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. Later he is heavily wounded by a German grenade; half his face will have to be hidden behind a mask. At roughly the same moment 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 Swanee. Expectations and illusions grow, but through betrayal and self-deception their lives spin out of control, as they learn that the war veteran has more to hide than his mutilated face. Intriguing, tense and very well constructed, this novel will be talked about. Cocaine and war, love and vengeance, The Cocaine Salesman is an unparalleled novel based on historical events.
Conny Braam helped set up and led the Dutch Anti-Apartheid Movement for many years. Her books include Operatie Vula, De Bokkeslachter and Zwavel, a trilogy of novels about the Abraham Abraham.
Translated by Jonathan Redeer.