Agaton Sax is the hero of a series of Swedish-language comedic detective novels written for children by Swedish author Nils-Olof Franzén and illustrated by Åke Lewerth. The English edition was illustrated by Quentin Blake.
A short, round Swede, Sax has a dog named Tikkie and an aunt named Matilda, and tracks down criminals such as Octopus Scott and Julius Mosca. He is a master of underwater ju-jitsu and of several obscure languages. With his supposed superior intellect he easily deciphers the so-called "double talk" of his nemesis "the Boss" (in which, for example, "KO" means "OK"). He is an early adopter of the computer for crime-solving purposes, though Aunt Matilda dismisses it as his "confuser". He has no known love interests and a pronounced dislike of garlic. As well as his detective agency, he also runs the Bykoping Post - First with the News - The Smallest Paper - but the Best. Sax is also reminiscent of Hercule Poirot with his round body, hat and moustache.
The novels are an ironic pastiche of the detective genre: for example Agaton Sax's colleague, the hapless Inspector Lispington of the Yard, is clearly modeled on Inspector Lestrade of Sherlock Holmes fame. Like Holmes, Sax smokes pipes (in his case Meerschaums); he has one for every day of the week, which he smokes when thinking. Franzén was also inspired by another children's books detective in Sweden, Ture Sventon by Åke Holmberg. Franzén died in 1997, aged 81.
As with many foreign language novels translated into English, the style and idiosyncrasies of the translator were quite important to the popularity and success of the English editions.
The unique visual style of the illustrator who was used for the English editions, Quentin Blake, also made a huge contribution, adding to the humour with his inimitable cartoon style.
|Swedish title||Published||English title||Published|
|Agaton Sax klipper till||1955||Agaton Sax and the Big Rig (extended)||1976|
|Agaton Sax och den ljudlösa sprängämnesligan||1956||Agaton Sax and the League of Silent Exploders||1974|
|Agaton Sax och vita möss-mysteriet||1957||Agaton Sax and the Haunted House||1975|
|Agaton Sax och de slipade diamanttjuvarna||1959||Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves||1965|
|Agaton Sax och det gamla pipskägget||1961||Agaton Sax and the Scotland Yard Mystery||1969|
|Agaton Sax och Byköpings gästabud||1963||Agaton Sax and the Criminal Doubles||1971|
|Agaton Sax och bröderna Max||1965||Agaton Sax and the Max Brothers (a.k.a. Bank Robbers)||1970|
|Agaton Sax och den bortkomne mr Lispington||1966||Agaton Sax and the Colossus of Rhodes||1972|
|Agaton Sax och de okontanta miljardärerna||1967||Not published in the UK|
|Agaton Sax och den svällande rotmos-affären||1970||Agaton Sax and the London Computer Plot||1973|
|Agaton Sax och den mörklagda ljusmaskinen||1978||Agaton Sax and Lispington's Grandfather Clock||1978|
The protagonist in the series, Agaton Sax is described as a pleasant, large man with a mustache. As well as running his detective agency, he also runs the Bykoping Post - First with the News - The Smallest Paper - but the Best.
Chief Inspector Joshua Lispington
Agaton Sax's good friend, who, when having trouble solving a case, calls in Agaton Sax for assistance.
Aunt Matilda cares for Agaton, providing him food and company in her old age.
Agaton Sax's super-intelligent dachshund dog.
Agaton Sax's futuristic computer. Aunt Matilda refers to it as a 'confuser'.
Acting head of the Bykoping Police, he frequently assists Sax and Lispington in their investigations.
Several of the novels were read for television for the BBC's series Jackanory, starting with Agaton Sax and the Max Brothers in 1972, with Kenneth Williams as the storyteller intercut with the illustrations by Quentin Blake.
In 1972, a four episode animated TV series was produced based on the book Agaton Sax and the Max Brothers.
A 77-minute animated film Agaton Sax and the Byköpings Village Festival was made in Swedish in 1976, with a plot loosely based on Agaton Sax and the Criminal Doubles. The English-language version again featured Kenneth Williams voicing all the characters.
In connection with the film, a three episode TV series was aired on Swedish television, with the episodes based on Agaton Sax and the League of Silent Exploders, Agaton Sax and the Scotland Yard Mystery and Agaton Sax and the Colossus of Rhodes, respectively.