Swedish crime novel writer Stieg Larsson has left a lot of fans of his Millennium series anxiously awaiting each new installment–which is an extremely impressive achievement, considering he died of a heart attack in 2004 and all of his books were published afterward. When Larsson passed away, he’d only written three books of a planned series that was to eventually conclude with ten. Because of his death, the book publisher decided to continue the series with the help of another author: crime journalist David Lagercrantz.
Flash forward to book five, and here we are today. It’s not easy to take on neo-Nazi prison gangs, but that’s what protagonist hacker Lisbeth Salander is doing. On the way, the subject of honor killings is introduced as a plotline for her to navigate herself around. The entire purpose of the novel, though, was to explore why Lisbeth got her dragon tattoo in the first place, and that isn’t an easy thing to do for an author taking on the role of his deceased predecessor. He had to delve deeper into her past–and that involved the all-too-familiar topic of violence against women.
Larsson once did an interview on his aspirations for the series, and in that interview, he admitted that his character was based on what an adult Pippi Longstocking would be like. His own niece also heavily influenced the series, because she would wear black clothes, dark makeup, and wanted a dragon tattoo. According to Larsson, he actually communicated with his niece about how she might react if she were presented with a given situation.
Larsson himself was no stranger to violence, and he was especially affected by the endemic problem of violence against women. His colleague Kurdo Baksi stated his belief that Larsson sourced a lot of material from his novels from real-life honor killings. In 2001, a model named Melissa Nordell was murdered by her boyfriend. In 2002, A Swedish-Kurdish woman named Fadime Şahindal was murdered by her father. Larsson was sickened by his violence, and he wished to help the only way he knew how: through his own writing.
Larsson isn’t just someone who read about the disgusting notion of honor killings and decided to write a book. He was deeply intertwined with the finer details of that gruesome world, as he was also a Swedish journalist who specialized in photography. He was a part of far-left political activism, and a member of a Communist Workers’ League. Later, he became especially interested in fighting against the wave of the extreme right participants in the country’s politics, and the prevalent idea of “white power” that was increasingly popular among the country’s youth.
Considering his past experiences and his varied interests, perhaps it isn’t too surprising that the Millennium series and its characters–the girl with a dragon tattoo, for instance–were inspired by the real-life honor killings that Stieg Larsson was so knowledgeable about.