In these days of brisk author biographies, it's a pleasure to discover the - presumably self-composed - details of Janwillem van de Wetering published in his Soho Crime works. Born in Rotterdam in 1931, we're informed, the writer studied 'Zen in Daitoku-ji monastery, Kyoto, and philosophy in London, and has lived as well in Amsterdam, Cornwall, Cape Town, Bogota, Lima and Brisbane.'
There's a reassurance as to the books' provenance: 'His Amsterdam Cops series that features Adjutant Grijpstra and Sergeant de Gier... was conceived when the author served with the Amsterdam Reserve Constabulary.' And fun, too: 'His joys are an ongoing study of nihilism, keeping a wooden lobster boat afloat and getting older.'
Georges Simenon's biographies on the back of old Penguins also acknowledge the great crime writer's boating activities: 'He has travelled all over the world, and at one time lived in a cutter, with his wife as second-in-command, making long journeys of exploration round the coasts of northern Europe.' I particularly like the line: 'His recreations are riding, fishing and golf.'
My favourite biography, however, has to be that for Giovanni Guareschi (again in Penguin); 'His father had a heavy black moustache under his nose: Giovanni grew one just like it. He still has it and is proud of it. He is not bald, has written eight books, and is five feet ten inches tall.
'"I also have a brother," Guareschi says, adding "but I prefer not to discuss him. And I have a motorcycle with four cylinders, an automobile with six cylinders, and a wife and two children."' Now don't you want to read his Don Camillo series of books? You should!