Nicolas Freeling dropped out of university and wanted to become a writer. He traveled around France and Britain, working in restaurants, and discovered he had a talent for cooking. In 1959, while working as a chef in Amsterdam, a brief stint in prison for theft led Freeling to start writing a detective story that became his first Inspector Van der Valk novel, published in 1962. After killing Van der Valk off in 1972, he launched the Castang series about a provincial French detective inspector. He also wrote stand-alone novels and other books. Over the years, Freeling won the three most prestigious awards for crime writing, the Grand Prix de Roman Policier, the Edgar Allan Poe Award and the British Crime Writers' Golden Dagger, but many consider his novels to be mainstream literature.