It all started one sunny day in late September 2004, on a park bench outside the Gothenburg Book Fair. John-Henri Holmberg, a Swedish publisher, sat down next to me and told me about three manuscripts he had just read, written by a friend of his named Stieg Larsson. They would, he said, make their author the most famous Swedish writer in the world, “bigger than Henning Mankell”.
At that time, Mankell had conquered almost every market around the world, achieving international sales of around 20 million copies. Larsson, who was then working as an editor on an anti-racism magazine called Expo, hadn’t published a single word of fiction.
If it had come from anyone else, I would have laughed off Holmberg’s claim as a piece of far-fetched fantasy. But my faith in his judgment, and the fact that this Larsson character had waited until he had three manuscripts ready before even approaching a publisher, intrigued me. So the next day, I called Larsson and asked if he would let me interview him.
A few weeks later, on October 27 2004, we met in the Stockholm offices of Expo. The fading light of day seeped into a room furnished with a simple table, two plain chairs and a lamp. Larsson, a 50-year-old chain smoker, looked exhausted. After his death, much would be written about his indefatigable work rate, his superhuman capacity to write for hours without a break. It was clearly taking its toll. The only known fruits of his labour were, at that time, his exposés of racist and fascist organisations for Expo, a publication he had helped set up in 1995 in the wake of a spate of neo-Nazi murders. This work had drawn him into the public eye and provoked death threats.
Larsson lived with his long-term partner, Eva Gabrielsson, but his name was not on the doorbell of their flat and his address was not listed in any records or databases. The couple had several established routines whenever they left home: sometimes they would leave by the front door; at other times, they went out the back, via the basement. Larsson had a habit of glancing over his shoulder frequently, as if to check if anyone was following him.
Not long before our meeting, the police had informed him that photographs of him and Gabrielsson, as well as information about their address, had been found in connection with a murder investigation they were conducting in Stockholm.
I began our interview by inquiring about this aspect of his life, asking if he took any precautions to protect himself. It was a mistake. “Sure,” he snapped back, “but I’m hardly going to tell you about them, am I?”
Read More Here from The Telegraph
Further interviews are here –
Erland Larsson speaks about his son Stieg and his work
Christopher MacLehose speaks about securing the English Language rights
And where my obsession started in December 2007
All my Larsson related posts at The Rap Sheet are archived here
Photo © 2008 A Karim – Christopher MacLehose and Erland Larsson after the ITV-3 Crime Thriller Awards at Grosvenor House London