Stieg Larsson – His Part In My Success…

The fact is, I don’t really remember how it happened.

I can’t find an email suggesting it, so I think it must have been a phone call in June of 2008 – almost exactly 2 years ago.  Dan Musselman – the ‘man’ at Books on Tape – probably called me and said something like: ‘Hey, Simon, how’re things with you?  What’s the weather like where you are…?’ (we always waffle for a while before getting to the point – it’s a habit we have).  Then, sometime further on in the conversation, he may have said: ‘Look, I’ve got a book here I think you’d be right for.  Have you got any space in the middle of July, say?’

Now, this is where things could have gone so wrong…  I was already recording The Terminal Spy for Books on Tape at the time, I had The Black Tower scheduled next for Blackstone Audio, to be followed closely by Great Expectations for Tantor (which went on to win an Audie in 2009).  I think I also had the three Kushiel novels by Jacqueline Carey for Tantor lined up for later on.  So it wasn’t as if I was desperate for work.  But when Dan chooses a narrator for a book he usually knows what he’s doing – so, of course, I said ‘Yes, I’d love to do it.  What’s it about?’  And so it began…

Did I know at the time how successful these books were going to be?  of course not.  I had no idea if I’d even be asked to do the second one.  But I was – this was part of the email from Dan in March of ’09.

Hi, Simon. DRAGON TATTOO is certainly getting a lot of attention. I’m so glad it was you who read this for us. There will be another by Mr. Larsson later this Spring. You simply must read it for us, lest I shall perish.

I’m fascinated by those books that have been made about The Beatles recording career in which are listed all the times they were in a recording studio and what songs were recorded when.  So, for anyone who plans to make a book of my career 🙂 – here’s a helping hand:

Looking back in my calendar I see I recorded The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo quite intensively on the 14th, 15th, 16th, 22nd and 23rd of July in 2008.  The Girl who Played with Fire was recorded much more slowly between the 11th and 20th of May 2009… and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest I recorded between the 9th and 15th of March this year.

Now a word about the (Swedish) movie:

I enjoyed it very much! It was extremely well made – painfully well made in places (you’ll know if you see it) – and it made me want to go back and begin recording the books all over again.

But the question is how Hollywood will deal with it. Of necessity there were many plot points and other parts of the book left out of this Swedish version but the essentials were all there. I’m left wondering if Hollywood will allow so much to stand, or will they have to water it down for our delicate (US) sensibilities? Also, although I’m a huge fan of both Daniel Craig and Natalie Portman who, I’ve heard, are in line to play the leads (Natalie kissed me on the cheek, once – did I tell you that?), I really can’t see them doing as good a job encapsulating the characters of Mikael and Lisbeth as the Swedish originals in this movie. They certainly have an uphill struggle. That said, if any actors can do it I think these two can…

My verdict, then, is that if you have already read the novels, or have no intention of ever reading the novels (there must be some), then see this Swedish version (and I believe it’s due out on DVD fairly soon). If you haven’t finished the series then wait until you’ve read the lot – as it may spoil your enjoyment of the later books. As it stands I think it’s a great compliment to the original dish as served up by Larsson. Bon Appetit!

About Simon

Simon is an actor who found his way into audiobook narrating as a side-gig and seems to have made a success of it. With some training as an actor as a child (just a couple of hours a week, but it stuck) and 15 years working inside the BBC (ending up as one of the presenters/newsreaders on BBC Radio 4 in London) he found the ideal combination for an audiobook narrator. Found his way to California two decades ago and never left.

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30 Responses to Stieg Larsson – His Part In My Success…

  1. michael scime December 4, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    I’m been enjoying listening to your reading of ‘Dragon Tattoo’ during my commutes over the past few days. I’ve been learning swedish little by little and I’m impressed at your pronunciation and accent with the swedish in the text. Do you speak swedish or did you have any have any language coaching?

    • Simon December 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

      In 1976 I decided,on a whim, to learn Swedish so that I could talk to the foreign students who came to my home town (Brighton) every summer – it had nothing to do with being able to pick up girls…. I remember very little now except the pronunciation. But I did meet a very pretty Finnish girl who became my girlfriend for a year (I can still swear proficiently in Finnish). 🙂

  2. Paul Tiscione August 30, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    Has it been three, four years that I’ve been listening continuously to the Millennium Trilogy? Or longer? Larrson + Keeland + Vance = High Art, timeless and magical. Reading hooked me right away, the Swedish movies were OK, but your interpretation in sound creates a virtual habitat for my imagination. By now, I know the characters, feel sure they know me too! Highest praise and appreciation to you, Simon.

  3. John Edwards June 19, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    Just started reading/listening to the girl with the dragon tattoo and i love your voice because you have a voice that makes me get really involved with the world that Stieg Larsen has created. i will definitely being reading the other books in the series while listening to your audiobook

  4. Vanessa May 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    I’m finishing up the second of the Larsson Millenium series, and your voice is absolutely fabulous! You bring the story to life and if I close my eyes, I can actually see a movie playing in my mind, with your voice narrating every word! I can’t wait to listen to the third and final book of the Millenium series!

    • Simon May 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

      It’s quite an amazing series… Although the third book completes the story arc I only wish he’d lived to write the ten novels he’d been planning – I imagine they’d have been equally enthralling.
      – S.

      • vanessa June 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

        I finally finished listening to the third Millinium book and it was amazing. Your voice brings the characters to life and like you, I had wished he had been able to finish all ten books. Can you imagine where Mikael and Lisbeth would be now if he had finished all the books? What an incredible writer he was and what an incredible voice you have to bring this amazing story to life!
        Thanks and continued success in all you do!

  5. Rita March 8, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    I agree with most of the comments above you are great at making these books come to life, my first book was the girl with the dragon tattoo… I read them backwards or rather listen to them, I was just messing didn’t think I would like it …Omg you so hook me I’ve bought like 8 books in a week but I’ve only enjoy your reading compliments to you,did I read right the author is no longer living Stieg larssson listening to,last good man now any suggestion of good books?


    • Simon March 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

      I couldn’t even being to recommend books – I suggest you narrow your selection down by genre when searching (on for example) and then check the listeners reviews.
      Hope you find a few things you enjoy!
      – S.

  6. Renee McClean January 27, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Simon, after having heard “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo”, I became addicted to listening to your voice and the story. You brought Mikal and Lisbeth to life and I could visualize the story chapter by chapter, character by character. I am now on the 3rd book and will dread its end. British actors just seem to be more gifted actors. If an American had done the books, I fear they would have been sorely lacking. Thank you so much for breathing life in Mr. Larssen’s books. They were unforgettable experiences and better than seeing any movie.
    Renee McClean,
    Huntington NY

  7. Andrea January 3, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Hi Simon,
    I received a gift card for Christmas and excitedly purchased The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo audiobook. I’ve also seen the Swedish film, but you are by far the consummate Mikael Blomqvist! Bravo!

  8. Lorena September 15, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    genius! I love how you read The girl with the dragon tattoo and made all the voices. I listen to audiobooks to practice my english, and Ï have yet to find such a fine narrator and actor 😀

  9. Christina August 20, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Just finished listening to “Medicus.” It was uncanny to know that one person was reading but feeling that there is a whole cast of people participating in the narration. What an extraordinary talent you have. Wishing you the best.

  10. Joshua August 17, 2011 at 8:35 am #


    I became a huge fan of yours after listening to all of the James Bond books. (Which are great for anyone who hasn’t listened to them…)

    Of course, as a book lover, so many people recommended The Millennium trilogy, and I must say that I was delighted to realize you were the reader for these books. I’m halfway through the second one and enjoying it very much.


  11. Mystere June 23, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Simon: Thank you for bringing the book characters to life. Your mastery of each voice was seemless. It was sheer listening pleasure. I think withdrawls are now setting in as I finish the last DVD 2 days ago. Respectfully, Mystere

    • Simon June 27, 2011 at 10:51 am #

      You’re very welcome. Thanks for the compliment.
      – S.

  12. Ernest June 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    The girl who played with fire is the first audiobook I ever listened to completion. Part of this is because the voice that read the story to me made me feel and smell the words. I had never heard of the reader. So I looked him up. Here I am.

    • Simon June 27, 2011 at 10:50 am #

      Glad you enjoyed my narration, and welcome to the website. 🙂
      – S.

  13. Vedrana May 3, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Hello! I just started listening” The Girl Who Played With Fire”.
    I love listening audio books while I work.Just two chapters and I’m now your biggest fan. 🙂 You’re really amazing narrator. 🙂

  14. Mike Millan May 3, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    Dear Simon,
    Your pronunciation of Swedish place names made the book come alive with a feel of genuine authenticity.

    • Simon May 3, 2011 at 8:02 am #

      Thanks, Mike.
      I love compliments when they’re short and sweet!
      – S.

  15. Terry Lee-Rosing April 12, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Have finished the “Girl Who” series and was so impressed by your narration. Went to your website and saw where you were up for the Audible award.
    Just checked today and cannot believe you did not advance. Can not believe it.
    I voted on the last 3 rounds and sent the link to vote to 2 of my friends who have also listened to the series.

    I usually pick Audible books for their content, however, I may check to see which books you’ve narrated.

    A true fan,
    Terry Lee-Rosing

  16. BornToRoundabout February 4, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this story. I hope you and your readers don’t mind that I share my own.

    Since only a short time after Hurricane Katrina inundated my life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I’ve worked out of state. My family and home still are in Gulfport; my job(s) since, in Georgia. As a music enthusiast with many similar tastes as your own, iPod has been my saving companion in my six-hour commutes, each Friday night, each Sunday.

    I’m not a reader. It could be the result of some malady, such as an unfocused mind, some emotional or cultural barrier. Certainly it has been as much lamented as it has been consistent. In the face of persistent urgings that I should try “books on tape” for my weekly treks across the Southeast, I smiled and recognized that I really must try that some day. Is it so impolite to feign politeness?

    Why, last fall, I capitulated, I do not know. But deciding to give it try, I went to my wife, a lifelong reader, for a recommendation. And proudly using my inaugural credit at, blindly followed her guidance and took on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

    Within six weeks the trilogy was consumed; or, perhaps it was me. I was hooked. For much of my weekly journeys, for my daily driving in Atlanta, your recordings saved me. In more ways that I can articulate, those experiences have been transformed, as have I. Your care and passion for the material and your skilled and artistic delivery ushered into my life a new dimension of enjoyment. It worries me that had my introduction been at the hands of a lesser artist, I might have lost interest and summarily dismissed the whole affair in my first attempt.

    To follow the three very contemporary works by Mr. Larsson, I determined to explore the classics, as they had so avoided me throughout my life. An easy entry would be, I believed, David Copperfield. It is on this work I wish to say the most to you. But I won’t. I will share only that my thrill with the beauty of the writing and storytelling was only increased with your tender and uplifting reading of it. It moved me to tears.

    Feeling I must move on, I have. Now I am experiencing The Count of Monte Cristo for the first time, with John Lee as my travel companion. I’ll be back.

    That is all. Thank you for the energy, compassion and relentless artistry you invest in your work and for the unknowing role you have played in transforming drudgery into exhilaration.

    All the best wishes to you.

    • Gail Smith August 10, 2011 at 11:34 am #


      I just wanted to give you a suggestion for a book narrated by Simon Vance.. I downloaded Kim by Rudyard Kipling from my library and although I’ve read the book many times as it is one of my favorites, his reading made me want to start all over again at the end. It’s a wonderful story and he was a perfect choice to read it. Give it a try.

      Best Wishes.

  17. Literate Housewife December 3, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    This is such a fun post, Simon. I love the background story to how you got involved. As for the movie, my suggestion is to have you read all of the dialog and then have the actors lip sync. 🙂

    • Simon December 4, 2010 at 8:35 am #

      I’ll call the director straight away and see if he’ll go for it…. 🙂

  18. Larry DWYER June 28, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    Dear Simon,

    I’ve listened to the first two books at least twice. Dragon Tattoo last Summer – I think I found it because I so much enjoyed your reading of The Black Tower and searched for you on Audible. I was hooked. I’m saving Hornet’s Nest for a long drive in August.

    I saw the Swedish film (I became a Scandophile in my teens watching Bergman, so it was a no-brainer.) It was good, but I wish Swedish television had made a mini-series of it. The book is rich with detail that obviously can’t be included in a 2-hour film. The only way an American film could be better is to get HBO or Showtime to do it.

    In the meantime, you and Mr. Trollope are keeping me very happy, but I’m really eager for Anthony Powell’s wonderful A Dance to the Music of Time.

    Please keep loving what you do – we do!


  19. Immie Reeves June 28, 2010 at 6:05 am #

    I requested The girl with the dragon tattoo on audiobook for my library in early Feb. of ’09 because you were reading it — I didn’t know then that it was going to become such a sensation. I first discovered how much I enjoyed your work after reading the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, and then wanting to experience it again on audio. I loved it so much that i passed it on to no less than 6 people who all became fans. You really bring the characters to life and it’s easy to forget that it’s just one man behind the curtain! I have to tell you that I’ve since listened to many books that I would not have otherwise picked up because you were the narrator. I hope that the success of Larsson’s books brings you more well-deserved acclaim.

  20. Donna C. Michael June 25, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    I just read your interview on the Literate Housewife site with Jennifer. Great! This may not be believeable to you, but I’ve never listened to an audio book before. However, I’ll be shoppping for one of yours asap! I’m sure I can find them in Pittsburgh somewhere!

    • Simon June 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

      Hope you find something you enjoy. Even if you haven’t got an MP3 player and can’t download from (books are often cheaper that way) it’s a great place to ‘window-shop’ – and you can see what other people thought of the books too. Then you could order a CD set from Amazon once you’ve decided. Good luck!

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