The Ubiquity Of Steig

London, Reading & Writing

Quite what the French thought they were doing by lifting a shot from of Christina Ricci from The Addams Family for Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ (presented here in its blunter original title, Men Who Hate Women) and decorating her with women’s heads is anyone’s guess, but it makes a change from seeing the English cover all over the transport system. Surely everyone’s read them by now? How do they keep selling?

Don’t get me wrong; I loved the books. I thought they had wonderfully real characters and situations, even if ultimately the plots were a bit unoriginal – there’s also been a Larsson knock-on effect with other Nordic authors getting published in his wake. And given that few of us have much time to read anymore, we’re liable to go for a proven bestseller rather than take a chance on an outsider. Which is why everyone will be reading ‘Wolf Hall’ on holiday this summer.

It has been argued that for every Sherlock Holmes who got a break, a dozen other consulting detectives have been forgotten. Instead of Holmes we could easily be remembering Dr Thorndyke, R Austin Freeman’s wonderful detective from the same time, and ‘The Eye Of Osiris’ could be more famous than ‘The Hound Of The Baskervilles’. Instead of Agatha Christie we could be reading Gladys Mitchell and her pterodactyl-like old lady detective. And instead of Stephen King we could be seeing reprints of Michael McDowell’s wonderful supernatural thrillers.

So is it down to luck? The far-sightedness of editors? The clever networking of agents? There’s no simple answer, but sometimes it’s good to look behind the dominating author of the day and find other novels just as deserving of your attention.

6 comments on “The Ubiquity Of Steig”

  1. Shuku says:

    How funny – I was -just- re-reading R. Austin Freeman today. I do love Dr. Thorndyke; he really does make for some wonderful (and cerebral reading). I remember SS Van Dine as well, and I’ll re-read some of those eventually.

    What I -really-, really want to get hold of is Michael Gilbert’s ‘Mr. Calder and Mr. Berens’. Those were some cold-blooded, beautifully surgical pieces of writing that still give me moments of cold chills.

  2. admin says:

    Michael Gilbert’s ‘Mr. Calder and Mr. Berens is available from Amazon UK for a couple of quid.

  3. Shuku says:

    Woot! Amazon has it too? YAY! Now I just have to nose around to see about shipping – it’s likely to be exorbitant and more expensive than the book. ‘Game without Rules’ is another one I’ll try to track down while I’m at it.

    Thank you!

  4. Helen Martin says:

    I am just now getting to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Some of us lag a fair way behind, although Amazon keeps telling me I’d love Wolf Hall. I read an SS Van Dine back in the 50’s, an old book from my parents’ shelf. I remember thinking it was very different from what I’d read, but I don’t remember why. I don’t remember the title, either. My high school library had chiefly whatever had been donated to it so I read The Scarlet Pimpernel, Beau Geste, Ben Hur and Sigrid Undset, an odd group for a 1950’s teenager. I’ve been trying to catch up ever since.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Could the title of that book not be rendered Men Who Don’t Like Women, rather than ‘hate’? It seems rather strong for aimer, but my French is so rusty it can’t move and the tense up there is strange.

  6. Actually, it’s literally “The Men who didn’t like women”, though “The men who hated women” fits just as well in the present context.

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