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Death of a Hawker - Janwillem van de Wetering I had just sent my agent a copy of my latest novel, reams of paper, buckets of sweat, and even some blood from a rather nasty paper cut. I thought the blood added a bit of drama to the work. He called me back and said he’d watched the movie with Robert Redford and had heard the book was really good too. I was incensed. “Are you telling me they made a movie out of “The Great Hatsby”?” He explained that sometimes great writers have similar ideas and that my book was too close to the book called The Great Gatsby by some New York golden boy named Fitzgerald.

I asked him about an advance on a book I was thinking about calling “A Rebel Without a Kleenex”.


I was out of money. The landlord was starting to bang with more authority on my door and with more belligerence in his tone. The bear in my stomach had quit growling and was now just tearing chunks out of the lining of my stomach making me nauseous and fretful. My fingers trembled on the keys of my typewriter. I was starting to despair that I would starve to death before my talent could find it’s way onto the shelves of every bookstore from New York to London to Paris to San Francisco. For a moment I nestled in the glow of memories yet to be made. The women, the fame, the fortune all created by just putting words into paragraphs and paragraphs into chapters.

I swore I wouldn’t call him again. It was beneath me, but that bear in my stomach would have me hemorrhaging by the end of week if I didn’t throw some chunks of meat his way soon. Janwillem answered and called me by name even though I know he had no way to know that I was calling.

“Jeffrey I have been waiting for you to call.”

“You could have called me if you needed me Janwillem.”

“Oh, no, you had to be ready and only you know when you are ready.”

Janwillem studied under a Zen master by the name of Oda Sessō and so this philosophy or “lifestyle” colors all of our conversations. Last time we talked he thought I needed some time meditating in his rock garden.

I sighed into the phone.

He laughed gently. “I would like you to go back to Amsterdam and spend some time with our mutual friends. My publisher is demanding a new novel and I do not want to be the cause of the stroke that will ultimately kill him.”

“How do you know he is going to die from a stroke?”

“It surrounds him like a cloud.”

“Ahh yes, well, due to circumstances with current trends in publishing I will need to become your note taker once again Janwillem.”

“Isn’t it wonderful how life has brought you back to me at the very moment that we need each other my friend?”

I could imagine him sitting in his beautiful home in Maine probably in a kimono or maybe nothing at all. Beautiful women sprawled around his house like ornaments. His droopy moustache drowning his mouth and his brown eyes twinkling just over the pouches that threaten to avalanche down his cheeks. He has a nest of dark hair that reminds me of pictures of Abraham Lincoln. Oddly enough his middle name is Lincoln.

Janwillem Van de Wetering

Van de Wettering forgot to mention that Amsterdam was in the middle of a riot. The Hippies are upset about some buildings that are being demolished to make way for a new metro. The Commissaris and I watched as the riot police arrived marching in step. Their boots thumping menacingly on the brickwork. I noticed that the Commissaris shivered. He looked at me and said “we had enough of that during the war.” He had confided to me on one of the past cases that he had spent three years locked up during the war and his legs had given him trouble ever since. A German had knocked out six of his teeth and even though he tried to put the past behind him, the man was almost as naturally Zen as Janwillem, he had confided to me that he still had trouble giving directions to German tourists without being overcome with emotion.

Grijpstra described the Commissaris as a dry stick topped by a razor. After saying that he had promptly turned to me and said to not repeat that, but of course I passed it to van de Wettering because...well... that is my job.

We had to dodge Hippie bombs of paste that clung to us like flour, turning de Gier’s moustache and hair white, as we made our way to the site of the murder. The man, a very successful hawker at the local market, whose face was caved in as if someone had repeatedly punched him with a mountaineering ice pick was lying in a pool of blood. De Gier became a little woozy, he doesn’t like blood, and Grijpstra helped him over to a wall to lean against. I stayed in the corner, trying not to be part of the case, but merely observe their actions, but I did notice that the hawker had a copy of Zazie in the Metro on his bedside table. If I could read French I would have nicked it. I’d heard something about that crazy French writer named Queneau.


The sister also lives in the house, a beautiful woman, and a reader. I tried flirting with her a bit, testing the waters, but she only had eyes for de Gier. As the case advances it becomes apparent that de Gier is shaking the bed slats with Esther. I mentioned it to Grijpstra, breaking my own rules about involving myself in the case, he gave me a sour look probably because he could tell my intentions were laced with jealousy. He shrugged. He gave me a less oblique response when I asked him about his marriage. He took me to see Nellie. Nellie needless to say was not his wife.

I must say I was a little shocked, more shocked when the white headed Commissaris also showed up. De Gier of course also appeared for what they termed a meeting to discuss the case. I must confess that I drank way too much Jenever, in fact every time I’m in Amsterdam, the Dutch Gin bites me in the ass. Janwillem complains that my writing becomes muddled when I drink too much and suggested that I switch to water or lemonade.

I didn’t bother to respond to such a ludicrous suggestion.

After de Gier left, for some reason Nellie doesn’t like him and must be the only female in Holland that feels that way, the buttons on Nellie’s top came loose and the most amazing grand tetons I’ve ever had the pleasure to woozily observe were on display. As I slowly slid to the floor, my notes spilling ahead of me like a white carpet, I am pretty sure Nellie was straddling Grijpstra and he was in danger of suffocation. When I came around I found that someone had stuffed my notes in my coat pocket. They had been copiously annotated in a shaky scrawl, and some words had been crossed out. If my head hadn’t been exploding every few seconds I would have been furious.

As part of the case we visit a very tall transvestite with large feet and despite the dress and the makeup looked...well...not very feminine. He/she called themselves Elizabeth and I could tell the Commissaris is very fond of her. They had worked together on the force. De Gier is visibly shaken which makes me ever so slightly gleeful. After we leave, De Gier explains how uncomfortable he was which I knew would mean he would get a bit of philosophy from the Commissaris. My pen was ready as I knew this was exactly the kind of stuff that Janwillem got a chubby over.

”We are all connected,” the Commissaris said softly. “Elizabeth is part of you, and you are part of her. Better face up to it.”

De Gier looked unconvinced and when he noticed my pen scratching he gave me a tight look.

We go to see a friend of the victim. A mound of rippling flesh, drinking beer after beer as he evasively answered their questions. He was sweating out fluid almost as fast as he was replacing it. The air was redolent with the nose twitching effervescence of body odor. He is the kind of suspect we hope is guilty, unpleasant, disgustingly rich, and so crass as to have two call girls as alibis. Empty champagne bottles and the general disorder to the room spoke to a long and boisterous party. I wiggled a few bottles to see if there was any bubbly left, but whatever was once in the bottles was now coming out of the pores of the fat man.

De Gier is dispatched to check the story with the girls. I tag along. The girls are purring like kittens when they meet De Gier. One is barely five feet tall, an imp, a prancing imp, but well rounded in all those places that men’s hands like to go. The other is kind of chunky, but still attractive. The Imp suggestively bites off the ends of two cigars and lights them for us. It puts me in mind of a story I want to write about a President and a cigar smoking intern. My agent will flip.

Because the air conditioning is on the fritz The Imp takes off her blouse, reasonable I suppose given the general stuffiness of the room. She flips her hair in front to hide her breasts, but not before De Gier and I catch a glimpse of the small, firm areas of interest. I wait for De Gier to remember I’m there and ask me to leave. I have a glimmer of hope that maybe I’m finally going to get involved in some of the more interesting attractions of Amsterdam, a bit of exploitation of the natural resources. Much to my disappointment De Gier stays professional, finds out what he needs to know, and leaves doing much to hurt his reputation as quick zipper De Gier. I lingered and did elicit a phone number from The Imp, and fortunately my job does not require me to disclose what exactly transpired during that summit meeting between the US and Holland.

There is so much more, but I have been instructed by Janwillem not to reveal anything truly interesting. I’m just supposed to tease you. He does want you to purchase and read the book. I will say there is a duel between two megaton pieces of construction equipment, sordid moments of jealousy, a parrot that mimicries barfing, sexually promiscuous women, a flying head, adultery, sinful thoughts (not just by me), and of course interwoven around all of it like an ivy vine on a trellis is Janwillem’s Zen philosophy. This book is recommended for those who are interested in a bit of enlightening without squeezing the little gray cells too hard.


I’ve been dreaming of a whale, a white whale, and a captain named Albert. Oh man, this is the one, an epic tale of revenge and obsession. I have the opening line already... call me Igantius.