This inside account of the life and trial of the infamous Dutch criminal Willem Holleeder, written by his sister, was published earlier this month and immediately hit all the bestseller lists in the Netherlands. The author, Astrid Holleeder, is currently in hiding.
Book title: Judas
First published: November 5 by Lebowski Publishers
Acquiring Editor: Oscar van Gelderen
Author: Astrid Holleeder is the sister of the notorious Dutch criminal Willem Holleeder, one of the men who in 1983 kidnapped Alfred Heineken, then the CEO and chairman of the board of the Heineken brewing company. Holleeder is currently on trial for his alleged involvement in six killings. Astrid worked as a lawyer until 2015, when she retired from her job and went into hiding ahead of testifying against her brother. Van Gelderen says, “The book is called Judas because Holleeder is suspected of organizing the killing of his brother-in-law, but also because Astrid feels she betrayed her brother because of her testifying against him." The trial is ongoing.
How It’s Performed: Van Gelderen says, “The book was written and edited in complete secrecy and launched on November 5. We told booksellers two weeks before pub date: 'Just order the book. We cannot tell you what’s it about, nor the name of the author or the title. You will find out when books land at your store.' All major book chains trusted us and ordered big quantities. We shipped a complete print run of 80,000 copies to all major bookstores, and the book sold out within hours.” It landed on the #1 spot of all Dutch bestseller lists. A second print run also sold out, and a third print run is underway. Rights have sold to Politiken in Denmark and its new Swedish imprint, Polaris. Multiples offers have come in from German publishers.
Why They Think It’s Working: The secrecy with which the book was published was important to create awareness and prevent legal actions that may have delayed or prevent its publication. Van Gelderen also says that a 40-minute prime time television special on November 4 helped to launch the book. Astrid was Willem Holleeder’s consigliere and she and her sister secretly recorded him confessing to murdering his brother-in-law. Van Gelderen says the pitch has been: “A true crime book for women. This is the Dutch version of Narcos, told from the perspective of brave women who have dared to stand up to their criminal brother. It’s universal story about family, crime, loyalty, hate – and love.”