Will the real Lisbeth Salander please stand up?

Can a Novelist Be Too Productive Even After Their Death?

#TheGIRLisBACK – Genius hacker Lisbeth Salander lives on as The Girl in the Spider’s Web even though the author who wrote the Millennium series has been dead for 11 years.

Will the real Lisbeth Salander please stand up?
Girl No. 1 – incognito, Girl No. 2 – Elisha, Girl No. 3 – Elena — Will the real Lisbeth Salander please stand up?
photo by Cherryl Bird

The best-selling trilogy – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and the third in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – were all published after author Stieg Larsson’s death. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth book in the series continuation,  published on Tuesday, but it was written by another Swedish novelist named David Lagercrantz, who is very much alive.

Lagercrantz has been granted authorship of the Millennium series books.

Larsson’s characters, like the heroine Salander and her compatriot Michael Blomkvist, will carry on his legacy but not all authors would be happy to have their work published posthumously. 

Master of the horror genre Stephen King says, “I would never let another writer ‘take over’ a series like the Dark Tower,” adding “When it’s done, it’s done.”

King was responding to a question from a reader in Tuesday’s New York Times, when he admitted that he would prefer his work to be discontinued if he was unable to complete it himself. This particular session was related to his recently published essay in the Times called Can a Novelist Be Too Productive?

King added, “The decision to publish finished works if I became mentally incompetent would be in the hands of my wife and children, and I trust them. As I would trust any of them to complete a piece of work that was close to the finish line.”

Stephen King to NYT reader: Once it's done, it's done.
Stephen King to the Times reader: Once it’s done, it’s done.

According to a CBS News Sunday Morning television report called The Mystery of Stieg Larsson, presented on Oct 8, 2010, another book was on the way before Larsson died. His brother Joakim told reporter Erin Moriarty that, Larsson wrote by email saying “book number four is nearly finished,” just 10 days before his death. He went on to say that book number four was actually book number five because “he thought [it] was more fun to write than book number four,” out of an intended series of 10 books.

In 2011, Larsson’s long-time partner Eva Gabrielsson told the TODAY show that there was a fourth book but she also said that “it was far from finished,” that the manuscript was on a computer and had not even been printed off and no one else had seen it. In her book, There are Things I Would Like You to Know About Stieg Larsson and Me, she wrote of her lack of desire to publish Larsson’s book, adding “Why should I make money for a publisher and give the family more money?”according to TODAY.

Altogether, the trilogy sold well over 75 million copies worldwide. Larsson’s father and brother are the beneficiaries of his over $40M estate. TODAY reported that in 2011, the three Swedish versions of his films had already made more than $100M. The box-office hit, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher was later released in Dec that year.

The similarities between Larsson and Lagercrantz are hard to overlook. Penguin Random House Canada notes that Lagercrantz is also “an acclaimed Swedish journalist and author.”

Lagercrantz worked for Expressen as a crime reporter. He has “written several novels, including the forthcoming Fall of Man in Wilmslow. He worked with international soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimović on his memoir, I Am Zlatan Ibrahimović, which was short-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award and was nominated for the August Prize in Sweden.”

Largercrantz visits the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge St.) on Sept 17 for a talk.

Read or download an excerpt from The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

by Cherryl Bird
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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