14 November 2009

Stieg Larsson. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008)

Stieg Larsson.THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. MacLehose Press, London [also] Knopf, New York 2008

Current Selling Prices
$80-$800 /£50-£500


The story of Stieg Larsson is well known by now. In 2008 he sold more books than Dan Brown. He died in 2004 age 50 without seeing the global success of his novels; as the Sunday Times put it:- 'Crime fiction has seldom needed to salute and mourn such a stellar talent as Larsson's in the same breath...'

He started off editing Swedish SF fanzines and became a serious political activist and writer--an indomitable fighter against racism, sexism, misogyny and the idiocies of the far right and modern day Nazis. As Nick Cohen says, the irony that his longterm partner Eva Gabrielsson should miss out on the Millennium millions 'is almost too sharp to bear.' She may well win her case yet and she is in possession of Stieg's laptop with a fourth volume of the series partly written (and his plans for it to be a series of ten.) Probably the world's most valuable laptop. Eva Gabrielsson has dismissed the likelihood of Larsson’s fourth book being published, comparing it to an uncompleted Picasso. It is not unthinkable a sympathetic writer could finish the fourth book. Dickens's mystery 'Edwin Drood' (1870) was unfinished at his death, with the killer not revealed, and it has been completed by scores of writers, the first being issued in 1873 by a Vermont printer who had channeled the latter half of the book directly from the great man--a version that was praised by Conan Doyle (not scarce, decent firsts can be had for about $100).

Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr and Sara Paretsky have been cited as influences by various reviewers. Larsson's journalist hero Mikael Blomkwist is no Poirot however, although the island mystery has echoes of Agatha's most politically incorrect title. Some readers have mentioned Enid Blyton as an influence, certainly she is mentioned in the text but his goth/punk superhero Lisbeth Salander would probably not be invited to join the Secret Seven or even the Famous Five. Larsson is on record as saying she is a kind of grown up incarnation of Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking - "strong and fearless." The Swedish first of the first Pippi adventure is a £1000+ book in fine condition ( Rabén & Sjögren, Stockholm, 1945.) Note that she is called Pippi Langstrump in Swedish.

VALUE? You can buy copies of the British first currently for about £400. The US first is quite common and can be had for less than $100. The UK firsts have been making good money on Ebay, one in near fine condition made £425 ($710) last week. Online mall sellers tend to want £500 and more with the more expensive copies being touted as investments, usually a bad sign. Most proclaim its 'incredible' scarcity and, for some reason, the sharpness of its corners. One Ebay Buy -it-now seller shouts 'INCREDIBLY SCARCE TITLE' and wants £725. Most of the highest prices (some as much a £1000) are with dot.com book outfits (modrarerip.com etc.,) - that tends to be another warning sign. Fortunes are wanted by vendors of copies signed by the translator, one Reg Keeland. This looks like a hype but may just work in today's free-for-all market. I don't recall people getting worked up about Archibald Colquhoun the translator of Di Lampedusa's 'The Leopard' - another posthumous masterpiece and the top-selling novel in Italian history.[Below Noomi Rapace as Salander in the new movie...]

OUTLOOK? Good, because it is a major work and has achieved cult status. The real question is how many Maclehose printed. I suspect it was several thousand in which case the current price may be toppish. If it was less than a thousand then the price is realistic. It seems unlikely that it would have been a small print run. There had been an intense buzz about the book coming from Swedish mystery fans, the launch of the book in London in January 2008 was attended by every mover and groover in publishing, review copies were sent out etc., Charing Cross's own Maxim Jakubowski was there (complaining about the translation...) By the way his shop 'Murder One', not 50 yards from us, remains empty after nearly two years (a wildly over ambitious rent can be the only explanation).

'Tattoo' may go up and it may go down. 'Da Vinci Code' has halved in value from its height (however 2 crucial differences, Larsson had real talent and Vinci was a six figure print run.) As a bookdealer I hope to find a limpid copy overlooked in a box, hopefully a review copy (NOT a proof copy) larded with handouts and fliers...
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