Criminal Convictions:

Errant Essays on Perpetrators of Literary License

Universally recognized as one of today’s premier writers of crime fiction, Nicolas Freeling displays yet another side of his original mind in these “enviably perceptive and lyrical” essays (Kirkus) on other players in the same field. Freeling’s definition of “crime fiction” is refreshingly broad, comprising not only the usual suspects—Sayers, Conan Doyle, Simenon, to name but a few of those he discusses—but also such unlikely candidates as Dickens, Kipling, Stendhal, and Conrad.

For Freeling, the mystery genre embraces multitudinous forms and an astounding variety of practitioners, from great literary stylists to base hacks. As might be expected, he is never at a loss for words nor diffident in his judgments about either. In his own fiction, Freeling has defied every convention, to the delight of audiences worldwide. An original, unexpected, unfailingly rewarding writer, he here gives further delight with these personal, opinionated, thoroughly provocative essays on his predecessors in mysterious excellence. This is a collection for anyone interested in the literature of crime, and indeed in literature tout court—for, as Freeling says, “The nature of crime is also the nature of art.”

Like many would-be authors, Nicolas Freeling (1927–2003) spent his youth working in restaurants. He took to the profession while wandering Europe after finishing military service and dropping out of college. Discovering a talent and a taste for cooking, he managed to reach the position of senior chef at an Amsterdam hotel. However, as a foreigner in a prominent position, he attracted suspicion and was jailed for three weeks on dubious charges, during which time he started to write. He became famous for his crime novels, especially his Van der Valk series, which was adapted for television. His novels have both popular and critical appeal and received awards including an Edgar Award, a French Grand Prix, and a Gold Dagger Award. In later years, he wrote a series of cookbooks recalling his restaurant years. In keeping with his reputation as a master of suspense, Freeling’s cookbooks are as engaging as any whodunnit mystery.