And get this: He dedicated his book Ik Jan Cremer thus: For Jan Cremer and Jayne Mansfield. About which he said to Jules Farber, in Holland Herald, It was the era when Jayne, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell were the big American sex symbols. For me, Mansfield was it – the voluptuous contemporary. Rubens woman.’ To coincide with the publication of I Jan Cremer in America, his New York agent arranged a meeting between Jayne and Jan for a publicity photo. ‘And wham! We went to South America for six months…and then we lived in Hollywood for another half year. Jayne introduced me to everyone as her future husband.’ And this isn’t  hype or a boast.

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My first awareness of Jan Cremer came on the very second day of my first arrival in Holland in the summer of 1965. I was offered a summer internship by Drukerij Bosch in Utrecht. The printing plant specialized in producing paperbacks. I come from a family of pioneers in paperback publishing in India. And I loved books. To see all those many books piled high on their pallets all across the plant was for me like the kid let loose in a candy store. Among the piles, the biggest one was what looked like an unassuming book titled Ik Jan Cremer. A very simple black and white cover with the image of a menacing looking young man dressed in an all out denim outfit, perched atop a motorbike, his gloves clad hands gripping the wide handlebars, his head covered also with the denim version of the Dutch fisherman’s hat, complete with biker’s goggles, looking tough in the image of James Dean, the bike moving  dangerously towards you, as if to run you over.

What I realized over a period of time was that Bosch had devoted one printing press exclusively to printing nothing but Ik Jan Cremer, day in and day out. Published just a year earlier, the book was now in its fourth printing and there was no end in sight, because they couldn’t print and bind them fast enough to fill the shelves from where they immediately flew off. A month later, I was assigned a statistical project to track the sales of the paperbacks published and sold in various markets . When I returned to resume my internship during the Christmas break, Ik Jan Cremer, as months earlier, hadn’t budged from its # 1 spot on the Dutch bestseller list.  The same press still devoted to printing those same pages. The only difference was an appearance on the cover of a wide red band across the upper left hand corner screaming BESTSELLER and a bit lower, a round, larger than a postal stamp like image saying 300,000 copies sold, 350,000 copies sold, the numbers climbing with every subsequent printings.  When I ran into him quite by an accident in the summer of 1983, the book was translated into thirty some languages and it was still going strong in Holland after almost twenty years of its publication, with forty plus printings and sales of more than 800,000 copies in Dutch only.

It was the most controversial book of the time, and everybody – everybody was talking about it. And I also remembered how I wished I could read Dutch. But I had to make do with merely touching and feeling the bound volumes every time I passed by the pallets piling higher and higher.  As if touching it would make its contents instantly understandable to me.

It came out in its English translation only a year later, but  once back in England and buried into my studies and figuring out my future, I never got around to reading it until the summer of 1978, when quite by an accident, I ran into I Jan Cremer while browsing the used bookstore in the shopping mall near my home in Goleta, California. By then, there was also Jan Cremer Writes Again. I bought both and devoured them like a famished  dog.

I was taken by his vivid descriptions of growing up during the second world war, the raw sex and the harshness of the post-war European life and the angry forcefulness of his narration had me spellbound and had left an everlasting impression on me.

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