31 December 2009

Tiina wins award from Swedish Academy!

A nice Christmas present arrived by phone from the Swedish Academy: a special award for Tiina for her contributions to “the introduction of Swedish culture abroad.” Cited in particular were her translations of works by Per Olov Enquist, Bodil Jönsson, Astrid Lindgren, and Klas Östergren. Here's a photo of the home of the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Museum in the old Stock Exchange building in Gamla Stan. (Thanks to Galen Frysinger of Sheboygan for the loan of the pic — a much better photographer than I, and with much better weather.)

30 December 2009

#1 Fiction of 2009 at Barnes & Noble

Yes, The Girl Who Played with Fire was picked #1 Fiction book of 2009 on Barnes & Noble's website. Way to go, Stieg!

25 December 2009

Stieg Larsson's Best of 2009 on Amazon.com

Stieg took the following honors on Amazon.com this week for The Girl Who Played with Fire:

Customers' Top 10 Mystery & Thrillers — #4

Top 100 Editors' Picks — #7

Top 100 Customer Favorites — #25

And if you like the cover of TGWPWF, be sure to vote for it on Amazon!

29 November 2009

View from the cliff in Söder — kompakt!

Here's the view from the hill somewhere near Lisbeth's first apartment. Taken around 6 p.m.

Steve & Tiina back from Copenhagen & Stockholm with tons of new books

Yes, if you were wondering where we were, we took a little jaunt courtesy of the Danish Arts Council to the BogForum book fair in Copenhagen, then on to Stockholm courtesy of the fine folks at the Swedish Authors Foundation. Thanks for the support, Denmark and Sweden! (And thanks to Norway too for the translators conference in May.)

Here's Tiina in the rain at the Medborgarplatsen T-bana station in Söder, just around the corner from Lisbeth's old hangout Kvarnen, with the best food in Sweden. The Nordic lands put on their best November weather for us: rain almost every day and a couple of hours of weak sunshine in Copenhagen; in Stockholm it cleared up the morning we left from Arlanda airport. And the darkness at 4 in the afternoon was, as they put it, "kompakt." But we met lots of very nice editors, agents, and authors (some of whom we've been translating for years from afar but had never met). This trip should result in some hot new crime novels for you in the next couple of years, as well as some excellent new mainstream fiction. More info on that when the deals are made.

I'll post more pix as soon as the jet lag calms down a bit. Got to see Billy's Pan Pizza in the 7-11 too, sorry I didn't have a nuker to heat one up in. They're about the size of a paperback book and quite good if you add more stuff on top, according to one Swedish informant.

21 October 2009

Stieg cleans up at Bouchercon

Stieg Larsson's first novel picked up 4 awards at Bouchercon in Indianapolis last week. First a Macavity Award for Best First Mystery; then a Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel of 2008 (shown in the pic above – and it didn't have to be British, just published there first). At the Anthony Awards presentation on Saturday it took one for Best Cover Design, then one for Best First Novel. Too bad I couldn't bring any of them back home with me, but at least I got a chance to say a few words to the crowd about Stieg's pro-feminist message in the Millennium trilogy and mention the website devoted to his partner Eva Gabrielsson.

Both fans and crime writers were extremely kind and enthusiastic about Stieg's work, and I received many compliments on a job well done. It was fun to meet so many people who love the books, even though the 3rd one isn't out in the States yet. But booksellers were filling that need with the imported UK edition, and I was persuaded to sign a whole bunch of copies, so if you want one they are available from some vendors specializing in signed first editions of crime fiction on the Web. (UK first editions of TGWTDT were going for $1000 and up, unsigned.)

Both Tiina and I are looking forward to Left Coast Crime in L.A. in March, and next year's Bouchercon in San Francisco. It will be gratifying to return home to the Bay Area with some translation successes to show for all my years away.

13 October 2009

Reg and Felicity take Indianapolis by storm

(For an hour, anyway.) Anybody going to Bouchercon? We'll be appearing on a panel moderated by Peter Rozovsky on translating crime fiction. Come and hear the straight dope from the translators of Stieg Larsson, Karin Fossum, Henning Mankell, Mari Jungstedt, Karin Alvtegen, Peter Høeg, Camilla Läckberg, Mikkel Birkegaard, Leif Davidsen, Helene Tursten, Jan Guillou, and Arne Dahl. Thursday the 15th at 10:30 a.m. Hope to see you there!

24 September 2009

Maps of Hedeby Island in English available

I'm sorry that the publishers did not include the two maps of Hedeby Island in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. They make the plot much easier to follow! So if you want paper copies in English, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Fjord Press, PO Box 14630, Albuquerque NM 87191. U.S. stamps only, of course. If you're not located in the U.S.A., you can check the postage rates to your country at www.usps.com: click on Calculate Postage, then on Calculate International Postage. Choose your country, click on Letter, and enter 0 pounds, 1 ounce. It looks like airmail postage to most countries is $0.98, so if you don't have stamps just put a dollar bill in with your SASE.

I'll keep sending out maps until it the copying gets too expensive, so please copy them and pass them around to your friends who are Stieg Larsson fans.

Update 28 Nov 2009: The maps are now available for download on a fan site under "Books." Mange tak, Chris!

29 August 2009

Models and precursors of Lisbeth Salander?

Photo: Elin Berge

Speculation continues about the women Lisbeth Salander might be modeled on. Here's a pic of Stieg's niece Therese from a Swedish interview. 'It's mostly her stubbornness and her desire to help others that they have in common. But also their looks. Her body is small and her gaze is penetrating. "We could absolutely be friends, Lisbeth Salander and I," says Therese Larsson, the niece of author Stieg Larsson.'

18 August 2009

Moving into German bestsellers

Starting the translation of Peter Prange's German bestseller, Die Philosophin, working title The Philosopher's Kiss. Not Swedish crime for a change, but a philosophical and erotic tale of Diderot's mistress and the Encyclopedia crowd...

31 July 2009

Backstory on Stieg Larsson's titles

Partially reprinted from my comment on www.best-sellingbooks.com/the-girl-who-played-with-fire-review.html/comment-page-1#comment-8. Click on the cover images to enlarge them.

The title of the first book was "Men Who Hate Women."

The second one was indeed called "The Girl Who Played with Fire" when published in Sweden, although Stieg's original title was "The Girl Who Fantasized About a Gasoline Can and a Match."

Note the very modern-style dragon, much more to Lisbeth's taste than the Chinese one on the UK cover, I think.

Stieg's original title for the manuscript of #3 was roughly "The Queen in the Air Castle," which ended up being published as "The Air Castle That Was Blown Up" -- neither one really suitable for use in English.

So you can see that "The Girl..." was used originally only on the 2nd book. The titles of the French editions seem to have been taken from earlier versions of the manuscripts rather than the later books as published in Sweden, since I believe France was the first country outside Scandinavia to translate the trilogy. There will be plenty of work for literary scholars of the future to unravel the differences in all the versions and translations!

17 July 2009

The Girl Who Played with Fire
reviewed in the New York Times

Famously tough but fair reviewer Michiko Kakutani has written a very nice review of Stieg Larsson's second in the Millennium series, The Girl Who Played with Fire, in the New York Times. Thanks, Michiko!

Diana Gabaldon reviews Jan Guillou's
The Road to Jerusalem in the Washington Post

Thanks to noted novelist Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling Outlander series, for the extremely nice review in the Washington Post! We Southwesterners have to stick together.

12 July 2009

Lots of shortlists for Stieg Larsson

Whew, the trip to Bristol, Copenhagen, and Norway wore me out, and I came home to a mountain of translating work. Sorry for the lack of news in a while, but in the meantime Stieg Larsson has collected a bunch of shortlist nominations, most to be decided at Bouchercon. Hope to see you in Indianapolis!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is now out in both trade paperback [cover similar to hardback one shown here] and mass market [see earlier post for cover] and has been shortlisted for:
  • Macavity Award, Best First Mystery

  • Anthony Award, Best Novel

  • Anthony Award, Best First Novel

  • Anthony Award, Best Cover Art

  • Barry Award for Best British Novel published in the US

  • Strand Magazine Critics Award for Best First Novel [lost to Child 44]
And as predicted, the Fred Vargas International Dagger went to (wait for it) Fred Vargas!

19 June 2009

Ystad the hot destination in southern Sweden

Tiina and I were in Copenhagen last month and took the train to Malmö to buy some Swedish crime books. From the train we noticed this sign testifying to Ystad's new prominence, thanks to Wallander and Henning Mankell. (Click on the photo to blow it up.)

06 May 2009

"Reg" & "Felicity" at CrimeFest in Bristol on May 15

Come and meet us at CrimeFest — our panel discussion, "Foreign Correspondent: Books In Translation" is at 10:30 on Friday morning, May 15, with Don Bartlett and Ros Schwartz, moderated by Ann Cleeves. See you there!

23 April 2009

New site to benefit Stieg Larsson's
life partner Eva Gabrielsson

Norwegian fans of Stieg Larsson have started a site to collect money to help Eva Gabrielsson pay her legal bills. Read all about it at SupportEva.com.

20 April 2009

¡Millennium 1 gana el Premio Qué Leer de los Lectores en España!

Check this out, lectores de español. Qué Leer

Hay aquí un otro artículo muy interesante: "El extraño caso de Stieg Larsson"

Karin Alvtegen's U.S. Tour:
Chicago, Houston, New York

In advance of the Edgar Awards in New York, Karin Alvtegen will be appearing at several venues in Chicago, Houston, and New York. I'll be attending the Houston event, so drop by and get some rare copies signed by both of us...

From the bookstore in Houston: Swedish crime novelist Karin Alvtegen, a 2009 Edgar Award nominee, will sign and discuss her new book, Betrayal, 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 25 at Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. She will be joined by Scandinavian translator Steven T. Murray, who translated Alvtegen’s Betrayal, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and many more. Information: 713-524-8597.

April 23, Chicago: Event that evening at the Swedish-American Museum, 5211 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640, phone: (773) 728-8111 www.samac.org/
April 24, Oak Park: Event at Barbara's Bookstore, 7:30 p.m., 1100 Lake St, Oak Park, IL 60301, phone: 708.848.9140 www.barbarasbookstore.com/Events/#current
April 25, Houston: Event at Murder by the Book, 5:30 p.m., phone: (713) 524-8597‎ www.murderbooks.com
April 27, New York: Event at Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue, phone: (212) 879-9779‎ www.scandinaviahouse.org/
April 30: Edgar Awards banquet — Lycka till, Karin!

03 April 2009

Stieg Larsson wins Galaxy British Book Award!

All right! At the Nibbies tonight, Stieg Larsson walked away with the Books Direct Crime Thriller of the Year award at the Galaxy British Book Awards. I always knew he could do it. Wish you were here, Stieg.

30 March 2009

Jan Guillou's The Road to Jerusalem
available in UK

A change of pace for you crime readers — a trilogy of medieval adventure novels set in 12th century Sweden and the Holy Land, featuring the great warrior and Templar knight Arn Magnusson. The first volume takes place entirely in Sweden, mostly in Western Götaland to be exact, to the northeast of Göteborg (Gothenburg), and deals with Arn's early life in a Cistercian monastery, clan warfare, and his love affair with Cecilia. This starts Arn on his "road to Jerusalem," but I don't want to spoil the story by telling you why. There is plenty of crime, sin, punishment, and other good stuff, though. The trilogy is the basis for a big-budget movie that took the viewers' prize for the best film of the year in Sweden when it was released in 2008. Coming soon to a screen near you.

20 March 2009

Drew in D.C. wins T-shirt contest (not wet)

As one of the few blues fans reading my blog, Drew in Washington DC has correctly identified the musician on my shirt as T-Bone Walker, Texas bluesman and innovator of the single-string solo and other electric guitar techniques. Born Aaron Thibeaux Walker in Linden, Texas in 1910, he influenced guitar players such as B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Chuck Berry, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Albert Collins, and most blues, jazz and rock guitarists since. T-Bone died in 1975. He is shown playing his blonde Gibson Emperor behind his head, a technique later picked up by Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan (although I've never seen them do the splits simultaneously). Drew wins a hardcover copy of The Girl Who Played with Fire.

17 March 2009

Karin Alvtegen's Betrayal out from
Felony & Mayhem Press in New York

Maggie Topkis's Felony & Mayhem Press in Greenwich Village has wisely chosen to publish my translation of Betrayal by Karin Alvtegen, originally published by Canongate in Edinburgh. Read their catalog page and buy it, American psychological thriller fans. It's a great choice and may they have much success with it! Karin will be scooping up prizes in the English-speaking world soon, I predict. (While you're at it, buy Shadow too!)

15 March 2009

Men Who Hate Women

Tomorrow I'll be talking to a reading group of mystery fans in Santa Fe (New Mexico). To prepare I've been rereading my original American translation of Millennium 1. This book is fantastic, even better than I remember. Maybe someday, after all the commercial hype is over, grad students in Scandinavian Literature departments all over the world can have some fun comparing all the versions in various languages. (They had a ball with Smilla's Sense of Snow, also a product of this translation factory...)

Karin Alvtegen's Shadow out now

Karin Alvtegen's new psychological thriller is out now in the UK from Canongate, and it boasts her most complex plot yet. The book dissects the family of a Nobel Laureate in Literature, examining the shadow cast by a crime he committed long ago, which eventually has disastrous consequences for everyone connected to him (and even some who aren't). There's a good review here of her last book, Shame. And she has been nominated for an Edgar for an earlier one, Missing, which was recently released in the States. Great creepy stuff. [Thanks/Tack to Lennart Guldbrandsson for the photo from 2005]

08 March 2009

Prizes in France for Camilla Läckberg

I'm happy to pass on the news that Camilla Läckberg has won two prizes so far in France for The Ice Princess — not in my translation, of course, but still: Grand prix de littérature policière & Prix polar international for La princesse des glaces from Actes Sud. Félicitations, Camilla!

22 February 2009

Here comes the first U.S. paperback!

Just found this cover shot of the new U.S. mass market paperback on the Barnes & Noble site. Looks like Vintage Crime/Black Lizard has set a pub date of June 23rd. The book has that clean, cold, Swedish look reminiscent of the UK Camilla Läckberg covers, but with distressed type. (Are those trees from Sweden or upstate New York?) This should help keep Stieg's fans cool on the beach this summer. Fighting global warming one thriller at a time...

The latest award — tusind tak

Thanks so much to Dorte H at DJs krimiblog in Denmark for awarding my blog the Fabulous Blog prize. I'll display it with honor. It kind of goes with my fondness for Sophie Kinsella books. (Hope the Shopaholic movie is good.)

Speaking of movies, Men Who Hate Women is coming out this week in Scandinavia. I'll have to get hold of a DVD to try out the all-region player I've got my eye on — tired of being restricted to region 1. If anyone has any DVDs in Nordic languages to sell/give away/otherwise unload, please let me know. I haven't seen any of the Mankell Wallander movies, either the Swedish or English ones...

12 February 2009

Discovered: Stieg Larsson's emails to his editor

You'll have to read these in Swedish, Norwegian, or the English machine translation by Google (full of errors, of course). The material is apparently copyrighted so I have been prohibited from providing an English translation here. [Try this old link from January 22]

06 February 2009

The Preacher — new Camilla Läckberg out now in UK

My translation of the second in Camilla Läckberg's Fjällbacka series is out now in the UK, featuring dynamic duo Erica Falck and Patrik Hedström.

Camilla has invented a new genre in Sweden, a police procedural combined with a domestic procedural. She's probably the second-best-selling crime author there, right after Stieg Larsson. Please buy this one and the next two so HarperCollins will continue with the series. The books just keep getting better as she goes. In France her first book, The Ice Princess, just won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière for Best International Crime Novel. And German crime fans flock to Fjällbacka each summer in ever greater numbers to view the scenes of the crimes.

I just finished translating the third, The Stone Cutter, and the ending shocked both of us and made us say "Wow!" I'd love to hear some comments about what you all think of this series.

05 February 2009

Hot new Danish thriller from Tiina

Tiina has an excellent new translation coming out either May 7 or June 4 from Black Swan/Doubleday: The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard. It's an astonishing first novel about the power of reading -- and I do mean POWER. Already translated to 17 languages, and we're expecting great things from this young author. Reg sez check it out.

31 January 2009

"I need a dump truck, baby, to unload my head"

One occupational talent that is indispensable for a translator is to learn how to forget. Working simultaneously in technical translation and foreign-language typesetting, and later book design and typography, this essential skill developed over 14 years. The drawback is that once a book translation is finally printed, you can't really remember doing it. A lot of the time that's a blessed boon. It takes a really good book to stick in your head, and Stieg Larsson's do, even two to three years later. I'll leave it to the academics to figure out why. To me that's the mark of a genius writer.

30 January 2009

How I learned Swedish

[This picture is from Malmö]

Besides the early days of going to Helsingborg [spelled Hälsingborg back in those days, can any Swede tell me why?] to buy books and eat "glass" [ice cream] and "varm korv med potatismos" [hot dogs with mashed potatoes/sausage and mash], in 1974 I discovered that there was a field called technical translation. Having always been a good student in chemistry in college, I thought I'd give it a try.

I rifled through the yellow pages in major cities across the U.S. and sent out query letters to about a hundred translation agencies. Nothing. About a year later I got a call from the Institute LanFranco in San Francisco, asking if I could translate an article from Norwegian about aluminum rolling mills. "No problem." I got the 5-page document in the mail and then read the entire article on aluminum in the Britannica, dusted off my Norwegian-English dictionary, and produced a believable article -- anyway, there were no complaints. [And this was before instant answers and diagrams on the Internet.] I think I was paid 1.5 cents per word. Wow, this wasn't so hard.

So for the next year I survived mostly by doing translation, since my previous attempts to interest publishers in avant-garde Danish fiction, and even a Danish fantasy novel about the national hero, Holger Danske, at the court of Charlemagne and fighting the Saracens, had come to naught. I hooked up with one of the best agencies in the States, AD-EX, and was soon their go-to guy for translating Swedish nuclear power documentation for an American company that was selling them reactors. This lucrative gig lasted until 1980, when in the wake of Three Mile Island, Swedish voters passed a referendum to cut back on nuclear power. End of gravy train, but by that time I was pretty freaked out about working in this "evil" industry anyway.

[Barsebäck Nuclear Power Plant – now closed]

I had acquired some typesetting machines in 1976-77 in order to supply AD-EX with foreign-language typography for their corporate clients. Besides doing the standard Spanish, French, and German jobs for them, Arabic was big at the time because the Saudis and Gulf states were spending money like crazy with American companies. So I took an Arabic course at UC Berkeley and started doing Arabic rub-on press type for headlines on brochures. Then I bought an IBM electric typewriter that went from right to left and learned to type on the Arabic/Farsi keyboard. This was all fine as long as the copy to be "typeset" was already typed. Unfortunately what the agency received from their translators was usually handwritten. As anyone who has studied Arabic will know, the penmanship of the average writer leaves much to be desired. In fact, if you don't know the language well you have no hope of guessing what many words are.

So that's how I learned Swedish, beyond just reading novels. In addition to nuclear power, I learned lots of vocabulary from many scientific, industrial, and business fields in all 3 Nordic languages and German. I even did a 100-page book from Dutch "proving" that the probability of a nuclear meltdown in Holland was less than a 747 crashing into a stadium during the final game of the World Cup. Turns out it was all great training for doing crime fiction. How many times does a translator have to know whether the safety-relief valve will handle the proper volume of feedwater flow after a LOCA when blowing down to the pressure suppression pool without significant cavitation, anyway?

Nuts & bolts of translation (1)

I have a query from Marco in Italy about exactly how long a book translation usually takes.

My wife Tiina Nunnally and I work together on every translation. One of us does the rough draft and the other edits the manuscript. The one who does the rough draft gets the credit on the book's title page. Generally we go over a highly literary work 3 to 6 times, polishing it to a high sheen. Most crime fiction doesn't take quite as much effort.

When we first started working together back in the days when we ran Fjord Press, the translator would read the English aloud while the other would follow along in the original language. This was very time-consuming but damn good training. And you'd be surprised how easy it is to drop a line or even a paragraph, especially if there are similar phrases in similar positions on the page. We are proud that our translations at Fjord Press were remarkably error-free, compared to most books today, now that publishers are cutting back on copy editing, or eliminating that step altogether.

As for the time it takes to do a book, we usually allow 3 to 6 months, depending on the length and difficulty. Of course we have several projects going at once, so these deadlines take into account all the "free" work we have to do after the final translation is turned in to the publisher: querying authors on troublesome phrases, looking at proofs (which usually have to be turned around fast and cut into translating time of the current book in progress), even translating, suggesting or correcting cover copy and blurbs.

Since translation is usually piecework, we get paid by the number of words in the final English manuscript. Our initial rate is thus expressed in dollars/pounds/euros per 1000 English words. We ask for 50% in advance to cover living expenses while working on the book, and 50% on delivery and approval of the translation.

We are firm believers in the concept that the translator must share in the success of any book which goes on to bestseller status, or in the case of classics, will sell steadily for many years, so we always require a small royalty. After a book "earns out" (accrues enough royalties to offset the original cost of the translation), we receive semi-annual royalty statements, and payment of the balance (sometimes minus a "reserve for returns" which the publisher holds in case a large number of books come back from bookstores and wholesalers) is due 90 days thereafter. Most books never earn out, however, so getting a fat or even modest royalty check is a rare occurrence, but always a nice surprise.

We each generally try to do 3-6 novels per year, somewhere around 350,000 to 600,000 words. [CENSORED]

While each of the 3 Mankell novels I did was supposed to be due in 3 months, I recall that we cranked out one of them -- I don't recall which -- in about 4 weeks because the "advance" was 2 months late! That's the publishing business for you.