July 29, 2003 by

Nicolas Freeling


Categories: Writers/Editors

Nicolas Freeling, the prolific British author of two successful detective series, died on July 20. Cause of death was not released. He was 76.
Freeling served in the Royal Air Force after World War II, then bummed through Europe working as a sous chef. During a stint as a chef in an Amsterdam hotel, Freeling was arrested and questioned about his involvement with a local underworld organization. That interrogation inspired his first Piet Van der Valk detective novel, “Love in Amsterdam.” The fictional detective also became the basis of two television series starring Barry Foster that ran on Thames Television in the mid-1970s and early 1990s.
After 13 books, Freeling tired of writing about Inspector Van der Valk, so he killed the character off, much to the dismay of fans. Instead Freeling wrote about Detective Henri Castang, the protagonist of 16 popular mystery novels. Freeling also published seven non-series novels, the nonfiction book, “Criminal Convictions: Errant Passages on Perpetrators of Literary License” and the memoir, “The Kitchen: A Delicious Account of the Author’s Years as a Grand Hotel Cook.”
In 1964, Freeling won both the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger award and the Grand Prix de Roman Policier. He won the Edgar Allan Poe award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1966.

3 Responses to Nicolas Freeling

  1. James Lithgow

    I loved his writing. Just finishing One More River when I thought I would look him up only to discover he’s dead and there’ll be no more. He’ll be missed.

  2. Ken Ingram

    The coincidence is amazing. I’ve just finished “the Back of the North Wind” after a gap of many years since my last Castang book and also thought I would look him up.
    Freeling was such a satisfying writer and one of the few able to take over the mind completely so that when putting the book down I have to spend a few minutes acclimatising myself to the real world again.
    I’m now off to dig out “What are the Bugles Blowing For?”, the first one I ever read and one I have never forgotten.

  3. Marcia Grant

    My first Freeling book was THE WIDOW, and I was so taken by his psychological insights that I read back through all the Van der Valk books, and then forward with the Castang. The Castang series were remarkable in helping me understand the French judicial system. Now, tonight, having finished ONE MORE River, I googled Nicolas Freeling and found his obituary in the Guardian. What a gift he gave us in his writing!

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