Is having your book made into a film sort of letting go of it?
By no means. A book is a book, and a film is a film. You must accept that director and author see themes and facts differently, and that the former will make his film around that. In the book The Alzheimer Case, I spend a lot of time describing the political background to my story. That would slow the film down, paralyse the action. Which isn’t good. I remember this interview with Robert Redford, in which he referred to filming as ‘action, action and more action’. I couldn’t agree more. A story needs pace, and modern people are no longer prepared to be sidetracked by sub-intrigues. Books are a different medium. I know better than to interfere with a director’s approach. It’s a different ballgame altogether.

Are Vincke and Verstuyft based on actual policemen that you knew?
No. My characters are not stereotypical, they are unusual. Eric Vincke, for example, lives in a beautiful villa and has a wife who makes lots of money. He loves his little luxuries and, against the rules, he wears nice suits. He went to a Jesuit school and is an intellectual. His work with the police is like a holiday for him. He approaches suspects psychologically, without ever raising his voice. He’s a spot and study man.

My personal experience in the Congo (a former Belgian colony) taught me how these things are done. Vincke goes about things the way I used to. I would memorize a suspect’s answer and, hours later, fire the same question at him, to see if he comes up with the same answer. Liars invariably give themselves away. It’s a classic trick.

Verstuyft, on the other hand, is the rough type who will put his shoulder to a door and get the search warrant later. While writing my Vincke and Verstuyft novels, I often contacted the judicial police and the Special Branch. They gave me all the information I needed, quite openly, without restrictions. Anyone who reads my novels knows: this is the real thing. I invent nothing. Why should I? It’s interesting enough as it is. Reality is stranger than fiction. If I did invent stuff, attentive readers would go: there’s something wrong here. Write about things the way they are, and the reader doesn’t get that feeling.

When you came on the set, did you recognize Vincke and Verstuyft in actors Koen De Bouw and Werner De Smedt?
Koen De Bouw looks a little bit like the Vincke I had in mind. Werner De Smedt nowhere near physically resembles my Verstuyft. To me, he’s a hulk of a man, a right-wing dog, the grandson of a collaborator, a law-and-order guy. I was pleasantly surprised by Jan Decleir as Ledda. Every time I visited the set, I went home a happy man. Everybody around me was nervous, things were being repeated endlessly, but I had a ball. You know, I sold the rights to the book in 1989, which I’d almost forgotten when producer Erwin Provoost rang me to tell me that the project was actually going ahead. Once things got going, it just snowballed.

Do you find it hard to write?
I prefer anything to writing. I hate writing, because I’m lazy and because I don’t have an angel sitting on my shoulder, holding my pen. I don’t believe in inspiration. Once I’m in gear, I’m fine, since I’ve actually got the entire book in my head. Writing it out means making it interesting for the reader, making sure he doesn’t fall asleep. Thank God each book is different. I may be lazy, but I do take my work seriously.

What seems to be the appeal of the crime genre?
For most of us, thank God, crime is totally out of reach. Somehow, it fascinates people who wouldn’t dream of ever going that far themselves. I myself am fascinated by the strange bond that can develop between policemen and real, vicious murderers. They somehow relate to each other. I recognize that, I’ve got it too.