Like a plot twist out of one of Stieg Larsson’s dark and mysterious best-sellers, the existence of a potential fourth novel in his blockbuster Millennium series is reportedly on a laptop computer that only one person has ever seen.
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That person — Swedish architect Eva Gabrielsson, Larsson’s live-in companion of 30 years — appeared on TODAY on Tuesday.
Larsson, the author of the immensely popular “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,’’ died in 2004 before he could witness his posthumously published novels sell 60 million copies worldwide.
But Gabrielsson told TODAY there’s a fourth novel that she’s sure no one else has ever seen. It has never been printed off the laptop, she said, but did not indicate who is in possession of that computer. She feels that Larsson would most likely not have wanted anyone to finish it for publication, and if it ever does see the light of day, a dispute could certainly arise as to who owns the rights.
“I estimate there’s 200 pages based on how far I know that Stieg was in the process,’’ Gabrielsson said. “It was just on the back burner, so to say. He was doing other things at that time.
“I think it’s far from finished. Two hundred pages, [with] 400 to go. I’m not sure that any author would like to have his works and characters being taken over by ghostwriters.’’
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“The most basic question about the fourth book is, ‘Does it exist, what format is it in, who owns the rights to it?’ ’’ Paul Bogaards of Knopf Publishing told NBC News. “The hope is that at some point these issues will all be sorted out, and book four will see the light of day, because I know that readers around the world would welcome it.’’
While discussing a potential fourth novel by Larsson, Gabrielsson was also promoting her own book, “ ‘There Are Things I Want You to Know’ About Stieg Larsson and Me,’’ which hit shelves on Tuesday.
Her book not only discusses the unfinished manuscript, but also the details of her romance with Larsson and the ongoing feud with Larsson’s family over an estate estimated at $40 million. Gabrielsson, who never married Larsson, has not seen a penny of the fortune that the books have generated, thanks to a Swedish law awarding the rights to all of Larsson’s novels to his brother and father.
The ugly, name-calling spat between the two parties has played out in Swedish headlines for years as Gabrielsson aims to grab her piece of the multimillion-dollar pie and control of the rights to Larsson’s work. Gabrielsson is hoping the international attention generated by her book and subsequent tour will create a groundswell to amend the Swedish law that has her on the outside looking in at Larsson’s publishing fortune.
“The Swedish law isn’t really up to date,’’ she said. “No co-habitants receive anything at divorce or when a partner dies, so you’re left dispossessed, you could say. We also don’t have the possibility to go to court and let the court decide if this is a reasonable outcome. I try to change that law and discuss it with politicians. It takes time.’’
In her book, she acknowledged her reticence to help Larsson’s family make any more money from the alleged fourth novel.
“The laptop contains the fourth volume of the Millennium saga … perhaps,’’ Gabrielsson wrote. “This text is a little more than 200 pages long. I assume that Stieg would want me to finish writing the fourth part, but I have no desire to. Why should I make money for a publisher and give the family more money?’’
Gabrielsson has claimed that Larsson was estranged from his family, which his father and brother have vehemently denied, and that she is the rightful heir to the publishing fortune. She has also said that Larsson’s family went against his wishes by commercializing his work and cutting bad movie deals.
Larsson’s father, Erland Larsson, and younger brother, Joakim Larsson, reportedly offered to settle with Gabrielsson for as much as $3.3 million and give her a position on the board of the company that manages Larsson’s fortune, but she declined.
“They actually didn’t come with any offers until Hollywood wanted to offer contracts,’’ Gabrielsson said. “The money wasn’t a gift. It was a settlement offer. Me having no legal power or financial power in the board, I would just feel like a hostage. I could be voted down any time. I wanted to go on with my life and finish my book.’’
In a statement released to TODAY, Joakim Larsson said: “We feel very sorry that things have gotten to a point where Eva Gabrielsson feels the need of accusing and attacking us, Stieg’s family, for all kinds of things, many of which are damaging untruths. During the past years, we have, at several occasions, tried to communicate and come to an agreement with Eva Gabrielsson, both in direct communication, as well as via our respective attorneys.
“We have wanted to share income from Stieg’s works, as well as cooperate with Eva in handling the rights. We have, however, been driven unhappily to the conclusion that Eva is not interested in working with us, or in having any contact with us. And we find that both very sad, unnecessary and unproductive when wanting to care for Stieg’s works in the best possible way.’’
Larsson, who died at age 50 in 2004, made about $30,000 a year during his career as a journalist, but has become a book-selling juggernaut since his death.
“Last year, we were selling a Stieg Larsson book every second,’’ Bogaards said. “Five hundred and fifty thousand copies a week.’’
Larsson and Gabrielsson lived together for three decades, and even though Larsson had a will, it was never witnessed, rendering it invalid. Gabrielsson claims that they remained unmarried to avoid attacks by neo-Nazis and other groups because of Larsson’s work as a crusading journalist. Couples who marry in Sweden are required to make their address public.
“We couldn’t for security reasons,’’ Gabrielsson said about not marrying. “Stieg was writing about the extreme right wing, and we had to stay single in the public record so they wouldn’t find his exact home address.’’
Larsson’s mysterious demise — he suffered a heart attack after walking up seven flights of stairs at Expo magazine in Stockholm — has sparked conspiracy theories that extremists were somehow responsible.
Once Larsson’s books hit the United States in 2008, he quickly became one of the top-selling authors in the world. Published in more than 40 countries, his novels have sold 17 million copies in America alone. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’’ spent 128 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list.
In December, the David Fincher-directed movie version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’’ hits theaters. The three Swedish film versions of his books have already each made more than $100 million at the box office.
“The Stieg of the ‘Millennium industry’ doesn’t interest me,’’ wrote Gabrielsson. Instead, in her book, she remembered the simple details of the couple’s life together, such as their love of coffee, sailing and Stockholm cafes.
Gabrielsson, who started on her memoir two years after Larsson’s death, said she didn’t plan to write the book, initially, but once she started to compile her diaries of their time together, “it just grew from there.’’
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