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Globetrotter and writer

Born with sand between his toes

Bob van Laerhoven was born on August 8th 1953 in the sandy soil of Antwerp’s Kempen, where according to the cliché ‘pig-headed clodhoppers’ live. This perhaps explains why he started to write stories at a particularly young age. Some speak of science fiction, but Van Laerhoven prefered to speak of social fiction. A number of his stories were published in English, French, German, Spanish, Slovenian, .

Debut

Van Laerhoven made his debut as a novelist in 1985 with Nachtspel – Night Game. He quickly became known for his ‘un-Flemish’ style: he writes colourful, kaleidoscopic novels in which the fate of the individual is closely related to broad social transformations. His style slowly evolved in his later novels to embrace more personal themes while continuing to branch out into the world at large. International flair has become his trademark. He is the only Flemish author who publishes true cross-over novels between literature and the suspense genre.

Avid traveller

Bob Van Laerhoven became a full-time author in 1991. The context of his stories isn’t invented behind his desk, rather it is rooted in personal experience. As a freelance travel writer, for example, he explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from the early 1990s to 2005. Echoes of his experiences on the road also trickle through in his novels. Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Iraq,Kosovo, Myanmar… to name but a few.

Mass murders

During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF - Doctors without frontiers - in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book: Srebrenica. Getuigen van massamoord – Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder. The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate.

Multifaceted oeuvre

All these experiences contribute to Bob Van Laerhoven’s rich and commendable oeuvre, an oeuvre that typifies him as the versatile author of novels, travel stories, books for young adults, theatre pieces, biographies, poetry, non-fiction, letters, columns, articles... He is also a prize-winning author:  in 2007 he won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best suspense novel of the year in the LowLands with his novel "De wraak van Baudelaire." In 2013, the French translation "La Vengeance de Baudelaire" was published in France and in Canada. The English translation "Baudelaire's Revenge" was edited in the US in 2014 by Pegasus Publishers. Also in 2014 came the publication in France and in Canada of "Le Mensonge d'Alejandro", a second novel (Alejandro's leugen - Alejandro's Lie) in French translation. "Baudelaire's Revenge" won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category "mystery/suspense". In 2015, the short story collection "Dangerous Obsessions" appeared in the US. The collection was voted "best short story collection of 2015" by the San Diego Book Review. Translations were published in Swedish, Italian, Spanish and Brazilian (Portuguese).  "Месть Бодлера," the Russian edition of "Baudelaire's Revenge," came on the market in 2017.  The Crime Wave Press (Hong Kong) published "Return to Hiroshima," the English translation of his novel "Terug naar Hiroshima" in 2018.  The British quality review blog Murder, Mayhem & More has chosen ‘Return to Hiroshima’ as one of the ten best international crime novels of 2018. MMM reviews around 200 novels annually by international authors.  Also in 2018, the Anaphora Literary Press published ‘Heart Fever’, his second collection of short stories. ‘Heart Fever’ was one of the five finalists of the American Silver Falchion Award. Laerhoven was the only non-American finalist. The collection has been translated into Italian, Spanish, and German.  "Retour à Hiroshima," the French translation of "Return to Hiroshima" will be published in France in 2021.

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