Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Wrote 'The Girl Who...' Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson was on the verge of international fame and fortune when he died in 2004, right before the publication of his bestselling Millennium trilogy. NPR's Robert Siegel talks to Larsson's publisher about what made the trilogy a runaway success.

Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Wrote 'The Girl Who...'

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

You could call it a grownup "Harry Potter" publishing phenomenon. The Swedish author Stieg Larsson's three "Millennium" novels are huge -numbers one, two and three on the USA Today bestseller list. The newest installment debuted at number one among The New York Times bestsellers.

If there were a list of books most likely to be in the hands of your neighbor on the train, plane or on the beach blanket this summer, number one would almost certainly be Larsson's "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest." It came out just over a week ago. The author, Stieg Larsson, died in 2004.

And joining us now to talk about the books and more importantly about the author is Eva Gedin, who was Larsson's Swedish publisher and is credited with first recognizing his literary talent. Thanks for joining us from Stockholm.

Ms. EVA GEDIN (Editor, Norstedts): Thank you.

SIEGEL: And tell us about how Stieg Larsson's novels came to be published.

Ms. GEDIN: We heard of him through a colleague who called the publishing house and said that he had a good friend that had written some really good thrillers that we should have a look at. And so they came and we read them, and we were quite amazed from the beginning how well written they were and how such a mature writer you could see that he was.

And so we were able to work with him for, well, he died in November 2004, so for nine, 10 months we were actually working with these manuscripts.

SIEGEL: And when you met him, there was no terminal illness that he was suffering from?

Ms. GEDIN: No, not at all. He was just a very occupied man, and you were sort of asking yourself, and I asked him, how on earth he had had the time to write these novels. And he said, well, I don't have to sleep that much.

SIEGEL: His day job was as a journalist.

Ms. GEDIN: Yes.

SIEGEL: And he worked with, I gather, a crusading left-of-center or left-wing magazine.

Ms. GEDIN: Yes, that's right. It was a magazine called Expo that was sort of mapping and writing about the right-wing extremists, neo-Nazis.

SIEGEL: Lisbeth Salander, who is the girl in these various titles, is a character with whom, I guess, Stieg Larsson had an imaginary relationship with for many years. I mean, she's quite a character that he created.

Ms. GEDIN: Yeah, she's amazing. And, I mean, when I get the question about how come these books are so successful, the very short answer is Lisbeth Salander. She's a fantastic character.

But he had this idea of a children's book character called Pippi Longstocking, and he was sort of thinking about how would Pippi Longstocking be when she grew up, and that was sort of the idea to create Lisbeth Salander.

SIEGEL: Lisbeth Salander, who is a tattooed, much body pierced, bisexual, incredibly skilled hacker whose personality verges on the autistic - and I'm not doing justice to her right there but that's a bit of it.

Ms. GEDIN: Yeah, that's a bit of it. He said from the beginning that he had created a girl who was some kind of an oddball that we haven't seen in stories like this before. And he was quite right.

SIEGEL: When he was published, did you get the impression his plan was to continue to be a magazine reporter and just write in all the time he would otherwise be sleeping, or was this a change of career for him, he was now going to be Stieg Larsson, the author from here on end?

Ms. GEDIN: No, that's something he actually talked about from the beginning. He said if that book sells, this is my retirement fund. And my plan is to not leave Expo immediately but let the younger people take over and spend most of my time writing fiction. So that was his dream and his plan.

SIEGEL: Eva Gedin, thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. GEDIN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Eva Gedin of the Swedish publishing house Nordstedt, who publishes the Stieg Larsson novels. The new one is "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest." The first two were "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl Who Played with Fire."

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