Tag Archives: Kurdo Baksi

He knew Stieg

‘Who’s that with them?’ said Daughter as we saw Kurdo Baksi and his chair Peter Guttridge hovering just outside the door before Kurdo’s event on Sunday night. ‘It looks like Alan Macniven,’ she continued. It was. So there we were, about to listen to Stieg Larsson’s friend and colleague Kurdo Baksi, when Son’s university tutor turned up as our second interpreter for the day.

That was a coincidence, and so was Daughter’s presence. I had secured a press ticket to this sold out event with the utmost difficulty. And then when we interrupted Kurdo’s ice cream licking earlier in the day he simply said he’d fix another ticket… And he did. It’s probably not the only thing he has ever fixed.

After dinner we waited for Kurdo’s photocall, and couldn’t help noticing that photographer Murdo McLeod had just left. So no Murdo for Kurdo. (Sorry. I just had to say that.)

Kurdo Baksi

Kurdo is nothing if not a showman. He claimed to have had to learn to perform and to answer questions when helping his father as a child. He is funny. The subject of his now dead friend could be seen as just sad, but Kurdo joked about most things. Things are easier to hear if you are laughing. It could also be easier to sneak things by if told as a joke. I gather he has been known to make things up, but then we probably all have at some point. And the truth looks different depending on who you are.

His book Stieg Larsson, My Friend is admirably short, and I imagine it contains much of what Kurdo told us about on Sunday night. Stieg put his own good characteristics into Mikael Blomkvist, and his bad sides into Lisbeth Salander. Someone asked if that meant Stieg had Asperger Syndrome. Personally I feel that’s very plausible, but unfortunately the question referred to AS as a learning difficulty, so Kurdo denied it and said Stieg was perfectly well. And it’s not the same thing, and clearly he wasn’t well. Something to do with the twenty coffees a day and the chain-smoking.

Umeå University recently asked for money for a chair in Stieg’s name, which Kurdo was amused by, seeing as the university had refused to accept him for a course in journalism many years ago. But ever the optimist Kurdo felt it was good, or there would have been no move to Stockholm, and no Millennium books.

During all this Peter Guttridge was left sitting there with little opportunity to join in. Kurdo started off with a lengthy monologue, and he did this in English which was anything but perfect, but still done very well. Alan Macniven was only called on in a few emergencies.

Kurdo Baksi

The trouble with men like Kurdo is that they are so damned reasonable. Peter asked about the suggestion from Eva Gabrielsson that Kurdo’s book is slanderous, and he agreed. He has at all times tried to be friends with all parties in this ugly story, and feels he can’t stop talking to the Larsson men to please Eva.

He even said he believes the new Hollywood film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is better than the Swedish film. This is without having seen it, because he doesn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to attend the premiere in Hollywood.

You can go a long way on charm.

And he did seem to be pleased to have found a Swede in Charlotte Square. But I wish he hadn’t put me on the spot with a question on whether Anne Holt is Norwegian. She is, but her name is awfully identical to Danish Anne Holm.

When he got going on the subject of Stieg and women, he stopped abruptly, causing Peter to point out ‘you can’t just stop there!’ Well, he did.

You might be best to read the book for all the facts. It’s expensive, but will no doubt give Stieg Larsson fans a bit more to think about.

Leeward? Windward? Who cares?

Not Celia Rees, anyway. She’s made of stronger stuff, and we’re only slightly scared of her. Celia’s event with Nicola Morgan was full of not worrying about anachronisms, and how you can become a historical novelist despite being rubbish at history at school. (That’s Nicola. Celia did history at uni.)

They know that you must occasionally include Johnny Depp types in your books, and performing operations without anaesthetics might be required. Nicola has been known to stroke old newspapers for period ‘feel’, while Celia told of the decline of ‘lunch with the editor’. These days you meet up for coffee.

Both are into cross-dressing (for their characters, and only for practical purposes), and they keep track of wars and things in order not to ruin timelines in their books. Nicola is too impatient for research, while Celia starts writing and finds out what she must find out. And just as you’d not explain McDonalds in a modern novel, you mustn’t explain too much in historical writing either, since the characters will already know.

Linda Strachan, Nicola Morgan and Celia Rees

After the signing after the event, we were treated to tea in the author’s yurt, where we stood around sharing deep thoughts on blogging. Also got to see the cover of Celia’s new book, out early next year. Very different!

Kurdo Baksi kept running around in the background, so post-tea we went out to see if we could run him down. We succeeded just as he was about to take a big lick at an ice cream, but he was happy to pose for a photo, and the ice cream only started to drip a very little.

Kurdo Baksi

Generally it was a day for dragons and ducks, which are much bigger than last year. But then so is the mud. Much bigger. With jaunty little hats. The ducks, that is.

We actually arrived in time to partake of press brekkies, with the most wonderful herby, cheesy scones, and croissants and other pastries. I blame the Guardian. They clearly have needs for proper feeds. Also worked out that the old bit of the yurt is larger than before. The better to accommodate the pastry filled press, I suppose.

Ran into Egmont’s Vicki and Bloomsbury’s Flora, which is a most appropriate name! After the bookshop and before the tea (mentioned about four paragraphs ago), Celia and Nicola, along with Linda Strachan agreed to a private photocall by the willows. They’re a good-looking bunch of authors, whether shot singly or grouply.

Neil Gaiman: 'My God, is that the Bookwitch!'

Nick Sharratt

Did I mention that it’s warm and sunny? It is. Two lovely days we’ve had. After all, we’re in Scotland. Neil Gaiman did an extra event, after which he needed a drink before signing. Understandable when the man has a queue all over Charlotte Square and back. And did you know he can shrug out of his jacket and place it on the back of the chair, and sign? We caught Nick Sharratt again, doing his resident illustrator bit with little children in the bookshop. Bet they didn’t understand quite what a great deal they got. While still in the shop we saw Patrick Ness again, alongside Moira Young.

Patrick Ness and Moira Young

And I might just have to take a break here and get some sleep… Back soon.

Wading in again

Maybe I should just stay away and keep quiet about things I know too little about? The papers still write about Stieg Larsson and they repeat the by now well known facts about him and the dispute over money. And with the first film finally on general release in Britain, we get the next wave of much the same stuff. There was a blog in the Guardian written by someone who had read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but not seen the film, which makes her a bit of a non-expert. But if it’s not feminist enough, then I dare say it isn’t.

Otherwise sane people seek the moral high ground and declare they won’t see the film. Why? If it’s not very good (in their opinion, once they’ve seen it), then it’s surely no worse than many other crap films we all manage to see in our lifetime? It’s an 18, so perhaps that vouches for it being unsuitable? I would have taken Daughter along, had it not been rated 18. By that I mean it’s not legal for her to watch it, not that I didn’t want her to see the film.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to rant. At least not about the film. A couple of months ago I was a little taken aback at finding a character from The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest being interviewed in the Vi magazine. Kurdo Baksi leads a busy life these days, serving the memory of his dear friend Stieg Larsson. He’s most likely a charming man and genuinely fond of Stieg. But I always smell a rat when someone describes themselves in pretty much those terms.

On the other hand, I trust Vi to a great extent, and why would they write so positively about him if he’s not kosher? This paragon of a friend spends 75% of his time on Stieg’s memory, meeting journalists by the dozen every week. He travels to Spain and France where Stieg Larsson is huge. And he has naturally written a book about his pal. He sort of says nice things about Eva Gabrielsson.

Sort of. She doesn’t about him, in the interview in the Observer a few weeks ago. Eva has also written a book, and it’s one I wouldn’t mind actually reading. I suspect it would be good to finally read something from her point of view, something which hasn’t been edited by others. The Observer interview is fairly pro-Eva, but it does chew over the same facts again.

It’s reading about Eva and Stieg and their ‘normal’ existence (unless you count the death threats) before the Millennium books and Stieg’s death, which has reminded me of what Swedes can be like, and what many of my friends were like back in the olden days. It gives me hope at a time when it’s easy to despair and wonder what the world is coming to. And unlike me who may have had the political views, these two actually lived according to them.

I suspect that’s what British journalists just won’t get.