STIEG LARSSON: What model Ouija board are we on?
SL: I like to know the hardware. I always kept my readers informed about the technology Lisbeth was using. Always.
BF: They certainly liked something that you were doing. More than thirty million copies sold. Shocked?
SL: Well, we Swedes try to be modest. Still, read the books carefully. You can see that I liked what I had written. I’d planned ten Salander books in all, you know.
BF: She’d have been your Miss Marple. Some say—how can I put this?—that your death, nearly seven years ago now, boosted sales.
SL: Like Elvis?
BF: Elvis? Well, you both liked junk food, but I was thinking about the freedom that unpleasant event gave international publishers to toy with your text—and to scrap that terrible first title. You must agree that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sounds better than Men Who Hate Women.
SL: But there are plenty of men who hate women, no? That’s not fiction, even in that Swedish paradise everyone so likes to talk about, and I wanted to remind my readers of that with a fact or two.
BF: Like the unsourced statistic that “eighteen percent of the women in Sweden have at one time been threatened by a man”? Whatever that vague term threatened may mean . . .
SL: What are you saying?
BF: You’re the investigative journalist. Something doesn’t add up. And the same could be said about some other tales you are said to have spun, about training the Eritrean lady guerrillas, say, or even the one about the gang rape of a “Lisbeth” that allegedly so influenced your development as a feminist. There’s even a book, The Larsson Scandal, that focuses on some of these, uh, inconsistencies.
SL: Jävlar! As you pointed out, I was an investigative journalist myself. I exposed threats, dangerous conspiracies, but this . . .
BF: Let’s return to the pleasanter topic of all those royalties—and, comrade, the contradiction they might represent. You are on the far left, a former Trotskyist, no less.
SL: Well, it was my estate that hit the jackpot, not me. Sure, I hoped to make a bit of money, but all Stieg wanted was a stuga—a cottage—in the country, and maybe to set aside a bit for retirement, the usual. I wasn’t one of those greedy financial types, overpaid for trading bits of paper with their yuppie pals. I created a product that people liked. No one was exploited. Taxes were paid. I have more than done my bit for the welfare state.
BF: And for a lot of other Nordic writers, too. The hunt for the next Stieg Larsson is proving lucrative.
SL: That’s fine. Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall started it all decades ago, not me. They were leftists too, I might add, opposed to the Vietnam War. They made America tremble. Still, I wish that the first Stieg Larsson was still around. Fifty was too young to die.
BF: That’s why you never made a valid will?
SL: Yes, that was a mistake. Swedish intestacy laws hate unmarried partners. Eva deserves more than she’s getting. Then again, the law’s designated legatees, my father and brother, aren’t monsters.
BF: How do you rate the movie versions of your books?
SL: They cut too much of my story, but the girl who played Salander was terrific. As for the Hollywood remake, Mikael Blomkvist, who is, of course, me, will be played by Daniel Craig, James Bond himself. Makes sense, if not to our Mr. Fleming. That snob just laughed when he heard the news. Here he comes now. I’d better go. He can be rough.
BF: Stieg, wait! One more question: Is there really a fourth book, the one they say is on your laptop?
SL: Well, let’s just say if it appears, a ghostwriter will have been involved [laughs, fades].