Stieg Larsson was born on August 15, 1954 and left this world far too soon in November 9, 2004. Sadly, his literary works were not known until after his death. However, he was a well known journalist and activist. Although his books remain at the top of numerous bestseller lists, he never knew how enormously successful they would become as they were published posthumously. Most of Larsson’s life was spent in Stockholm and this is also the region in which he worked as a journalist as well as an independent researcher for right wing extremists.
Childhood and Early Life
Larsson’s birth occurred in the northern Swedish city, Skelleftea. The family was residing in the area because his father and grandfather worked at a local smelting plant. When Larsson was only a year old his father was poisoned with arsenic and was forced to resign from his position at the plant. The family packed up and moved to Stockholm but they left Larsson with his grandparents since there were not adequate living conditions or space. He stayed in the village of Bjursele with his grandparents until he was 9 years of age when his grandfather passed away. When Larsson was older he cited his grandfather as a great influence on his writings and activities. His grandfather was a political activist who was arrested in WWII for opposing the Nazis.
As a child, Larsson enjoyed reading and particularly enjoyed children’s authors Enid Blyton who authored The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking. Larsson was influenced by crime novels written by author Maj Sjowall as well as Mickey Spillane’s detective fiction. These authors were favorites of Larsson’s parents and he also learned to enjoy their writings. By the time he was 12 years old, Larsson had tried writing his first novel. When his father discovered the manuscript in an abandoned notebook, he purposed to purchase Stieg his own typewriter for his 13th birthday. This was an expensive and noisy gift for the day and so the young man would spend his time writing in the cellar and only come up for meals.
Larsson was 21 in 1975 when he joined the Swedish army just to fulfill compulsory military service. He retained his political activist’s stance on issues and began smuggling the Trotskyist magazine, Red Soldier to other members of the military. Once he was discharged, he left for East Africa to help train female Marxist guerillas how to use grenade launchers. After his military experience, Larsson returned to Stockholm and began extensive research pertaining to right wing extremism. Early in the ’80s, Larson became part of a British magazine, Searchlight for which he was the Scandinavian correspondent. He also worked for the Fjarde Internationalen as an editor. He also served as an editor for the Expo magazine which helped provide him with a model to use for his fictional writings in Millennium later on.
Early Starts in Crime Fiction
Larsson was said to be very content with his life and appeared happy to those who knew him. He smoked 3 packages of cigarettes each day, lived basically on hamburgers and many times worked around the clock. He was also an avid reader of crime fiction but everyone was surprised when he began to write crime fiction in 2001. He stated that he simply did it because it was fun. He was a very fast writer as it came easy for him and by 2003 he had completed the first volume of the trilogy, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” On the surface, the novel was just another detective novel but the villains were Nazis or neo-Nazis and the crimes that were committed were heinous. His story lines contained grisly crimes such as incestuous rape – both hetero and homo – as well as appalling murders. One victim in his stories was gagged with a sanitary napkin before being stoned to death. Another victim was tied up and placed face done into a bed of glowing embers.
When Larsson completed his first manuscript he presented it to a publishing house which had a long history with publishing crime novels, Piratforlag. The editors refused to read even the first line as they refused to even open the package which contained the manuscript. They said that they did not read manuscripts which were received from first-time authors. It is certain that today they regret this decision. Larsson went to a second publisher, Norstedts Forlag. They accepted the entire Millenium trilogy and to date have sold more than 3.5 million copies.
Most Notable Works
Prior to birthing the Millennium trilogy, Larsson was already established as a political activist as well as a journalist and he had attained a mild level of notoriety. In the 90s he completed the Millennium Trilogy under the original Swedish titles translated into English: Men Who Hate Women, The Witch Who Dreamed of a Can of Petrol and The Exploding Castle in the Air.
The books had unusual success in Sweden and were soon picked up by a small publishing house in Britain. Quercus translated the Swedish titles into these English titles: The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
The trilogy is centered on the life of Lisbeth Salander who is a punk style computer hacker. His other primary character is Mikail Blomkvist who is a political activist with a personal history that looks very similar to Larsson’s. The trio of suspenseful novels are the adventures of these two who come together to take on a serial killer who is simply deranged with a hatred of women. Then they take on a sex trafficking ring and then a conspiracy which occurs within the national security service of Sweden. Sales of the trilogy have already passed $40 million. Larsson is likely to join the likes of J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown.
Stieg Larsson was the very first author who sold more than a million e-books through Amazon.com. His works have also won numerous awards including: Glass Key Award (2006, 2008), Best Swedish Crime Novel Award (2006), ITV3 Crime Thriller Award – International Author of the Year (2008), Galaxy British Book Awards (2009), Anthony Award – Best First Novel (2009) and USA Today’s Author of the Year (2010)
Books in order of publication by series
|The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo||(2005)|
|The Girl Who Played with Fire||(2006)|
|The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest||(2007)|
Millennium Graphic Novels
|The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Book 1||(2012)|
|The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Book 2||(2013)|
|The Girl Who Played with Fire||(2014)|
|The Expo Files||(2012)|