Janwillem van de Wetering is a prolific writer, and he has published over 30 English language books up to this point in his life. Many of his books also have editions in the Dutch language and some are in the German and in the French language, and are not really translations, but variations of his English language books. Considering that van de Wetering did not start writing until he was 40 years old, and even since then has been involved in many other activities, his output is considerable. Although his specialty is fiction, and largely detective fiction, he has also made quite a name for himself in children’s books. If you ‘google’ his name you will find frequent references to his now famous children’s book “Hugh Pine”. It is on virtually every school’s reading list.
Van de Wetering was born in the city of Rotterdam on February 12, 1931. His father was a merchant with a specialization in international trade. So his father guided him to be his successor in the trading business when he grew up. He attended a small private business school in the province of Utrecht. The school, Nyenrode Business School, currently Nyenrode Business University, was then strictly an undergraduate school from where he graduated at age 19. So the degree was probably more the equivalent of a three year college education in the U. S. Following graduation, his father helped him find a job in Capetown, South Africa, working in international trade for a firm affiliated with his father’s business interests. He enjoyed Cape Town, and when he was subsequently transferred to Johannesburg, he refused to move and his father had him fired. Van de Wetering stayed in Capetown for six years, working in a variety of different jobs to support himself
In 1958, when his father died, van de Wetering moved back to Europe, but he apparently had outgrown his native country and shortly thereafter he settled in London, England. While there he followed a course in philosophy at University College, became infatuated with existentialism, and following the advice of one of his teachers, decided to study at a Zen monastery in Japan. He managed to keep that up for a period of two years, when his money ran out, and he had to find a job to support himself.
Van de Wetering found a job with a Dutch Trading Company in South America and the Dutch Caribbean Islands. But being back in the mercantile area apparently did not interest him, and in 1963, he moved to Australia, where he supported himself by selling real estate.
In 1965, his wife’s uncle died, and left a textile business in disarray. So van de Wetering was called to come to the rescue. As one experienced in the Dutch merchant business he was the likely candidate to help out. But when the Dutch authorities found out that he was back in the country, they threatened to arrest him because, at age 19, he had not shown up for his required military service. He was able to negotiate with the government authorities that he would serve in the Amsterdam Reserve Police, to make up for the time he did not spend in military service. Since by that time he was much too old for the military, they agreed. He started as a police constable, and was later able to pass exams for sergeant and inspector. While in the Amsterdam Police Department, he was able to gather ideas for his later detective novels, which all used three of the characters from the Amsterdam Police.
Based on his experiences in foreign countries and in different settings, van de Wetering had started to do some writing. But he did not publish his first book until he was 40 years old in 1971. His first book was a non-fiction book about his Japanese experience in the Buddhist monastery. It was entitled, “The empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery”.
Van de Wetering did not publish his next book until 1975, the year he permanently moved to the State of Maine in the U.S. He had gone there to look into another Zen monastery which subsequently closed. But it appeared van de Wetering had finally found the place where he could settle down. Maine must have been the place where he could apply some of the things he had learned during his Zen studies. Perhaps, it also helped that he was now well over forty, and settling down is usually more attractive after one becomes a bit older. His 1975 books were, “A Glimpse of Nothingness: Experiences in an American Zen Community”, and the first Amsterdam police detective book, “Outsider in Amsterdam”.
Fourteen additional Amsterdam police detective novels would follow, all published between 1975 and 1999. Some of the titles were: “The Corpse on the Dike”, in 1976, “The Japanese Corpse”, in 1977, “The Maine Massacre”, in 1979, “The Mind Murders”, in 1981, “The Street Bird”, in 1985, “Just a Corpse at Twilight”, in 1994, and “The Perfidious Parrot”, in 1997, among others. Van de Wetering’s children’s books began with “Little Owl”, in 1978. It was followed by three books about a porcupine called Hugh Pine, consisting of: “Hugh Pine”, in 1980, “Hugh Pine and the Good Place”, in 1981, and “Hugh Pine and Something Else”, in 1983. As was stated before, these books were and still are a huge success.
Van de Wetering’s other genre was for a better term noted as other fiction. It includes among others, “The Butterfly Hunter”, in 1982, “Murder by Remote Control”, in 1986, “Seesaw Millions”, in 1988, and “Mangrove Mama and Other Tropical Tales of Terror”, in 1995.
In addition to the above books, van de Wetering also wrote two other biographies consisting of: “Robert Van Gulik: His Life, His Work”, in 1988, and an autobiographical book entitled, “Afterzen: Experiences of a Zen Student out on his Ear”, in 1999.
At least four of van de Wetering’s books have been turned into films by Dutch or German filmographers. They are: “Outsider in Amsterdam”, in 1979, “The Blond Baboon”, in 1985, “The Rattle-Rat”, in 1987, and “Just a Corpse at Twilight”, in 2006. A TV series based on the characters of van de Wetering’s Amsterdam police detective books were aired on Dutch TV in 2004. Thirty episodes were made and another 15 episodes were planned.
Based on the above it is clear that van de Wetering has made a major contribution to several genres of American literature, and to this day still continues to do so. Therefore, his contributions clearly warrant his inclusion in the listing of Dutch American Men of Arts and Letters.
Janwillem van de Wetering passed away in 2008, close to his 78th birthday. His life had been a productive one in terms of the literature he produced in several different genres.
Janwillem van de Wetering, Wikipedia
The Philosophical Exercises of Janwillem van de Wetering, www.avramdavidson.org/wetering.htm
The spelling of the author’s name is as shown in the text. However, the writer himself has used the one used in the text as well as the spelling: VandeWetering.
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