Willem Asman kubus boek Paradox

The Prize (with Marcel van de Ven)



Years ago, Gita de Later seized an opportunity. Today the profits are piling up. But beneath the glamourous facade of her success lies a dark world. Tess van Vuuren did everything she could to succeed in the police force. Now she is an undercover agent within a top-secret elite team. But the past will not let her go. Two women. Two choices. Two worlds. When innocent victims are killed during an attack on a drug transport, their worlds come together. Wouter Westra and his team, the Specialist Operations Unit, must find out what role Gita played in the transport. Is the passionate young business woman as innocent as she pretends to be? Or the one pulling the strings? Tess is assigned to go undercover within Gita's company. It puts her on the trail of a well-connected international crime syndicate that brutally deals with traitors.

Where it begins

An offer you can't refuse An intriguing message from Anna Jansen of A.W. Bruna in my inbox: We are looking for an author, possibly as ghostwriter, possibly as co-author, for a thriller based on the experiences (fictionalized) of a specialist in the field of undercover operations and organized crime. We are looking for a versatile author with a smooth pen, to work with him to create a raw, exciting and realistic thriller.

I don't know Anna yet, but of course I do know A.W. Bruna: they publish Grisham, Baldacci, Deon Meyer, the Champions League of thriller writers. Original Dutch work I haven’t seen – with the exception of Suzanne Vermeer obviously, who inexorably reaches #1 in the bestseller lists every season – but that could just be me. Publisher Steven Maat and I meet each other in the corridors of the bookworld, but so far no professional collaboration has occurred.

Beer and bitterballs The undercover agent turns out to be Marcel van de Ven, whom I know from his cameragenic one-liners in the Hunted television show. We meet over beer and bitterballs; he is a storyteller, an anecdote machine, ask a question and an example is provided. We quickly agree that it should be a book that does justice to police work. It bothers Marcel that popular series such as Mocromafia and Penoza, no matter how well made, give a distorted picture, causing the audience to sympathize with 'cuddle criminals' such as Ferry in Undercover. The bad guys are the hero.

Laziness Marcel's frustration strikes a chord – 'my' genre bursts with one-dimensional cardboard Hollywood clichés, with one the one hand increasingly gruesome serial killers and on the other lonesome cowboys (m/f) who struggle (a) with asshole managers and colleagues or (b) a drinking problem or (c) a personality disorder or (d) all of the above. All of is in the thriller business have to deal with its conventions. Nevertheless my sympathy lies with ordinary heroes, people like you and me, especially when they find themselves struggling with their own value systems ​​and intentions. Marcel and I quickly agree that we want credibility above all else: real people, with real stories (albeit fictionalized).

Never a police book I like to try something new with each book, something I haven't done before – like a police book that more or less starts with a corpse and more or less ends with the perpetrator behind bars. Also new to me is that The Prize (which in its first manuscript version is called The Fall of the Wolf) will be a team book: about a team, by a team.

To work Two specialists at work in their mutual fields of expertise, you don't need a crystal ball to predict that things can end only in one of two ways. We spend time in advance defining responsibilities, who has veto where, and agree on a baselines which can be useful to us later on. We start with weekly brainstorming sessions of a few hours, which culminate in the exchange of the first tentative attempts on paper, storylines (five of them initially), character studies, first action sequences. The writing process is similar to preparing for an operation: don't immediately give chase with guns drawn and sirens screaming, but first think, listen, discuss, try something, suggest a better idea, report, agree on the best approach, evaluate and tell each other the truth.

Fiction or? Everything is fiction, The prize does not describe existing operations or colleagues. And yet we read in the newspaper every day how near our imagination comes to reality. Not only in the words of the usual suspects (crime reporters such as John van den Heuvel, Jan Meeus and Paul Vugts), but also in The Guardian and Der Spiegel, where the Netherlands is compared to a narco-state.

Satisfied? Yes, because working together on something of significance is above all an opportunity to study your own preferences and blind spots. Often during the process I thought about Bowie's creation starts at the edge of the uncomfortable. Last but not least, Steven Maat and I are now working together on a more than professional basis.

Satisfied with the book? Is it thrilling? Is that still okay, two white men of a certain age writing a book about two women?

If police officers read it and recognize themselves (and say: 'That's not how it went, but that's how it is') we have achieved our goal.

Judge for yourself. The Prize is now available in bookstores.

(WA, May 2024)