Larsson: it was MacLehose whodunit

Liz Thomson
Opinion - Publishing Monday, 27th July 2009


It is almost inevitable that when the nationals write about the publishing industry they get it wrong. Sometimes it's hopelessly wrong, other times a question of emphasis. Yesterday's Observer carried a full-page article about Stieg Larsson, 'Poisoned legacy left by the king of thrillers', in which Vanessa Thorpe talked mostly about the dispute between the Larsson family and the late writer's long-time partner over (what else?) money and the existence (or not) of one or more unfinished novels in the series - and whether, assuming they do indeed exist, someone should complete them.

There was also discussion about the series' screen potential. Sonny Mehta, 'Editor-in-Chief of Knopf, Larsson's US publisher', is quoted early on, saying that a film is surely on the way and explaining that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which opens the series, was recommended to him one Frankfurt by a friend. 'She said it was one of the best thrillers she'd read in a long time,' Mehta is quoted as saying. But the quote, and the piece, imply that Mehta was the originating publisher of the English translations. He wasn't. That honour goes to Christopher MacLehose, who bought the Larsson trilogy very shortly after his arrival at Quercus in September 2006 and who commissioned the English translation that Mehta later bought. But MacLehose is quoted only at the end of the piece, acknowledged as 'the British publisher who took up the first book with Quercus'. He did rather more than that, so credit where credit is due.