Tag Archives: Stieg Larsson

Stieg’s friends

Just over a week ago I mentioned that I was in agreement with Sara Paretsky about ‘something’. I’m now able to tell you that it was regarding a book about Stieg Larsson, which will soon hit a bookshop near you. Or perhaps an online one. It is being ‘assembled’ by Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, in cooperation with Stieg’s friend John-Henri Holmberg.

They have, sensibly, asked a number of people close to Stieg to write about their own friendships with him, and one such friend is Annika Bryn, crime writer from Stockholm. She was uncertain about joining in the venture, so asked for advice before writing her piece. Sara Paretsky very wisely pointed out it’s important to have female voices in this book, and we both agreed Annika should write her bit.

Here is the link to Annika’s blog, where she describes her feelings about deciding, and as you can see from my translation, Stieg’s partner Eva Gabrielsson doesn’t like the idea of the book, but his brother was keen for Annika to do it.

‘The fourth thing was to decide whether I wanted to write an essay for a future book about Stieg, and if so, to negotiate with the people behind it.

I was uncertain until the last minute, declined once, and asked three wise women for advice – one professor, an American crime writer, and Bookwitch. All three supported me throughout. Thank you! I also tried to speak to Eva Gabrielsson, but couldn’t get hold of her, to let her know I was taking part in the book, and spoke to Joakim Larsson, who thought it would make interesting reading. And for anyone new to this blog who happens to wonder, I’m obviously of the opinion that Eva should inherit her husband Stieg, which Joakim is aware of.

I know Eva is not keen on this book being published at all, but unsure why. Her own book is published in French this month.

The Tattooed Girl

It’s successful writing partners Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, in cooperation with John-Henri Holmberg, an old friend of Stieg’s, who are publishing this book about Stieg, with the help of a lot of other people. It will be out in Germany, England and the US in May, June and July. And it’s for this that I’ve been writing my bit.’

Dan Burstein has previously written a similar book about another Dan B, so I’m guessing he works out who is big and whose name will sell. Annika won’t make a lot of money out of this, but ultimately I feel it’s more important for readers to learn about another side to Stieg, than to count the dollars. Not that it’s my money, or my essay, or my dead friend.

But I’d be interested to see a copy of the book.

Guaranteed Norwegian

Nordic Noir on BBC4 on Monday was a lesson in many things, but pronunciation was not one of them. The Resident IT Consultant (who fell asleep towards the end) fondly imagined that the Danish Mariella Frostrup would cope well with the Nordic names. Not even the Norwegian-born Mariella could do anything but sound British, though at least she did so in that sexy voice people go potty over.

The programme didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, so was one of those I sometimes moan about, which assumes the customer is new to the topic, and there is no need to take it further. Quite fun to tick the number of people who took part who I’d met. Poor souls.

The wise participants, like actor Krister Henriksson (Wallander) and author Maj Sjöwall, were interviewed in Swedish. It must be tempting to say yes to requests to do an interview in English. When you can. But it’s worth remembering you ‘can’ less than you think. Krister and Maj came across as intelligent, rounded people because there was nothing to stop them from saying exactly what they wanted to say.

Val McDermid

Val McDermid, likewise, sounded good, Scottish accent and all. She knows her stuff when it comes to Nordic crime. And OK, Jo Nesbø speaks good English. But it’s not as good as his Norwegian, I’d guess. It was he who mentioned some form of music (Norwegian metal?) and CDs in Latin America labelled as being ‘Guaranteed Norwegian’.

Karin Fossum sounded somewhat less bloodthirsty in English, so it might have been a blessing she didn’t speak Norwegian after all. After hearing Karin in Bristol I remember having a good look at her books, and coming to the conclusion I wasn’t up to reading them.

They rather skirted past Arnaldur Indridason and Iceland. Some nice scenery. Though speaking of scenery, I wonder whether much of any of it was of what they talked about. Ystad is always Ystad, of course. Even when it’s Yshtad.

That wasn’t the only disappointment. I can see that a non-native speaker may choose to put the stress on the first syllable only. Or the second syllable. You’re allowed to get it wrong (though I have said before that most people would try to get a French name correct, and you can always ask around if you are presenting for the BBC). But how come the stress-on-the-first-syllable words invariably got stressed on the second and vice versa? Wallander and Sahlander rhyme. Stress-on-second-syllable names. Mankell is a stress-on-first-syllable name.

Henning Mankell

With Wallander the programme went a little tabloid over the suicide of an actress. Sad but irrelevant. And Stieg Larsson was fat. Really? Maybe Stieg lived off junk food and smoked himself to death, but I wouldn’t call him fat.

His friend John-Henri Holmberg would have come across much better in Swedish. He was obviously in a position to say a lot about his friend, but could have said more. I dare say he’s saving it for the book about Stieg he’s writing with a few others.

In fact, this whole programme confirmed why we often think foreigners are idiots. They are not. And it’s time British television interviewed more people in their own language. In this case we had a bunch of interviewees who make a good living off their mother tongues. I’d have liked more considered facts, spoken by people who were comfortable with what they were saying.

But other than that, I enjoyed my hour on Nordic Noir. It confirmed why I don’t read more of it, though.

Where are the wild dogs when you need them?

I don’t suppose Adèle Geras expected her email alert to have quite this effect on me. But that’s the blogging world for you. I was out all Sunday so did not, in fact, see the Observer article where Ed Docx – ‘literary author’ – tears Stieg Larsson and Dan Brown to pieces. And the crime fiction genre and genres in general. Thank god for real literature. What would we do without it?

Ed Docx 2

A brief meeting with the good Ed means I seem to know that he has a literature background, which will be why he knows so much. He lectures quite strongly, and wrongly, in this Observer piece. Just as he did at the bookshop event I went to, where he thought nothing of telling the assembled readers, most of whom were at least twice his age, how to read a book. He wasn’t trying to be funny, either.

On Normblog Mr Geras had this to say about the article. Such a relief to find some well put-together sentences such as ‘Oh dear, Yeats! If only he’d roamed free of those poetic forms’, even if Norm doesn’t share my fondness for crime.

Stieg Larsson would surely turn in his grave if he knew he was being bracketed with Mr Brown of Da Vinci fame. There is a lot of difference between the two, and I think Ed would have been better to concentrate on complaining about only one of them.

Over on Crime Always Pays there is also a debate going on, with John Connolly sticking up for Ed. Which I will forgive him for. This time. And I agree with the comment about Lee Child, but then I would.

I was going to find a way to link to what I wrote about Ed a couple of years ago, but technical difficulties are getting in my way. Besides, when there are quotes like this one from the Observer comments section to enjoy, who needs old witch material? ‘The important thing is that anyone who claims to be a writer and writes copy like Docx’s should have their bowels torn out by wild dogs.’

(And you can never have two many drinks. As long as they balance.)

Going viral

There is a new novel, not yet published, popping up in the letterboxes of bloggers and reviewers all over the place. Or popping may be a little optimistic, seeing as it’s a brick of a book. It’s going to be the next big thing in the adult book world.

I don’t think it will be, but it’s not for want of trying. I’m searching my mind for a recent novel that has been pushed like this and which actually delivered by becoming a million seller. Harry Potter went quite slowly to begin with, and it was successful more by word-of-mouth for the first three.

Personally I only heard of Stephenie Meyer when she had three books out, and I don’t know why I missed Twilight before that. But I’m guessing that it owes much of its success to girl readers who just happened to discover it and then told all their friends.

Stieg Larsson came to my attention just before publication of the first Millenium book. That was mostly journalists musing on the bad luck of their colleague who died just as his books were accepted, and maybe some surprise that he had actually written all three by the time he died. I’m sure his publishers knew they had some good books on their hands and hoped they’d do well, but no one could have imagined the worldwide sales the books have had. It happened. It wasn’t forced.

This new large brick in my life ticks so many boxes you can barely believe it. It’s not trying to be one, or even two, recently popular genres. It’s trying to be all things to all men. Or more likely women.

I googled it to see if I could find out more, and worked out that most book bloggers in the English-speaking world probably have a copy by now. Many have already blogged about it (I think the American ARCs were sent out earlier) and all are so enthusiastic. I wonder if they are feeling flattered. Many are only repeating what the press release says, but it makes for a massive online presence.

Despite this, I don’t believe in the book.

I was tempted to blog about it, mentioning the title and naming the author, but felt it would mean me adding to the buzz and I was hoping not to. Hence the anonymity. The book has even been personalised for me, which I took to mean they were hoping to prevent me selling it, until I noticed they also suggest I pass it on after reading, so they really are thinking viral.

So not only are we readers only given what the publishers feel safe publishing, but they have the nerve to tell us what will sell well. Surely that is what happens when we find we really really love their book?

Knowing when to stop

I’m knackered. I’m so grateful I’m not ‘on the road’ right now. But I most likely would have been if lack of funds had not prevented me from booking a few more trips to do with books. So that’s good.

It’s very easy to decide to do something when that something is in the future. I just look at the programme and think how much I’d like to see X or hear Y, or simply that it’d be generally fun to be at the Z book festival. It’s like going shopping for food when you’re hungry.

Today is the last day of the Gothenburg Book Fair. Despite this year’s programme not being totally to my taste, I was very tempted by it. A good many of the Nordic murderers were there. Along with Alexander McCall Smith, on account of this year’s theme being Africa. Hence Henning Mankell, and Deon Meyer. Nadine Gordimer. Sophia Jansson, various famous singers (Swedish ones) and Eva Gabrielsson of Stieg Larsson fame. This year’s ALMA winner, Kitty Crowther. Etc.

Luckily Experience spoke to me. She said that after Edinburgh I’d be so relieved not to be going anywhere else. I’m glad she knew.

On that basis, and had I gone to Gothenburg, I knew I wouldn’t get to Bath this year either. I’ve spent several years not going to Bath. Bath, of course, is special in that it’s only children’s books and children’s authors. So it’s really where I ought to be. But then, half the authors in Bath I’ve already seen elsewhere.

I’ve not even looked at the Wigtown Book Festival. Well, truthfully, I have, but only just now. I had to quickly avert my eyes, and I told myself that finding somewhere to stay would be really hard. And travelling could present problems. Probably. I only knew it’s on, as everyone on facebook seems to be going.

Smile

And don’t get me started on Cheltenham. I so want to go. But at the same time I’m blessing every day I have at home, with nothing special happening at all. I wake up and (almost) smile at the thought that I can cook and clean and blog and not go anywhere.

I may even get to my two remaining interviews. Once I’ve found a little more of the house under all the assorted debris. One thing Experience forgot to mention was the effect of seven weeks away while the house still had someone living in it.

This is no vicarage

I think I get it now. This fascination for Nordic crime. People like Adèle Geras, who can’t have enough of the gritty crime from our cold and dark countries. And me, who shudders at the mere thought of some of the bleak grittiness.

I’m currently reading a much talked about Swedish crime novel, which can remain anonymous for the time being. Started it on Friday night and read solidly for an hour, or about 100 pages. Then I thought to myself that it was so unpleasant that I might as well give up and save myself the remaining 500 pages. Ghastly crime (I know they all are, really) and not a single likeable character.

Then for good measure I continued yesterday. It’s scary and off-putting and I still can’t stand the characters. I don’t like the Stockholm setting, because although I don’t live there, I feel I could do. In which case I do not want that sort of stuff happening on my home ground. I can see myself leading that kind of drab life and I feel vaguely sick.

But that’s what you like, isn’t it? If it’s grim and it’s grim in a different place, for people not living your kind of life, then it’s just ‘nice’ to watch from the safe distance of your armchair. While I can see myself there, I’m scared.

I used to have this theory that readers with ‘cosy’ British lives enjoy the murderous Ikea life style in the glow of the Aurora and all that. You’re safe in your semidetached lives. And I used to think that I adore cosy English crime because it’s different. Set in charming surroundings, with interestingly different characters, and totally unattainable.

Now though, I find crime like Stephen Booth’s – for instance – a little bit too close to home. But still quite enjoyable, as the Peak District is still a few miles down the road.

And isn’t that why we like Agatha Christie? Most of us can’t aspire to that kind of life (partly because it’s now in the past), and feel secure in the knowledge that we won’t be murdered in any mansions or vicarages anytime soon.

Having come to this brilliant conclusion I had to try and decide what type of crime writing I do like and feel comfortable with. Irish fantasy. Quite safe. V I Warshawski, safely far away in Chicago. Mma Ramotswe. Very far away. And yes, Stieg Larsson. Because for some reason I can’t see myself living in his settings. Anything with humour, really. Like Donna Moore’s mad capers. Not real. A reflection on society, but not my life.

I yearn for more Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. Safe time, safe class. Yes, I want safe crime. Something that is unlikely to reach me.

Dotty?

I’ll let the article from The New Yorker by Nora Ephron kick off this dottiness. I know that The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut did the rounds on blogs and on facebook last week, but it’s a good one. I think someone said it contains spoilers if you have yet to read Stieg Larsson, but I’d expect those five people not to mind.

I could really do with some input from non-umlaut speakers here. To me it looks so very empty with an a where my soul is crying out for å or ä. But I don’t honestly want aa or ae in their place, which seems to be what newspapers still offer. How – in this day and age of computers – they can have a problem with dotting their letters, I will never understand.

But, if I encounter an ĕ, I have absolutely no idea what it does, so I’d be happy to ignore it. Just as you lot ignore my ö. It’s fine. It really is. And I’d much rather hesitate over that o, than stare at the oe.

Though that is a matter of taste. Someone was wanting a book title for their next novel containing a name with an ö in it, but wasn’t sure it would work for English speakers. I had no problem with it, naturally, but I know how I break into a sweat over Carl Hiaasen. And I’m panicking all the more because I don’t know how his Scandinavian name has been altered while in America. It’s one thing to know how to say it, and another to know how – or if – to mistreat it the correct way.

Take your average piece of IKEA furniture. Outside Sweden I have more trouble than most with the stupid names, because I have absolutely no idea of which way to ruin them. I once wanted a new kitchen table and didn’t know how to talk about it, and I’d never have guessed what the English sales staff called it. Bought Son a duvet a few years ago, and had to ask for it in the store. I waved my hand at the shelf and inquired if they had any more. The duvet was called Mysa Måne, and I’m still quivering with admiration for its new identity ‘en anglais’. (Bet I got that wrong.)

And how can he be Sven-Goeran? I ask you. He is not. Sven-Göran or Svennis are fine.

I mentioned the Danish or Norwegian aa, which has been modernised to å. However if it’s a name, you may prefer to still be Haakon and not Håkon. Or not. And any Håkon with an old typewriter will have to be Haakon anyway, since that’s all you get.

Then we have the new Swedish shop Clas Ohlson, which is not making matters any easier with their almost amusing advertisements. ‘A really useful shöp’. Honestly. And the Resident IT Consultant is still very fond of the bad thermometer he found in this shöp.

Ï’d bëttėr léãvê whìlē thè gøing ĩs gőōd.

Gotland murders

You can’t read this book. Sorry. But my earlier suggestion that people learn Swedish in order to read untranslated Swedish crime is still valid. Annika Bryn, whose blog I have mentioned here before, as well as her friendship with Stieg Larsson, is also a crime writer.

I performed a minor service for Annika a while ago, and she sent me a reward in the shape of her third novel, which I’ve now read. And I honestly don’t know why she isn’t one of the Nordic crime writers filling up British and American bookshops.

Annika’s detective is policewoman Margareta Davidsson, who normally does her detecting in Stockholm. In Morden i Buttle (The Murders in Buttle) she has come to recuperate on Gotland, the large island east of Öland. That may be part of the reason I just couldn’t stop thinking of Johan Theorin while reading. There are other similarities. Annika also has a historical puzzle that somehow is connected to the modern day murders. And there are unspeakable things happening to children.

Annika Bryn, Morden i Buttle

Margareta’s recuperating doesn’t go too well when she finds a dead girl outside her borrowed cottage in the middle of Gotland, in the village of Buttle. She had noticed a man she felt uneasy about on the ferry the previous day, and she’s sure he has something to do with the dead body. The local police don’t believe her theories. And when her Stockholm colleague Kent turns up out of the blue, things get complicated.

There is, as I said, an older mystery too, from the 19th century. A young unmarried mother who died far too early, catches Margareta’s attention. I really would have loved to read about this girl with a less unhappy ending, but then her story wouldn’t have fitted in with Margareta’s new murder victim.

This is a suitably bleak and violent tale to fit in with other recent Scandinavian crime writing. I just wish it would stand a chance of being translated.

Bookwitch bites #9

There really will be an American film version of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, after all my prognostication saying they were too late by now. Oh well, I’m sure you can’t have too many of a good film.

Jon Mayhew has gory stories. Not written by him, this time, but by young wannabes. I think Jon has cause to worry a little, because it looks like they are here to take over from him. So maybe not encourage all this rival writing?

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay may not be in the shops just yet. Soon… But I have received my real copy, and it is a beauty. This clever book now also has its own website. And Candy is counting the minutes.

If I had a trumpet I would blow it. I don’t. Will a saxophone do? Anyway, no one else will ever ask me about myths, or my opinions of the same, after reading my recent grilling by Lucy Coats. I’m incredibly flattered to be her number seven, but it would have been more my style if I’d made number six.

Reading is important, and here is another plea for people to sign the Just Read Campaign. Please sign. Or I may come after you with a hair dryer. (Sorry, inexplicable personal joke. And a bad one, at that.)

It seems even my favourite NCIS agent is reading. Or rather, Mark Harmon is. Four books, at the last count. (And that count is mine, and I’m not totally serious.) Three books 25 years ago, and more recently another one, after the filming for season 7 finished. I wonder which book?

I’m currently feeling a bit smug, which I know will come back and hit me very very soon. I reorganised my books, and have managed to keep up with what I planned to read, so any minute now the smugness will crash. I even made two piles for two planned trips, which will most likely have to be re-piled when the time comes to pack. So this feeling of being on top of things is a chimera. Unless that’s a mythical dog.

Help.

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.