A portrait of the late Swedish crime novelist by a longtime friend and fellow crusading journalist.
“I’m fifty, damn it!” Thus, writes Kurdish-Swedish writer Baksi, Larsson’s last words. Felled by a heart attack, Larsson—born Karl Stig-Erland Larsson in 1954, his nom de guerre a teenage adaptation—had crammed more than a few decades of living into his sleepless days. It should come as no mystery to fans of his work, and particularly of the Millennium Trilogy, that Larsson was fascinated by the dark, hidden corners of Swedish society, and particularly by the neo-Nazi element that lay just beneath the surface and was (and is) more influential than outsiders might ever have expected. Hired as a graphic artist by a newspaper, but then drifting into investigative journalism, Larsson threw himself into the antiracist, antifascist cause, where he met Baksi, the editor of a paper that addressed immigrant issues. Larsson’s devotion to that fight and his assertions that the neo-Nazis had thoroughly infiltrated the Swedish police led to numerous death threats, and he was always in trouble with his editors—for one thing, since he refused to even pretend to objectivity. Baksi attributes his early death to stress, though the 20 cups of coffee and two or three packs of cigarettes he consumed daily probably didn’t help. Larsson’s antifascist journalism defined him, but readers outside Sweden will take greater interest in the genesis of his crime novels. Baksi provides only a little insight there, noting that Larsson composed all three books in the trilogy at the same time, writing a chapter in one book, then a chapter in the second, then a chapter in the third; he also enumerates Larsson’s many influences, from Harlan Ellison to Elizabeth George.
Readable but sometimes maudlin, adding up to not much more than notes for a future biographer.