Tale of True Crime in Utrecht

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I have been so lucky to get a fascinating interview with best-selling author Daniel M. van Doorn. A Utrechter he was born in 1986 in Bilthoven, a small town next to Utrecht.

He started his own construction company in 2009, but he has always considered himself to be a writer. He has always love to read and write. In April 2018 the dream of publishing his first book finally came true.

The book was “Crimineel Utrecht “and he told me about it:

“The book “Crimineel Utrecht” is the result of a more than three-year research. Co-writer Evert van der Zouw and I share a passion for true crime stories. Especially for those who took place in the Netherlands. The last couple of years many true crime books were published in the Netherlands. Most of these books describes the crimes of the three major cities; Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague. In 2014 we’ve decided to write the first True Crime book of Utrecht. Evert and I have tried to capture the right image of criminals and crime-scenes of Utrecht throughout history.”

I wondered how did he decide upon the subjects for his book?

“In May 2014 Evert and I met each other on ‘de Neude’, a city square in the heart of Utrecht. While drinking a couple of beers, we fantasized about the content of the book. We both came up with several subjects. We decided that each chapter of the book must describes a different element of organized crime. For example, we wrote chapters about prostitution, drug trafficking, homicides and Outlaw Motor Gangs.”

The book is a partnership with Evert van der Zouw, how did that work out?

“Even though Evert had published a couple books before, “Crimineel Utrecht” was his first major book that was published on a national scale. For me it was my first book. So, we both started a new process in a new world. It was comforting to know that we’re in it together. During the research we discovered that we both had a different way of collecting information. I guess this is what they called ‘teamwork’.”

Were there any plans for a new book I wondered?

“Absolutely! Evert and I just started a new project. At this moment I can’t say anything about the exact subject. What I can say is that it’s a True Crime book and Utrecht is the landscape.”

This is exciting if it follows in the footsteps of their first book, but I asked whether in future he would stay with True Crime or write a fictional story?

Daniel told me, “Never say never. But for now, I’m sticking with what I know best and where my passion is, True Crime. I enjoy the research, the contact with people and I keep learning new historical facts about Utrecht.”

Will you future books see you write alone or in partnership again?

“I think both. However, I also have the ambition to write a book by myself. I’m convinced that one day I will complete a book all by myself.”

Daniel got into writing around the age of fourteen. He started to read True Crime books. In the years that followed he had a small library full of crime stories. Whilst at high-school he discovered his passion for writing. He told me that as, “The years passed, the passion stayed. But because of the lack of the right subject I never finished any work. That changed in 2018.”

I asked whether Utrecht inspired him?

“Personally, I think Utrecht is the most beautiful city in Holland. The historical city centre feels like a second home to me. For example, when returning from a holiday and driving home, the look of the Domtoren standing proud in the horizon tells me I’m home. So of course, Utrecht inspires me. It’s in my DNA.”

I think we can all relate to that. Utrecht is a beautiful city, but to see it inspiring a True Crime book is fascinating.

Where is your favourite place in Utrecht?

“There are a lot of places in Utrecht I love. But to name one, I have to say the birthplace of the book “Crimineel Utrecht”, the city square ‘De Neude’. Especially in the summertime. The square is filled with terraces. An excellent place to meet people and have some drinks.”

We can all drink to that! Utrecht is the perfect place to sit and people watch. Hopefully that can inspire more into writing, just as it did with Daniels and Evert.

I asked whether Daniel thought that Utrecht becoming a UNESCO city of literature would inspire a new generation of writers. His answer was interesting, “Personally, I think people can get inspired by a numerous of things. Utrecht by itself should inspire new writers. Like I said before, Utrecht is a gorgeous city full of historical places and stories. The city centre is based on beautiful historical architectonic buildings. This environment must inspire a new generation. If the fact that Utrecht is becoming a UNESCO city of literature contributes to inspire a new generation, I can alone embrace that.”

Which is a great way to end the conversation. Utrecht does inspire. It inspired me to write my crime novels, it has given Daniel lots of ideas for his True Crime books. The city is steeped in history and now with the many partnerships going on it is steeped in literature. There has never been a better time to write in the city as there are so many people available to help and advise. Why don’t you have a go? Look on this web site for the chance to join our Virtual Writing Group and send something along.

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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