The new season of the TV show Mad Men has grabbed its biggest audience ever and triggered new media interest in the culture of 1966, which provides the backdrop for this year’s plot. Having been through the death of JFK and the early 1960s with Don Draper and company, we now arrive at the mid-60s, when the civil rights movement is coming to prominence and the culture is about to experience enormous change. To set the tone, check out this present day New York Times article reflecting on the historical accuracy of the first scene in the March 25 season opener, which is drawn right out of the reality of civil rights protests in New York. And, if you don’t mind getting that inane Zou bisou bisou song stuck in your head (in the TV series sung by Jessica Paré, who plays Megan, the new and much younger wife of Don Draper), check out this YouTube version of the Gillian Hills 1962 original:
But 1966 is important to Stieg Larsson fans for another reason: It is in September 1966 that Harriet Vanger is said to have gone missing in the pre-story that fuels the plot of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Henrik Vanger’s nearly four decade search for his lost niece, or for information about her presumed killer, is what opens the story and provides the catalyst that ultimately leads to recruiting Mikhail Blomkvist to pursue the hunt. This in turn leads to Blomkvist’s collaboration with Lisbeth Salander, whose story will drive the rest of the Millennium Trilogy. Blomkvist and Salander spend a lot of time recreating the events leading up to and on the day in question in September 1966. As we did our research for our book, The Tattooed Girl, we discovered that setting this turning point in 1966 was not just a random literary conceit. That’s the year the young Stieg Larsson (then 12) got his first typewriter. Immediately thereafter, he began to write stories incessantly at all hours of day and night, and started to conceive of himself as a writer.
As the Mad Men season progresses from its post-Memorial Day, 1966 opening, it will be interesting to see where it goes. Whatever Don Draper is doing by September, our readers will want to make a mental note: this is the cultural milieu in which Harriet Vanger goes missing and the young Stieg Larsson begins to practice his storyteller’s imagination with words on the page.