(DE HANDELSREIZIGER VAN DE NEDERLANDSCHE COCAINE FABRIEK)
On 31st July 1917 the 26-year-old Englishman Robin Ryder climbs out of a trench on the Flanders battlefields and charges recklessly towards the German artillery. Three days later he is heavily wounded by a German grenade; half his face will have to be hidden behind a mask from now on.
At roughly the same moment his contemporary Lucien Hirschland, travelling salesman for the flourishing Nederlandsche Cocaine Fabriek, brings in a big order from an English pharmaceutical company. Soon after this he closes a deal with a buyer for the German army. From his profits he treats himself to a much-longed-for Harley Davidson.
When the war ends, extraordinary circumstances find Ryder living in the Hirschland family home where he is lovingly welcomed by Lucien’s younger sister Swaantje. Expectations and illusions grow, but through betrayal and self-deception their lives spin out of control, because the war veteran has more to hide than his mutilated face.
Intriguing, tense and very well constructed, this novel will most definitely be talked about. About cocaine and war, love and vengeance, THE COCAINE SALESMAN is an unparalleled novel based on true events.
'It's a relief that Conny Braam has uncovered this historical detail and filled in all the gaps in her fiction. She succeeds in not just opening our eyes to an unexpected part of that war's history, and hence our medicinal heritage, but in providing literature with one of a select band, that of sympathetic drug dealers. Used to huge, sweeping deals that earn him a brand new Harley Davidson with little investment, his hubris is evident, but only one side of his well-formed character. And the book is certainly not just his story, as Ryder is similarly very strongly written... I wish it a large audience.' Bookbag; Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
'If you want a long saga about a sympathetic drug dealer, then this is probably the one. Lucien Hirschland is working in neutral Holland during the First World War, as a salesman for a company with a near-monopoly on providing cocaine for the troops of both sides to take as a painkiller. We also meet one of those forces, Robin Ryder, fresh from working as a teacher in Great Yarmouth and scarred mentally and physically by being in his first action. The state-sanctioned drugs dealing is a great backdrop to what works as an intimate, intriguing narrative. The drama of the trenches and the effects of the drug on Robin and others is portrayed very eloquently; the whole has a masculine force that you might not expect if you know that Braam is a female novelist. By the time the story plays out, some distance from where it began on Flanders fields, one has certainly got to know Lucien and Robin very closely. They are both fully-rounded characters that will stay in the mind, courtesy too of the strong plot and unique circumstance of the history behind this novel.' The Bookseller
‘A book full of suspense with romance running through it, a tribute to all the research done beforehand. We thoroughly enjoyed the novel, also all the facts it brings to light.' Paul Witteman and Jeroen Pauw, Pauw & Witteman (top Dutch book/chat show)
‘Fascinating novel based on the extraordinary fact that the Netherlands once had largest legal cocaine factory in the world.' Esta
'A moral adventure tale, in which the cocaine issue is looked at from various angles. Braam has a fresh, enthusiastic way of telling a story, that makes one continually curious about what happens next. This keeps De Handelsreiziger gripping till the last page.’ NRC Handelsblad
‘This novel shows great skill.****’ Algemeen Dagblad
‘A plot driven novel, an eye-opener on the two-faced role a Dutch company played with the government’s knowledge during the war.’ De Telegraaf
‘The power lies in the convincing characters and the bringing to life of the period’. Nederlands Dagblad
’A real Braam, fluently written and full of suspense.’ Tribune
‘Hats off to Conny Braam.’ BOEK
‘Braam very cleverly shows the two sides of the coin.’ Jan
‘The Travelling Salesman of the Dutch Cocaine Factory takes place in an interesting time period, tells a dramatic story in which the vividly drawn characters are caught up, and touches on the more controversial sides of the Dutch spirit of trade. It is an entertaining novel, gripping to the very last page.’ HP/De Tijd
’A surprising novel, based on a little known aspect of the Great War.’ Het belang van Limburg Magazine
'An addictive, intelligent and powerful written novel.' Happinez
'An exciting and debate-provoking novel.' Denken en Doen
'An intelligent book with many levels and story-lines, that compliment and add to each other effortlessly. And it is exciting too. Rating: ****.' derecensie.nl
Uitgeverij Nieuw Amsterdam NL
Material: Dutch edition (416pp); English edition (440pp).