Raphaël Styx is dead, but not completely. Ten years after Bavo Dhooge published his book about the corrupt inspector, the crime series with a horror twist can be seen on Streamz. ‘This genre is more difficult in Flanders.’
“I know nothing.” Bavo Dhooge (51) is allowed with his book Styx or supplied the raw material on which the TV series is based, he himself did not see even a second of it. A conscious choice, he says. “I will see the first two episodes at the Ostend film festival and want to discover the rest together with the viewers.”
The core of the book, which was published in 2014, has been preserved in the adaptation into an eight-part series. Styx revolves around the corrupt inspector Raphaël Styx, who is shot dead but continues to live as a kind of zombie and hunts down a serial killer. Meanwhile, he tries to save the furniture at home after years of missteps and too much drink.
“I have been informed that there are some major differences between the book and the series,” says Dhooge. “In the book I took a lot of time to explain Styx’s background. He isn’t shot until around page 75, but in series this all has to happen faster today. That’s right at the beginning. In the book the murderer remains unknown until the end, while in the series you find out in the first episode. A fantasy line has also been deleted, in which Styx walked around Ostend during the Belle Époque.”
Dhooge doesn’t know anything more, because he didn’t read the scenarios. Surprising perhaps, especially when you know that the writer studied Film & Television at the KASK in Ghent. Didn’t you feel the itch to be more closely involved in production? “We agreed on this from the start,” says the writer, who has a cameo as a journalist in the series. “I immediately indicated that I wanted to hand it over and preferred to stay out of it. When the contract with Eyeworks was signed in 2015, I had little desire to dive into it again: reducing 320 pages to eight episodes, new storylines that would be added: I was done with the story.”
“Moreover, I am secretly more of a film lover than a series fan. For me, films are closer to books, especially in terms of structure. A series requires more commitment and is a bit more difficult for me.”
This is also evident when Dhooge writes thrillers, working through a narrative structure that is also used for film scenarios. “I work with a three-act structure and put everything into a schedule in advance. My writing is also more cinematic: I think more visually, so I unconsciously write movie scenes. But I never write anything with a view to a film adaptation. If you do that, it usually doesn’t happen anyway.”
Of Styx So it worked, although it took some patience. Ten years after the book came out, and nine years after production house Eyeworks bought the rights, the time has come. “It took quite some effort to raise the budget and convince channels,” says Dhooge. “In Flanders this genre is more difficult. Zombies evoke very B-movie associations. It is wise that Eyeworks does not use the term, because it is actually more the resurrection of a man than him becoming a zombie.”
In the United States the latter turned out to be no problem at all: soon after the first publication, Dhooge signed a deal with Simon & Schuster for an English translation of Styx. “Actually, the plan was to stop that Santa Monica to do, but when my American agent pitched it Styx heard – zombie cop versus serial killer -, the gun was changed shoulders. The hype about zombies was big at the time, and there was the combination with Ostend, the sea, James Ensor… They thought that was much more exotic than Los Angeles. Only in the end the book didn’t do much.”
Conquering the United States was not (yet) an option, but it was possible Styx the book is once again receiving the necessary attention. The film Want to proved last autumn that this can give a strong boost to sales: a new edition of Jeroen Olyslaegers’ book sold more than 12,000 times. Dhooge hopes for a similar effect now Styx also got a new edition? “I’m fairly level-headed about that. Books like Want to and It melts were already bestsellers before the film adaptation. Styx is more of a cult book and never achieved large print runs.”
Extra sales may also be welcome: the book market has collapsed in recent years. “Until 2016-2017, I still sold 3,000 to 4,000 copies of my thrillers. If I won a prize, it could amount to 10,000 pieces. But the book world is now completely different: there are still few outliers, and the broad midfield to which I belong has also collapsed.”
Although that may also be because Dhooge releases a lot in very different genres. “I met last fall The samurai started a new thriller series and will be released at the end of February SICK,a black comedy. Publishers sometimes asked me why I didn’t start a series as Aspe or created my own box like Herman Brusselmans. But for me, writing is also about self-expression and development. This means that you do not have a fixed audience and that people are surprised. But most of all I want to keep surprising myself. If I kept writing books in the same genre, using the same formula, I might have stopped already.”
The first two episodes will be available on Streamz from February 2, followed by a new episode every Friday.