Stieg Larsson's Longtime Partner on Rumored Fourth Book

PHOTO Auther Stieg Larssons longtime partner, Eva Gabrielsson, did not inherit the rights to Larssons works or any part of his estimated $30 million estate.

Lisbeth Salander is the bisexual, butt-kicking hacker at the center of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Heard of it? Read it? Obsessed by it? Chances are the answer is yes.

Swedish author Stieg Larsson's so-called Millennium trilogy -- "Dragon Tattoo" is the first book in the series -- has sold over 40 million copies worldwide. Last week in the United States alone, the series sold nearly a book a second. Daniel Craig is set to star in the Hollywood film adaptation next year.

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In the books, Larsson peels away Sweden's idyllic exterior, exposing corruption and the abuse of women. But he died before the first page was published. His estate is worth an estimated $40 million and counting.

Larsson's books leave behind an unlikely heroine whom fans adore. Lisbeth Salander is both victim and savior, fighting for her rights and for justice.

In real life there is another drama here in Sweden, as full of anger and accusations as anything the author might have written. At its heart, a woman who was a very real part of the author's life. Like Lisbeth Salander, she is also fighting for what she says are her rights.

Eva Gabrielsson met Stieg Larsson when she was just 18. Both were passionate and politically active. They lived together for 32 years, until suddenly he was gone.

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"It was a horrible time," said Gabrielsson. "Even small daily things like making a pot of coffee, you can't even make a pot of coffee anymore because someone is missing to drink the other half. I was in deep shock."

That shock would deepen when Gabrielsson realized that, because the couple never married and Larsson did not leave a will, she would inherit nothing under Swedish law. No money, and more importantly, she says, no control over his literary estate.

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Everything Larsson had went to his brother, Joakim Larsson, and his father, Erland Larsson. Gabrielsson said they were not close.

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"There was not much of a connection," said Gabrielsson. "Not with the brother, especially not with the brother."

Thus a feud worthy of Stieg Larsson's fiction began.

"You can view them as this family he wasn't particularly close to, didn't have much in common with, taking his money," said James Savage, editor of The Local, an English-language publication based in Sweden. "On the other hand you've got these people who say they were close to Stieg, doing what they think is right. Like [with] any infected family feud, taking sides is a very dangerous thing to do."

So why didn't the couple marry? In the 1980s and '90s, the national extremism movement in Sweden turned violent. Larsson, a liberal journalist, often spoke out against it. That made him a target of death threats.

In Sweden, public records relating to where you live and work are easily accessible. Getting married could potentially have put both of their lives in greater danger.

Even so, early on, the couple almost risked it.

Gabrielsson said he proposed in 1983, and they bought two rings, engraved with "Stieg" and "Eva."

But in the end they decided it was safer not to marry to maintain a lower profile.

They left his name off nearly everything they shared, Gabrielsson said. "All phone bills, gas bills, electricity bills, everything was in my name," she said.

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