“Too Good to Be True?” (by Anne van Doorn)

Last week, Mystery Scene magazine copublisher Brian Skupin did a post for this site about locked-room mysteries. In it, he mentioned a story in our current issue (September/October 2019) by Dutch writer Anne van Doorn entitled “The Poet Who Locked Himself In.”  This week, Anne van Doorn recalls how this very clever tale ended up in EQMM. Since Anne (a gender-neutral name in The Netherlands) recounts some of his publishing history in this post, I will only add that he has also served as book critic for the Dutch internet site Crimezone. We’re very glad that he has made his international debut with an appearance in our current issue! —Janet Hutchings

In July 2017 I was approached through e-mail by a person named Josh Pachter. Never heard of the fellow! He claimed to be a translator for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and that it had been suggested to him that my story “De Dichter Die Zichzelf Opsloot” might be a good prospect for the EQMM. For years I’ve been aware of the existence of EQMM, as I’m an avid short-fiction reader—every day a short story! However, as Pachter’s e-mail address didn’t end with @elleryqueenmysterymagazine.com I began suspecting someone was pulling my leg!

You’ll have to understand that in my country, The Netherlands, I’m a crime author of no importance at all. Although I debuted as M.P.O. Books in 2004, I’ve mostly been ignored by national newspapers and other media. My role in this small country—twice the size of New Jersey—has thus been marginal, perhaps due to the fact that my books are published through very small companies. This is my life as a writer . . . as usual.

To give my career a new impulse I adopted a second pen name in 2017. While as M.P.O. Books I wrote modern police procedurals, with the new pseudonym I decided to focus on my first love, the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, yet in a contemporary setting. I’m a huge fan of the short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, and like them I wanted to write both novels as well as short fiction. As Anne van Doorn my first short detective stories had just been published when Josh Pachter dropped his e-mail in my box. It sounded too good to be true, of course. I had to investigate this fellow!

You don’t have to be a famous writer to receive weird requests. Sometimes these are fun. Like that teenage boy who asked me to help him get in touch with chief inspector Bram Petersen, one of my fictional series characters. The guy wanted to do an internship with the police, hanging out with Petersen and solving crimes! Sometimes the requests are not so innocent. There are always freaks and confused persons around. Here’s a sad example:

One day a friendly, old, but confused lady came to the door with her wheeled walker, asking for Simon Vestdijk, our local celebrity and writer of international repute, nine times on the long list for the Nobel Prize in Literature and Dutch translator of the Sherlock Holmes stories back in the 1940s. She wanted to meet him. I had to inform her Vestdijk had sadly passed away. Naturally she was shocked. In fact, she was so devastated by the news that I daren’t tell her he died decades ago. In fact, before I was even born!

Another example. A one-time literary author sent me a letter, flattering me with regard to my locked-room novel Een Afgesloten Huis, saying the book should have been awarded the Gouden Strop—the Golden Noose, the most important crime-fiction award in The Netherlands and Belgium. This flattery was only an introduction to his weird request. He wanted to write a novel wherein his main character could have sex with the female main character of Een Afgesloten Huis. This weirdo wrote similar letters to other authors of the same publisher. . . In fact, this person is notorious for having harassed female writers for years!

Now, fortunately enough, Josh Pachter didn’t strike me as either weird or confused. But was he a practical joker? Perhaps a fellow countryman posing as an American? His surname is obviously a Dutch one. Pachter is the Dutch word for tenant. After receiving his e-mail I decided to do a background check, discovering that this wasn’t a practical joke at all. Josh Pachter is a well-established author and translator in the U.S.A. And so, the ball started rolling . . .

Josh Pachter read my short story and said: “It’s very well written and would translate smoothly into English.” The latter he did, then offered it to EQMM editor Janet Hutchings for publication. She consented. And now “The Poet Who Locked Himself In” has been published and I’m thrilled! It’s a dream come true. It’s recognition from across the Atlantic Ocean. Recognition that may help me get a foothold in my home country. Incredible! Overjoyed, I took a two-year subscription to EQMM.

My Dutch publisher was smart enough to latch onto the U.S. publication as an opportunity to release a short-story collection entitled De Mysteries van Robbie Corbijn. On the cover is the blurb: “One of these mysteries will be published in the renowned Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine from America.” Review copies and press releases about my American debut were sent to all national newspapers. Perhaps you can predict the result? All of them ignored the book! No one gave me a call, there are no reviews, no interviews, no congratulations. Utter silence!

I guess this means my life goes on. . . as usual!

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5 Responses to “Too Good to Be True?” (by Anne van Doorn)

  1. Barb Goffman says:

    Congratulations on all your success. And a pox on those newspapers who have ignored you!

  2. su says:

    Love this post. Congrats on your story, Anne. I plan to go out this weekend and pick up a copy so I can read it.

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