The late Swedish journalist and author Stieg Larsson did not live to see the publication of his novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which along with its sequels The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest became bestsellers and an international phenomenon.
The three books were turned into a film trilogy in Sweden, and the David Fincher-directed American adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was released in 2011. The movie cracked $100 million in the U.S. on a $90 million budget, and did even better in the rest of the world… but the hard-R subject matter – extreme depictions of violence and sexuality – prevented it from becoming the huge blockbuster some might have been expecting from a movie by the director of The Social Network and starring the new James Bond, Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, whose lead performance as Lisbeth Salander was a major breakthrough.
This perceived under-performance is one reason that talk of a Fincher-directed second American movie in the series seems to have stalled, and on a parallel track, legal disputes between Larsson’s long-time girlfriend Eva Gabrielsson and Larsson’s brother and father for control of Larsson’s posthumous work have prevented any further work from being published (Larsson left no will, and he and Gabrielsson never married since under Swedish law their personal address would be public record, and they feared becoming targets due to their activism). Larsson is rumored to have been working on a fourth book featuring the same characters, with the possibility of fifth book in outline form.
Now it appears that Blomkvist and Salander will live again, at least on the page. The AP reports that Swedish publisher Norstedts has hired novelist David Lagercrantz (I am Zlatan) to pen a fourth book based on Larsson’s characters, with a planned publication date of August 2015. Lagercrantz has stated that the new book will not include any material Larsson may have been working on prior to his death in 2004 at age 50, and remarked on why he feels revisiting these characters is important, saying:
“In the times we live in, where we are monitored by American authorities like the NSA, a hacker like Lisbeth Salander is needed.”
Informed by Larsson’s lifelong activism, Dragon Tattoo followed Lisbeth Salander (Mara), an introverted genius goth-punk hacker and her relationship with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig). After Blomkvist is conned by a corrupt businessman and publicly shamed, he is hired by wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger to investigate the murder of his niece decades prior. Aided by Salander, he discovers that a vicious serial killer has been preying on women for years, and that Vanger’s family is deeply entangled in a web of suppression and violence.
The second and third books follow Blomkvist and Salander in separate narratives as they investigate a conspiracy involving underground neo-Nazis and the Swedish government, with a dangerous central adversary who as it turns out affects Salander in a very personal way.
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest is the weakest of the series, largely due to the fact that Larsson had not quite finished it before his death. Ghost writers filled it in, resulting in something overly complicated and less riveting than the previous reads. Thus, a fourth book by a new writer is not necessarily welcome news to fans of the original books. Hiring a new writer to continue the franchise side-steps the legal issues of who controls Larsson’s posthumous work, but it’s not much of a stretch to consider this more of a cynical cash-grab than a real attempt to honor the legacy of Larsson and his characters.
As for an American continuation of the movie series… various reports have been chiming in for a couple of years now. David Fincher may or may not return to helm any sequels, which could see Daniel Craig bowing out of the role of crusading reporter Mikael Blomkvist. Star Rooney Mara is apparently game to return, provided it happens sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon. It remains to be seen whether or not a new novel can re-capture the zeitgeist feeling of the original books, and if an American version of The Girl Who Played With Fire does not take off by 2015, it’s unlikely to ever happen.
The Untitled Fourth Dragon Tattoo Book may be published in August, 2015.