The saga of Lisbeth Salander continues, and David Lagercrantz, who has written the sequel to Stieg Larsson’s wildly popular “Millennium” trilogy, is both proud and deeply anxious over how millions of readers will receive it.
“At night my head burns,” he said, explaining that he had tried to get Mr. Larsson’s characters “into my blood system” when writing. Asked about the biggest liberty he took, he laughed a little and said, “Doing it.”
A tall, handsome, slightly twitchy man in a T-shirt and plaid trousers, he acknowledged that “I’m scared to death that I won’t live up to Stieg.” But “I couldn’t resist,” he said. “I would have regretted it my whole life.”
Mr. Larsson’s legacy is certainly formidable, even intimidating. After he died in 2004 of a sudden heart attack at 50, his three books, beginning with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” went on to sell some 80 million copies in more than 50 languages.
In 2013, Mr. Larsson’s father and brother hired Mr. Lagercrantz, a Swedish author of literary fiction and biography, to write a sequel to the trilogy. The result, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” was published in 25 countries on Thursday (the American edition is due out on Tuesday), and its many publishers, including Knopf in the United States, have reason to be bullish.
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Already 2.7 million copies have been printed globally, and marketing is in full swing; one German bookshop is offering to give away a Fiat 500 in the “Millennium” design — the Fiat with the Dragon Tattoo — to a lucky customer. Discussions about another film have already begun, and Mr. Lagercrantz is preparing for a grueling five-week author’s tour in Europe and the United States.
But not everyone has welcomed the book, which throws its characters into complicated new conspiracies involving cybercrime and the National Security Agency. Its publication has been particularly traumatic for Mr. Larsson’s longtime partner, Eva Gabrielsson, who sees it as a crass manipulation of his legacy for profit. She draws a parallel between “Spider’s Web” and the controversial publication of Harper Lee’s first draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“I’m quite angry about it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do to a dead author. Sequels never turn out very well, because authors are so constrained; they’re not free to move around in the material.”
Ms. Gabrielsson, now 61, lived with Mr. Larsson for more than 30 years, but because they never married, she had no inheritance rights under Swedish law.
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Mr. Lagercrantz, meanwhile, remains sensitive to charges that he is profiting from another man’s fame. The Swedish news media has pointed out, as has Ms. Gabrielsson, that he and Stieg Larsson are from different worlds — that Mr. Lagercrantz is from a noble literary family and lacks the political activism and rage that drove Mr. Larsson.