Eva Gabrielsson, Stieg Larsson’s lifetime companion, made headlines around the world in February by giving Sweden’s leading newspaper access to fifteen boxes of Larsson’s research into the 1986 assassination of its then-prime minister Olof Palme, a murder that has never been solved.
Palme had been a hero to many Swedes, including Stieg Larsson and Eva Gabrielsson. But Palme’s populist, left-wing, anti-colonial, and anti-apartheid views also made him many enemies, particularly among right-wing extremists. Given that long before he created Lisbeth Salander, long before there was Expo, and even long before Olof Palme was shot, Larsson was already exposing neo-Nazis and other nationalist groups, it was natural for him to look into possible links between those movements and the Palme assassination.
Months of investigation in 1986 convinced Stieg that there was indeed such a link. Stieg shared his findings with the police and also testified to the official Palme Commission in 1987. He even named the man he thought responsible: Bertil Wedin, a celebrity among nationalist extremists, and reportedly a former mercenary, a former Swedish Secret Service agent, and at one point an agent for the South Africa apartheid regime. (Wedin, who is still alive, was questioned about the murder then and again in recent weeks, and denies any involvement in Palme’s death.)
In Sweden, Olof Palme’s assassination in 1986 is akin to the JFK assassination in the U.S. in 1963. It continues to be a source of fascination and political debate, especially because it was never solved. Numerous theories have emerged over the years, and in several of them Bertil Wedin plays a role. While one suspect was once convicted for the murder of Palme, his conviction was later overturned.
We were fascinated by Eva Gabrielsson’s recent release of Stieg’s research materials but wondered: Why did Eva, who had helped Stieg with his Palme research (much as she did on many of his other projects), wait until now, ten years after Stieg’s death, to reveal the existence of these documents?
First some background. As his fans know, Stieg Larsson spent many years as a journalist crusading against Sweden’s shadow world of neo-Nazi and other extreme nationalists groups. And although his research into the Palme murder began to take a back seat to his other reporting in the 1990s after he started writing for and editing Expo (the real-life magazine that provided the model for the Millennium magazine in Larsson’s novels), the assassination of the prime minister clearly stayed on his mind. Indeed, each of the three books in Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (which were written between 2001 and 2004) has a direct reference to it.
In the first book in the Millennium series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Larsson’s fictional alter-ego, Mikael Blomkvist, attends a lecture on the anniversary of Palme’s death at which a woman “took the microphone and then lowered her voice to a barely audible whisper: ‘I know who murdered Olof Palme.’”
In The Girl Who Played With Fire, Blomkvist discovers the bodies of colleagues gunned down for their investigation into how the Swedish intelligence service had been harboring a right-wing death squad. In this scene Larsson writes, “Blomkvist thought it looked like a Colt .45 Magnum—the kind of weapon used to murder Olof Palme.” (Curiously, police have consistently argued that the actual weapon used against Palme and his wife in 1986 was a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum.)
Finally, in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Larsson writes a straight reporter-like paragraph that summarizes the post-assassination state of the investigation, an investigation that he and many others thought was badly bungled and went nowhere: “Two years after [Palme’s] death a petty criminal and drug addict was convicted of his murder but was later acquitted on appeal. Although a number of alternative theories as to who carried out the murder have since been proposed, to this day the crime remains unsolved.”
Fast forward to Eva Gabrielsson’s release of those papers – timed almost to the day of the 28th anniversary of Palme’s murder – and her possible motives for doing it.
We believe the proximate cause for her revelations is likely to be the December 2013 announcement by Norstedts, Larsson’s Swedish publisher, that they had hired journalist and author David Lagercrantz to continue the Stieg Larsson franchise with a sequel – an announcement that drew world-wide attention and considerable controversy among Larsson fans. The book, whose title has not yet been chosen, is scheduled to be published in August 2015, the tenth anniversary of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Lagercrantz was a crime reporter early in his career and later wrote some crime novels and biographies of inventors. He is best-known for ghostwriting the best-selling autobiography of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of the world’s top soccer stars.
It is well known that Eva has criticized the idea of publishing a fourth Larsson book, holding firmly to the idea that there is only “one Stieg.” Readers of The Tattooed Girl and this blog are well aware that before his untimely death Larsson had left fragments of his next book on his computer, whose whereabouts remain unknown today. At first Eva let the world know that she was the only person qualified to complete the work and publicly expressed her interest in writing it. But in the wake of the bitter (and ultimately losing) fight she had with Larsson’s father and brother over Stieg’s legacy, she changed her mind. In July 2011 she said, “Stieg is dead. Readers should know that. Having anyone finish these books would be an injustice.”
So now the “injustice” has come to pass. Norstedts claims that the new book will not “finish” the fourth book, and that it will be a stand-alone sequel based on Larsson’s characters. Lagercrantz seems to go a bit further, telling Sweden’s Afontbladat that he plans not only to use the Larsson characters but also to pick up some of the “unfinished plot threads” while creating his own unique work.
Under the circumstances, it seems like Eva Gabrielsson is trying to remind Swedish and global readers ten years after her partner Stieg Larsson died that he was not primarily a writer of commercial fiction – even though that’s the way most of us came to know him – but a journalist seeking to expose the truth about right-wing and neo-Nazi extremism and provoking people to think about the unseen forces behind injustice, exploitation, and political intrigue in our world.
In other words, she seems determined not to have the “real Stieg” lost in the hoopla surrounding the Lagercrantz sequel.