “The Death of Stieg Larsson: Mysteries within the Mysteries,” an essay by Laura Gordon Kutnick in Chapter 8 of our book. In this piece, Laura describes one uncanny coincidence after another surprising irony about how the trilogy mirrors events in Larsson’s real life. From the number of times people have sudden heart attacks and die, to the frequency with which wills and estates are discussed, to the details of characters’ lives that parallel what has happened in the aftermath of Larsson’s death, you will be amazed at how art preceded life events in Larsson’s case.
LF: Have you seen the Swedish movie versions of the books? If so, what do you think of them? What do you think about the upcoming American movie versions, specifically the casting thereof? Did you picture any actors or actresses in particular while reading the books?
DB: I have seen all three Swedish movies and have enormous respect for Noomi Rapace, the actress who plays Lisbeth in those films. Noomi gives a tremendous performance that is at ones innovative and yet remains hyper-true to the Lisbeth of the novels. We have a piece in our book on the challenge facing Rooney Mara, the actress playing Lisbeth in the David Fincher/Sony/Hollywood movie of The Girl Wth the Dragon Tattoo, to measure up to the standard Noomi set. Having said that, I think Rooney Mara is a very promising star, and David Fincher has a certain genius for both human psychology and the noir vision of crime stories. I expect this to be the rare case where much-loved books lead not only to one set of great films, but two.
LF: As you mentioned, a lot of people are touting any and all Scandinavian/Icelandic authors as “the next Stieg Larsson.” Can you weigh in on that, do you think there’s anybody who fits that bill? Are there other Scandinavian authors that you’d like to do a “Secrets of” or profile book about?
DB: In The Tattooed Girl, readers get introduced to a variety of Swedish writers who knew Larsson or who have been influenced by his work. Among these are: Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström (whose book, Three Seconds, was recently on the New York Timesbestseller list); Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril (who write under the pen name, Lars Kepler, and whose book, The Hypnotist, has just been published in English); Karin Alfredsson; Veronica von Schenck; and Katarina Wennstam. All of these writers are doing various forms of crime fiction that has meaning and social significance beyond just being “a good read.”
LF: Lastly, is there any question I didn’t ask that you’d like to “answer?”
DB: In addition to deeply enjoying Stieg Larsson’s books as a reader, I discovered as I worked on The Tattooed Girl that my life had certain parallels with his. We were born in the early 1950s, less than one year apart. We were both “always writing something,” even as teenagers. He sets the disappearance of Harriet Vanger in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in September 1966 — the time when he received his first typewriter. Right around the same time I got my first typewriter (mine was electric, his was manual). Stieg created mimeographed science fiction and political newsletters in his small town in the north of Sweden in the early 1970s that look a lot like an underground newspaper I published in California the same era. We both met women who would become our life partners when we were still teenagers; I met Julie in 1971 and he met Eva in 1972. As it happens, Julie and I were traveling around Europe when we met, and we spent some important days of our early life together in Stockholm in 1971, so we actually went to Stockholm as a couple before Stieg and Eva did — but anyway, I know and understand the Sweden of that era. Although Julie and I married in 1975 and Stieg and Eva never married, we all experienced the joys and shared worlds and shared adventures of having one life partner for four decades.
You can read the excerpted interview — and enter to win a copy of The Tattooed Girl— in the September issue of RT BOOK REVIEWS, which hits stores early next week. For more Mystery Month coverage — and your chance to win a five-book prize pack of new mystery releases — click here!