Yesterday saw the launch of the latest in a long line of thrillers by one of Belgium’s top-selling authors, Pieter Haspeslag, who publishes under the near-pseudonym of Pieter Aspe.
However there was more than one thing unusual about the event. Aspe died in May this year, following a long lung illness. The new book is a continuation of the series featuring chief inspector Pieter Van In, the fifth in what was originally planned to be a series of ten novels.
In addition to that, Aspe wrote eight other novels including two for children, as well as collaborating on six strip albums. His Van In works were produced for VRT television.
In 2010 he was awarded the prestigious Hercule Poirot lifetime achievement prize for his collected oeuvre.
The ceremony took place in the Gothic Hall of the Bruges town hall. “A lot of his stories took place here," said his partner, Tamara Hangeraf.
"But this is also the place where we got married. This is where it started for us and here we end it."
The first 25,000 printed copies of the book will contain a special memento, suitably grisly, of the author. Aspe’s ashes have been worked into the ink with which the books are printed, one of the only occasions where readers are able to take part of the author home with them.
"He himself wanted it that way," Hangeraf said. “He thought that was a nice keepsake for his fans, almost literally, to leave a piece of himself for them.”
The ceremony was followed by a visit to the Holy Blood chapel on the same square as the City Hall, where Aspe had served for a time as conciërge, as well as other locations in the city with which he had a link.
Later, about 60 people gathered for a reception, all of whom had worked in one way or another on the Aspe series on VTM.