Before he was an author and a journalist, David Lagercrantz was destined to be a star athlete. But it wasn’t until he was intellectually touched by a book (“Albert Camus”) for the first time in high school, where he soon put his passion into writing. Coming far from his days of sports, the writer was suddenly handed a plot, a cast of lively characters and an unfinished series. His task? Finish the story.
In 2004 renowned author Stieg Larsson, creator of the first three novels in the world-millennium series “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” died unexpectedly of a heart attack. In 2013, Swedish publisher Norstedts contracted Lagercrantz to finish the job.
“Of course it was important to me to be faithful to the wonderful universe of Stieg Larsson but to make it a good book, but I also had to add some of myself and my own passions. In the first book, I was scared to death about not writing good enough. Maybe I also had a quality complex. Stieg Larsson’s books were not only good, they were great,” said Lagercrantz of his journey with the book.
Taking over mid-series was not an easy task, but Lagercrantz has been successful thus far, having written both the fourth and now the newly-released fifth book in the series. Picking up where Larsson left off came with one major obstacle: how to stick to Larsson’s intention, while also adding Lagercrantz’s own voice.
In response to questions about the challenges he faced taking over mid-series, Lagercrantz remarked: “My goal was live up to Stieg Larsson’s quality and then of course to get the characters into my veins and DNA.”
Though Lagercrantz always wanted to write novels, he originally found himself working in the field of journalism, especially with far-left movement politics. He spent many years working as a photographer and editing political journals in Sweden. He also worked as a graphic designer for a news agency and became the editor of Expo –– a Swedish magazine dedicated to counteracting the growth of the extreme right among young people.
“I always say if you want to write good journalism use literary techniques, and if you want to write good fiction use journalistic research. Journalism helped me to understand the life of (character) Michael Blomkvist. In my heart, I am always a reporter.”
Lagercrantz uses his reporting techniques and journalistic background to help write the life of protagonist Lisbeth Salander –– the volatile seeker of justice for herself and others –– the girl with the dragon tattoo. His journalistic and political background has helped him to breath life into Lisbeth and the other characters in these books.
Though he has stuck closely to the plots and intentions of Larsson, Lagercrantz does say that with the newest novel, he takes more risks.
“In ‘The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye’ I was braver. I cut more and dared to put even more of myself in it," Lagercrantz said. "I consider it a better book but as a writer maybe you always would like to think that your latest book is your best.”
Though he is writing novels now, and no longer completely involved with the world of politics and journalism, Lagercrantz still believes “The Girl Who Took and Eye for an Eye” has a deeper meaning that relates to the political divide in the world right now.
“I, of course, daydream that that I can make people a little wiser and more tolerant and understand that we are in all central aspects, the same,” he said when asked what his newest novel means to him. “It is so sad to see the society getting more and more divided. Hate is obviously growing thanks to terrible leaders and if I can bring just some of us a little tiny bit closer, I would be so happy,” he said.
It can be said that Lagercrantz writes for the purpose of storytelling, but his writing evokes an underlying intention to make a statement for democracy and the essential nature of art in this world.
“Nothing can change the world more than good storytelling. You can have facts of numerous people getting killed of poverty and injustice and maybe could not care less. But if you read a story masterly written about just one of them, you may actually change and do something about it. Art and good stories, both fiction and nonfiction are vital for a democracy.”
Lagercrantz will be at Zingerman’s Greyline with Literati bookstore to speak about “The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye.” Tickets are available online and include a copy of the book.