The Ubiquity Of Steig
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.