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Amsterdam

The new Pieter Vos

The fourth Pieter Vos book, Sleep Baby Sleep, is out in the UK on June 1 from Pan Macmillan, and in Dutch in October from Boekerij. I always try to write a different book in a series and this is no exception. Vos and crew’s last outing, Little Sister, was mainly in unfamiliar territory for them, out in the flat lands around Volendam.

Until May 25 you have a chance to win a free copy of Sleep Baby Sleep. This is an international competition open to anyone where you live. Read more here.

Now they’re back where they’re at home, in Amsterdam, though this story will take you to places few foreign visitors find. We start with Vos labouring under a new boss in the police, Jillian Chandra, a fierce and ambitious woman who’s not fond of a bohemian detective living in a houseboat, doing things his own way and bringing his beloved dog Sam into the office from time to time. Vos has just escaped a long service ceremony and headed home to the Prinsengracht. There a curious note awaits him and, when he heads over the road to the Drie Vaten for a drink, Sam is abruptly kidnapped by a stranger in an odd hat.

What follows is a fast-moving drama in which Vos must try to disentangle an old case that appears to have come back to life, and set him on a series of baffling chases across Amsterdam.

These are crime stories so at their heart there needs to be a crime. In this case it’s the modern one of date rape. Four years before Vos believed he’d cracked a homicidal date rape gang responsible for what the media had dubbed The Sleeping Beauty Murders. But to the dismay of his new boss it seems one of the gang may have escaped… and be back in business.

The hunt will take Vos across the city, to the extraordinary cemetery of Zorgvlied, the new financial district of the Zuidas, the wonderful city zoo Artis and, above all, the bustling street market of Albert Cuyp in De Pijp.

It’s in the market that I hope I’ve introduced a secondary, human element to the story. Here a flower trader, Bert Schrijver, is struggling to keep his head above water as the area where he’s grown up changes in front of his eyes. De Pijp is a working class district turning hipster, very much like a Dutch Shoreditch. Schrijver is not a man who can cope with new faces, new businesses, new challenges in front of him. His business is on the brink of bankruptcy, his wife has left him, and to make matters far worse his daughter Annie is, at the start of the story, victim of a vicious attack in which a man with her died.

Bert is the first to admit he’s not a smart man. All he wants to do is what’s best for his family. But as the story progresses it becomes clear he really has no idea what that might be. Though the solution he comes up with is not one I suspect people might foresee, Bert included.

I spent a happy few visits to Amsterdam researching and thinking about this book. You can see some of my photos from that time below. If you find yourself in the city and want to discover some of the sights you’ll find they’re all easily reached. The Albert Cuyp market is now a well-known tourist destination not far from the museum quarter. It’s a noisy, bustling place, with some lovely street food. Make you try some of the fish there such as raw herring and chunks of fried cod, kibbeling. Since I stayed in the area I saw the other side of the market too — the deserted street of early evening when bands of herons stride around the parts where the fish stalls were, hoping to pick up a few scraps.

Artis, a key location in the book, is both a zoo and a scientific institution set in gardens in the suburb of Plantage a short tram ride from the centre. The butterfly house is quite something.

Perhaps the most extraordinary location, though, is a corner of the Zorgvlied cemetery. This is set by the Amstel river, next to the lovely Amstelpark. Mostly it’s a serene, well-tended graveyard, but the book takes you to one part an author couldn’t make up: Paradiso, a kind of hip burial ground full of mementoes, odd statues and very strange monuments. From here it’s easy to walk round the corner to the Amstelpark or carry on down the broad, slow river where soon you’ll find yourself next to quiet fields where cattle graze. It’s hard to believe the teeming centre of Amsterdam is just a few miles away. This is an extraordinary city, and as always it’s been a great privilege — and enormous fun —  to bring Vos and his colleagues to life there.

Writing

Win a free copy of the new Pieter Vos novel, Sleep Baby Sleep

The next Pieter Vos novel, Sleep Baby Sleep,  will be out in the wild on June 1 in the UK. We have three signed copies ready to be won in our prize draw. The contest is open to anyone with a Twitter account worldwide. All you have to do is retweet the pinned contest tweet at the top of David’s Twitter page, follow the account then reply to @david_hewson with the hashtag #LoveVos. The winner will be drawn on publication day, June 1, and notified through Twitter.

Contest terms and conditions.

  1. The prizes are five copies of Sleep Baby Sleep to be won individually.
  2. The contest closes at 5pm UK time May 25.
  3. Entry is open to anyone with a Twitter account.
  4. Winners will be chosen at random and informed through Twitter. If you’d like your book personalised please tell us at this time.
  5. Only one entry per user will count.
Travel

The elusive villa of Pausilypon near Naples

Naples is a funny old place. It sits on one of the most beautiful bays in the world and has a history going back to Roman times, and beyond to the Greeks. Tourists pour into one side of the city to visit Pompeii, Sorrento and the Amalfi coast. But very few venture the other side, even though historically this was where the Romans loved to come and play.

Continue reading “The elusive villa of Pausilypon near Naples”

Travel

Eating well in Verona

Italian food is alCipollatropeaways astonishing and Verona, if I’m honest, has some of the best you’ll find. Over five days we never ate a bad meal, something that’s very easy to do in Venice, and even in Rome if you pick badly.

So just for the record (and when I next go back) let me set down a few food and drink tips that may be useful.

First… a rediscovery. The wonderful red onion of Tropea. This is an onion, but not as you know it. Grown exclusively in the Calabrian seaside town of Tropea it’s so sweet they make jam out of it. I bought some seeds and tried growing it in England. It turned out onions but they weren’t the same. Oh well…

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Santa Felicita

The pizza at the top features slowly stewed Tropea red onions and a local Verona cheese. It was simply stunning. Nine euros if I recall correctly and you can find it in a church now converted to a very handsome restaurant, Santa Felicita, near the Ponte Pietra. The pizzas were excellent but there’s a wide menu available too.

There are frescoes on the walls from its church days and seats in the gallery which give you a great view of everything including the kitchen. The place used to be a carpentry shop; its days as a church were numbered when Napoleon marched into Verona and closed the place down, along with lots of other churches he didn’t like.

Continue reading “Eating well in Verona”

Travel

Forget Venice, the best carnival is in Verona

If you mention the word ‘carnival’ in the Veneto people will immediately think you’re talking about Venice. I’ve done Venice carnival. I had to when I was writing Carnival for the DeadMuch as I love Venice I won’t be doing carnival again.

All the locals I know avoid the thing if they can. It’s certainly spectacular but it’s primarily an event for tourists, many of them dressed to the nines.

Continue reading “Forget Venice, the best carnival is in Verona”

Writing

Sir Gerald Kaufman, a small memory

Sir Gerald Kaufman, the Labour MP who died a few days ago aged 86, the oldest MP in Parliament, I met twice. Once was when I was the arts correspondent of The Times and he interrogated me in the rudest way possible about the arcane details of the government arts budget of the time, knowing I’d never be able to answer the questions.

The second was years later when he’d obviously forgotten the first and instead had been enjoying a gig writing reviews of crime fiction for one of the Scottish papers. My then editor and then publicist decided they wanted him to review my latest Nic Costa novel and so a lunch was organised at an incredibly expensive Italian restaurant not far from Westminster.

He was a voluble chap very fond of offering advice unasked for, and began by congratulating me on always sticking to what he believed to be the cardinal rule of crime writing: always introduce the eventual villain in the first thirty (I think) pages of the book. This was a rule I was unaware of and if I have stuck to it that’s entirely accidental.

After this the wine flowed and the priciest dishes on the menu were dispatched to the Kaufman plate. He regaled us with entertaining stories of his political life and how, as a Manchester MP, he managed to walk the fine line between supporters of United and City over the decades. Then, when the fanciest dessert I’ve ever seen in an Italian restaurant appeared before him and the team from my publishers was beginning to think in fearful terms of the bill, the crux of the issue was broached. Was there any possibility Kaufman might think of including me in his latest crime write-up for the Scots?

His eyes opened wide with surprise.

‘Oh, no. I can’t possibly do that.’

Why?

‘They fired me a while back. I don’t do crime reviews any more.’

And with that he returned to his meal.

Romeo and Juliet, Writing

A chat with Richard Armitage about Romeo & Juliet

Last October, when we were finalising the release of Romeo & Juliet: A NovelI was lucky enough to spend the best part of a day at the Audible HQ in Newark, New Jersey, alongside my formidable narrator/performer Richard Armitage. We recorded a long interview about the project, writing and performing.

You can now see it all and read a transcript here on Audible Range. I hope you find it enlightening about some of the many enjoyable challenges authors and actors face in projects like this. Unfortunately this happened the day after I flew out to New York and a sleepless night spent in the noisiest hotel in Murray Hill (last time you see me in the Shelburne that’s for sure). So I’m sure I am pretty inarticulate.

Richard, clean shaven for his role in Love, Love, Love, in which he managed to age from nineteen to his sixties, was as on the ball as ever. This is the last piece of supporting material we have to offer you from this unique project. Thanks for all the interest you’ve shown over the last few months — and particular thanks to Richard for lending his extraordinary talents to the finished version.