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Biography: Janwillem van de Wetering

Janwillem van de Wetering is a successful Dutch author, who writes in both Dutch and English. He has traveled widely, studied in a Zen monastery, and been an Amsterdam police officer. He is particularly well known for his detective fiction.


Janwillem Lincoln van de Wetering was born on the 12th February 1931, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He attended school there, and watched as many of his Jewish friends and playmates, and his city, were killed and destroyed during the second world war—an experience that affected him profoundly. At high school, van de Wetering excelled at literature and philosophy; however, failed at art classes. He attended a college for upper class and gifted students after high school, graduating at the age of nineteen.

van de Wetering’s father, a wealthy merchant, found his son a job in Capetown with a Rottendam based firm. van de Wetering became heavily involved in the art scene in Capetown, and refused a transfer to Johannesburg with the company. He was subsequently fired and spent the next six years in Capetown where he was briefly married to an artist who taught him about sculpture. His father died towards the end of this time.

In 1956 van de Wetering sailed for England and studied at London College. He became involved in philosophy and was heavily influenced by existentialism. Having encountered Buddhism within his philosophical studies, in 1958 he moved to Kyoto, Japan and spent two years studying at the Zen monastery Daitoku-ji.

In 1960 van de Wetering left the monastery, having run out of money, and became a merchant again, this time in South America. He spent five years in Colombia and Peru, where he married and had a daughter. In 1963 he and his family moved to Brisbane, Australia and spent two years working in real estate.

In 1965, he and his family returned to Holland, where he spent ten years working at improving his wife’s family business. In 1968, the Dutch authorities discovered that van de Wetering’s wanderings around the globe meant that he had in fact dodged the draft, and in order to avoid prison he would have to join the Amsterdam Reserve Constabulary, and serve the Queen voluntarily. This he did for seven years, until his Grijpstra and de Gier novels took off internationally, and he and his family moved to Maine in 1975.

He and his wife spent the next eight years sailing the Maine coast and travelling the U.S, Europe, and Papa New Guinea. On his return to Maine he began to produce sculptures and collages as art pieces, and then in 1990 began to write again.

He currently resides in Maine.



Grijpstra and de Gier novels

  • Outsider in Amsterdam (1975)
  • Tumbleweed (1976)
  • The Corpse on the Dike (1976)
  • Death of a Hawker (1977)
  • The Japanese Corpse (1977)
  • The Blond Baboon (1978)
  • The Maine Massacre (1979)
  • The Mind-Murders (1981)
  • The Streetbird (1983)
  • The Rattle-Rat (1985)
  • Hard Rain (1986)
  • Just A Corpse at Twilight (1994)
  • The Hollow-Eyed Angel (1996)
  • The Perfidious Parrot (1997)
  • The Amsterdam Cops: Collected Stories (0r, The Sergeant’s Cat and Other Stories) (1999)

Children’s books

  • Little Owl (1978)
  • Hugh Pine (1980)
  • Hugh Pine and the Good Place (1981)
  • Hugh Pine and Something Else (1983)

Other fiction

  • The Butterfly Hunter (1982)
  • Bliss and Bluster (1982)
  • Inspector Saito’s Small Satori (anthology) (1985)
  • Murder by Remote Control (graphic novel, with Paul Kirchner) (1986)
  • Seesaw Millions (1988)
  • Mangrove Mama and Other Tropical Tales of Terror (anthology) (1995)
  • Judge Dee Plays His Lute: A Play and Selected Mystery Stories (anthology; includes the original play Judge Dee Plays his Lute and a selection from other anthologies) (1997)


  • The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery (1971)
  • A Glimpse of Nothingness: Experiences in an American Zen Community (1975)
  • Robert Van Gulik: His Life, His Work (1988)
  • Afterzen: Experiences of a Zen Student out on His Ear (1999)

Dutch/German publications

  • De doosjesvuller en andere vondsten (essays in Dutch) (1984)
  • Waar zijn we aan begonnen? (essays in Dutch on the stages of life with the psychologist Hans van Rappard) (1985)
  • Eugen Eule und der Fall des verschwundenen Flohs (children’s book in German) (2001)
  • Die entartete Seezunge (a novel in German, appeared as an article in Dutch) (2004)


Janwillem van de Wetering is probably best known for his Detective fiction, however he has also written Children’s literature and a selection of Non fiction.

van de Wetering on his own books:

When asked how he rated his own books in order of favourite, van de Wetering responded thusly:

  1. The Empty Mirror (Buddhist adventures in Japan, 1958/1960), the 'beat'
  2. Hugh Pine (about a porcupine in the Maine Woods)
  3. The Maine Massacre (detectives Grijpstra and de Gier in Maine)
    Outsider in Amsterdam (the first of the Gr and dG series, set in Amsterdam)
  4. Just another Corpse at Twilight (Gr and dG in Maine)
  5. Robert van Gulik, His Life his Work (biography of the author of the
    Judge Dee series)
  6. The Japanese Corpse (Gr and dG, set in Amsterdam and Kyoto)
  7. Beyond the Infinite (my last book, written in 2006, set during WW 2 in
    Rotterdam, and in NYC, 9/11)
  8. Dying for Dummies (in progress, essays on death)
  9. Afterzen (about solving Zen Buddhist Koans -meditation riddles-, set
    mostly in America)

Top 10 favourite books

  • I was looking for a street by Charles Willeford
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • I Am That by Nisargadatta
  • Las Putas Tristes by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Zazie dans le Metro by Raymond Queneau
  • Rum Island by Simon Vestdijk (translation from Dutch)
  • De kelner en de levenden by Simon Vestdijk (The waiter and the living, I don't think it was ever translated)
  • Empresas y Tribulaciones de Maqroll el Gaviero by Alvaro Mutis
  • Sombre Sentier by Dominique Manotti
  • The burnt orange heresy by Charles Willeford


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