Freeling, Nicolas 1927-2003

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FREELING, Nicolas 1927-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born March 3, 1927, in London, England; died of cancer July 20, 2003, in Mutzig, France. Author. Freeling was an award-winning mystery novelist best known for his books featuring Dutch police inspector Piet van der Valk and Detective Henri Catang. Though born in England, he spent his early childhood in Brittany and spoke French first; his parents then moved the family to Southampton, and then to Ireland because of his mother's support of the Irish Free State. Freeling served in the Royal Air Force from 1947 to 1949, then attended the University of Dublin for two years before dropping out to move to France. While in France, he discovered he had a talent for cooking, and his first professional career was that of sous chef for a number of hotels in France, England, and the Netherlands. It was while working in Amsterdam that his career took an unexpected turn: He was arrested for stealing meat from the restaurant where he worked, and was even sent to prison for a short time. While there, he met a Dutch policeman who fascinated him, and he was also intrigued by police interrogation methods. After he was freed, he wrote his first novel, Love in Amsterdam (1961). Although Freeling meant the book to be a love story, it included crime elements and for that reason was marketed as crime fiction. The debut was a hit, and Freeling decided to try a career as an author. The police officer he had met in Amsterdam became the basis for his character van der Valk, who went on to appear in thirteen novels. Van der Valk also inspired two popular television series that aired on British television from 1972 to 1992, and so when Freeling killed his character off there was a general outcry among his fans. Despite such outrage, he determined not to bring van der Valk back, instead beginning a new series of novels featuring Henri Catang that became just as popular and critically acclaimed as his earlier work. Winning such awards as the Grand Prix de Roman Policier and the Edgar Allan Poe Award, Freeling was influenced by the novels of Georges Simenon. Sometimes compared to novelist John le Carré, he often emphasized the characters and relationships in his books as much or more than the murders themselves. During his career, Freeling published over three dozen books, including Gun before Butler (1963), The King of the Rainy Country (1966), The Night Lords (1978), A Dwarf Kingdom (1996), One More River (1997), and Some Day Tomorrow (2000). He was also the author of The Kitchen: A Delicious Account of the Author's Years as a Grand Hotel Cook (1970; also published as The Kitchen Book: The Cook Book). His last publications were Village Book: A Memoir (2001) and The Janeites (2002). Two movies, Because of the Cats and The Amsterdam Affair, were based on Freeling's books.



Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2003, p. B12.

New York Times, July 23, 2003, p. A17.

Times (London, England), July 23, 2003.

Washington Post, July 26, 2003, p. B7.

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Freeling, Nicolas 1927-2003

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