The Man Behind 'The Girl...'

Courtesy Stephen T. Murray

Though he lives in sunny Albuquerque, N.M., Steven T. Murray's thoughts are often in a much colder, bleaker place—one filled with violence and murder. Murray, '65, is a translator who specializes in Scandinavian mysteries, a genre known for introverted detectives and grisly details that has recently taken the world by storm.

"I guess I get the best of both worlds: the fascinating work and the good weather," jokes the former English major, who picked up Swedish and Norwegian while studying in Denmark.

Murray has worked with some of the top authors in the field, including Henning Mankell, creator of the Kurt Wallander series. In 2005, he got a call from a literary agent at Sweden's Norstedts Publishing asking him to translate three as-yet-unpublished books. Quickly.

"They'd already sold the movie rights, but the British filmmaker couldn't speak Swedish," he recalls. "Normally, it would take me six months per book; I finished all three in 13 months."

The books turned out to be the Millennium Trilogy—better known as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novels—by Stieg Larsson. The author had died of a heart attack in 2004. The posthumously published books have since sold more than 46 million copies in more than 43 countries and inspired three successful Swedish films and a forthcoming American adaptation.

Murray used a pseudonym, Reg Keeland, for the translation of the trilogy, as deadline pressures prevented him from approving editorial changes. But he doesn't mind the anonymity. "When you're a translator," he points out, "you have to put your own personality away."