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The Bulletin at 60: Thriller writer Jeremy Duns enjoyed “digging deep” into Belgian life during his Bulletin years
I’d lived in Brussels for a while when I started at The Bulletin, and had read the magazine avidly when looking for temping jobs and trying to make sense of this strange country I had moved to. It was a great place to work, both in terms of the colleagues I had but also in the freedom to develop ideas.
The challenge was to find new topics to write about, and the editor, Brigid, encouraged editorial staff to constantly be on the lookout for story ideas: anything you saw, read, or experienced was potentially an article. This meant I ended up writing about a huge range of topics: I might interview a hat designer one week and the man who had arrested Nazi Joachim von Ribbentrop after World War Two the next.
It was a close-knit team, and we were all intent on digging as deep as we could into Belgium. I think my time there has stood me in good stead over my subsequent career in writing and editing, both in terms of how to make stories appealing to readers and in learning how to follow my instincts.
My leaving gift from colleagues, a mock-up cover with me photoshopped as a comically brooding James Bond, still has pride of place in my study. The Bulletin has long occupied a very special place in Belgian cultural life, and I wish it every success in the coming years.
One of my favourite pieces was an interview with Jean-Claude Van Damme that took about nine months to set up. The story that got away was Madonna in Aalbeke! She was a backing dancer for disco sensation Patrick Hernandez and allegedly sang backing vocals on his hit Born To Be Alive. Rumour also had it that she briefly lived in Aalbeke with Hernandez while on the tour. I always meant to go and find out more…
Jeremy Duns is the author of Dead Drop: The True Story of Oleg Penkovsky and the Cold War’s Most Dangerous Operation, and the spy novels Free Agent, Song Of Treason, The Moscow Option and Spy Out The Land. His journalism has been published in The Guardian, The Independent, The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Times, and he was The Times’ thriller critic. He lives in the Åland islands between Sweden and Finland.