La Lutte – “a hopscotch between two continents”

la lutte


In the summer of 2013, together with René Ahoud and Jacques de Jong, I did a Lit-Cinema performance in support of the book, at Outsider Art Gallery here in Amsterdam. We had set up in a large space on the second floor, which could fit close to fifty warm bodies. But we were just as happy with the twenty-or so, who eventually settled in for the show.

In the audience, on the second row from the front, I noticed a tall – statuesque almost – very elegant looking lady with mischievous eyes, wearing a long zebra-printed coat and a tall hat, with a fishnet veil draping over her long face and neck.

After the show she rose to full length, removed a copy of the book from the pile next to the audio mixer and craned herself toward me. She complimented me on the performance and the slightly hypnotic dreaminess of my reading style, and introduce herself as Marlijn Franken, film and video artist and fashion designer.

We talked for a few minutes and when the call from the wine bar downstairs could no longer be ignored, I told her I would not charge her for the book on the condition she contacted me and let me know what she thought after reading it. We exchanged cards and proceeded to the party, blurring out the rest of that afternoon.

That same evening, however, I punched in her name and settled in to explore her work. It’s impossible to say how long I ended up staring at the computer screen, but she had glued me to my chair. It is an understatement to say that her languid camera movements, the patience in her editing, which allows the viewer the discovery of detail both evident and imagined, and her equal appetite for silence achieved through masterly chosen music, was rather striking. I realized had just met an artist I understood.

I knew she couldn’t possibly have read my book at this point; we had only met four hours ago. And even if she got started on it, it would at least be another couple of weeks before I heard from her – hopefully with the news that The Hand of Yemanjá had not disappointed. I decided I would not wait – could not wait – and wrote to her, ending my prose with the words:

“…If you ever need a voice-over, or otherwise feel like expanding the concept of Lit-Cinema by working with a writer who adores your work….”

Our contact was sporadic after that, until the end of June of 2014, when she wrote to me.

She and her husband Reinier had just returned from Senegal, where they had shot a mountain of material they had no script for and were looking to work with some one who could help them build a story. In fact, she announced in that same e-mail that there was another project they needed scripting for, as well, a film about refugees who had been spat out on the street by the Dutch authorities.

The hilarious part is that had it never occurred to both Marlijn and Reinier at the time how intricately connected these two projects actually were and to what extent they themselves were part of the tale being told; that it wasn’t two projects at all, but one film telling two separate stories, and which today bares the name, La Lutte.

(a hopscotch between two continents)


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The Amsterdam Writers Platform – episode#2

Can we call it a series yet? Now that we have repeated and improved the format? Anyway, the Amsterdam Writers Platform’s second episode is here: an interview with the lovely Marie Phillips.

For those of you who haven’t yet read her work, this author is really one to keep an eye on!


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So Dam Local


A thank you here to Cathy Leung and my friends at Salto’s SoDamLocal, a show in English on just about anything Amsterdam, for airing the first ever episode of the Amsterdam Writers Platform.

Check them out in October, as we talk to London-based – but soon to move back to town – author Marie Phillips.

Thanks guys!

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Amsterdam Writers Platform

Last Tuesday, on Salto (Amsterdam TV) program So Dam Local, episode one of the Amsterdam Writers Platform had its first airing.

Hosted by Bob Bragar, the AWP is a series of encounters with writers working in the English language, who either live and work in Amsterdam, or have somehow just been inspired by our so very photogenic, adopted hometown.

What we want to do is provide an attractive space, where one can explore the Amsterdam writers commmunity and meet the writers and their work. For now, we have several interviews lined up, but we eventually also want to provide news and just help you to connect with the English writing community and the work that is being produced here.

More to come very soon!


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Great initiative by Pittsburgh Writer!

Book Promotion!

The Hand Of Yemanja front cover filtered 1 web







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Return to Sender

Stephen Fry


Dear Mr. Fry,

The recipients of your letter are mere levers on a faulty machine that is neither fueled by a historical conscience, nor ever designed to produce anything other than an advertising platform.

Perhaps you could appeal to the athletes that will attend Mr. Putin’s games – because, yes, athletes will attend and Putin will have his games, as promised. (Fat chance David Cameron will risk getting his gas turned off during winter, don’t you think?) They, the athletes could be the ones to raise a rainbow flag during the opening ceremony or in salute to tolerance and civilized behavior with every medal that is won. You could even make an appeal to us, the public, who would otherwise be made accomplices to the persecution of homosexuals every time we shave our panty lines with a Gillette or flick out our Visas whenever we go to pay for one. You could ask every fifteen year-old kid to hack the shit out of this faulty machine and make the rainbow colors the official screensaver on every IOC computer for a while.

Don’t you think it would be better to just show Mr. Putin which machine was built to last longer?

Let us indeed have a coke and a smile during those two weeks, Mr. Fry!

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flatline 4Few things speak louder, I suppose, than a bi-annual sales report from a publisher. It so reveals the truth about artistic endeavor, about passion and yes, reciprocated love.

It so can be a reminder of what it means to empty out the content of your own heart for the world to trample and ignore, but also why you once decided to write in the first place – and for whom.

Oh, how I missed that fuck-all feeling that once told me: if there isn’t a book being published which you want to read, then you write it – for you!

But I too, of course, am the mutated baby of this monster we call ‘Market’, an addict to the drug that makes us believe that at the heart of everything there is a sound fucking business plan.

So, I too got on facebook and LinkedIn and set off to build a ‘Community’. I was told I needed a blog too – not a diary – but a blog: an on-going dialogue with an audience. A what?

Could it be that only psychopaths leave marks and that conquest is indeed the flip side of creation? Did I actually forget that expression is always personal, and that an audience of any significance is always ONE!?

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back to school

A couple of week ago I had the huge pleasure of visiting a fifth year, pre-exam class at Berlage Lyceum here in Amsterdam. I was invited my friend and fiction critique group colleague, Peter Crowe, who teaches English there.

I was the inaugural guest in a series of podcasts in which, for school audiences, Peter plans to invite different individuals working creatively with the English language in Amsterdam – of which there are surprisingly many, I should add.

(click the photo for entire interview)

I didn’t think I would enjoy talking to an audience of 16 year-olds about writing as much as I did. They seemed well prepared. That morning they had read parts of the book, and after Peter conducted his interview, hands went up all over the place with good questions that could only have come from genuine interest. A couple of his students revealed ambitions toward writing fiction themselves even, and I suspect there were more aspiring novelists in the class.

I sold three books too – and not even at a student discount!

I sure hope to do this more often.

Loved it.


July 12, 2013 · 12:35 pm


It doesn’t happen very often that my writing gets cut to shit in public. I assume that this is because most people are too polite and can appreciate the effort, regardless. But it does happen and it happened to me, the other day, by a known bully, however – at his house.

At a well chosen moment in a conversation getting underway with enough likeminded admirers around him – obviously – the bully said,

It could be that my English isn’t so good, but I didn’t understand what your book is about. There were words in there I didn’t know and your sentences are too complicated for me.

I thanked him for his candor. I told him that I too thought his English wasn’t that great, but that he had been brave to try.


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Pin up

Courtesy: The Pin-up Parade

I’m not sure how it is in the rest of the world, but in Holland, women’s thrillers are immensely popular; as a rule, written by women and read massively by the same mostly during the summer months. This genre has been my own cup of tea on occasion, and out of the ones that have been, some I enjoyed more than others, of course.

One of these female Dutch authors is the former lawyer living in Miami Beach, named Tess Franke – – delving from her own experiences in the world of courts and crime with four successful titles to her name so far.

Interesting thing about Tess is not only that she constantly seems to get short-listed for this prize or that and that she thus could be consider one of the top ladies of Dutch crime fiction, but Tess is also a buddy of mine. That is –

When it comes to Tess Franke, some explaining is always helpful. A couple of years ago, during the height of (I believe) her second title, Tess revealed that next to her talents as a lawyer and a writer, she was also a marketing genius. She had supposedly never given interviews with the Dutch press other than in writing. Clearly, her busy schedule balancing a law and writing career and the inconvenient fact that she resides in the United States, was always an acceptable reason for not appearing on any talkshows or Live radio and whatnot.

One day, however – or, so the story of Tesss goes – her Dutch publisher appeared in the media to announced to her adoring fans that Tess Franke is indeed a fictional character herself, by the hand of a friendly giant named Gert-Jan de Vries – a man!

Gert-Jan and I are friends, though I consistently call him Tess. I refuse to do otherwise. What I can say about Tess is that he will never hesitate to support and encourage a fellow scribe with a mix of childlike enthusiasm and the energy of a space-bound rocket, especially when it comes to new ideas regarding the changing world of writing and publishing. This enlightened soul in my life is also the founder of a new platform called Boenda – – a platform for authors to maximize their earnings by selling directly to their readers. And as a writer he is the most prolific one I know.

I am sorry I missed Tess at my book launch last month, but living in Miami, balancing a career as a lawyer and novelist, boss of his own publishing house Gibbon – – writing and ghost-writing all over the place and managing Boenda, I was at peace with his considerate e-mail he sent me explaining why he couldn’t come, but with the promise that he would read my book and that he would say something about it.

Well, she did; Gert-Jan did – Tess:

Claudio, you wrote a women’s book. And to do that one definitely needs balls!

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