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Cowboy and detective series Arendsoog turns 75 this year
Author’s story line continued by son
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
THE HAGUE – Dutch elementary school principal Jan Nowee, who extensively wrote about the life of Arizona cowboy Arendsoog (an alias for white settler Bob Stanhope), his horse Lightfeet, and his helper and native companion Witte Veder (White Feather), was never awarded a prize by his peers for his work. The series, which was continued by Nowee’s son Paul, sold millions of copies in the Netherlands. Arendsoog turned 75 this year.
The series of 63 titles describe the never-ending crusade by Arendsoog and Witte Veder to bring robbers, cattle rustlers and murderers to justice. They began their task in answer to the brutal murder of his father, after which Arendsoog and his sister Ann along with their mother were left to fend for themselves on the S ranch. From that time onwards, Arizona’s shady characters continually look over their shoulders fearing that Arendsoog and Witte Verder will cross their paths.
Nowee, who had written educational material for the Dutch Roman Catholic schools and who also assisted in a library, had serious concerns about the moral flavour of the very popular Karl May series about Old Shatterhand and Winnetou, which he deemed unsuitable for young children.
Fearing criticism from his publisher Spaarnestad, Jan Nowee submitted his first Arendsoog manuscript to the Council for Roman Catholic Youth Literature for clearance before submitting it. Spaarnestad judged that the book contained far too many gun battles for it to be edifying to young readers. The publisher also thought that Jan Nowee wanted too much money for the manuscript, balking at the fee of 250 guilders.
Whether Spaarnestad regretted its reluctance is not noted but it is certain that book publisher Malmberg in Den Bosch fared very well with the series, selling over 5 million copies over the years. In 1936 Malmberg published the second Arendsoog title but had to wait till 1949 for the third one. From then on, Nowee saw the pace accelerated so much that by 1958, nineteen volumes had hit the book stores.
Jan Nowee tested his stories first on his students, a practice he had started for his serial installments in the magazine Roomsche Jeugd. His students craved more. As well, Jan Nowee had discovered that children would go to the St Vincentius library to read books, especially cowboy books and detective stories.
When Jan Nowee became seriously ill at the age of 57 and died shortly after of lung cancer, volume 20 was only partially finished and ended in mid sentence. The publisher was eager to have it finished, a task that Nowee's son Paul, a 23-year old journalist, took on with some hesitation. He had two people critique the manuscript, both of whom admitted they had been unable to tell where junior had taken over from his father. Over the years, Paul gradually changed Bob Stanhope/Arendsoog from a cowboy into a detective. In 1993, Paul Nowee had completed 43 volumes of his own when he too died at age 57.
Family historian and grandson Jack Nowee is, as one of the organizers of the Arendsoog Fan Day, active in the promotion of the Arendsoog legacy. The Arendsoog characters also have a following in the German market (15 volumes) and the Swedish market (20 volumes). Some were translated in Finnish and Italian as well.