Choke Valley

De Bezige Bij. 31st October 2013

21 August 1986: in the evening, at new moon, all life in a valley in north-west Cameroon is wiped out. Chickens, baboons, zebus and birds drop dead in the grass – as do two thousand men, women and children. There is no material damage: huts and palm trees are intact.

These are the facts. But what happened?

Choke Valley deconstructs every single aspect of this mysterious mass death. In his customary, evocative style, Frank Westerman looks at the same event from three different angles. He guides the reader through the jungle of stories that has emerged from the compost of facts in the space of twenty-five years.

What words and images have attached themselves to the facts and how have they developed into new myths?

How do stories come into being?


Hardcover, with dust jacket. 320 pages, two maps. Swedish, Italian, French, Spanish and Croatian rights sold. Rights managers: Marijke Nagtegaal & Uta Matten

m.nagtegaal(at) &

Frank's first new book at Publishing House Bezige Bij. ISBN 9023478657


De Groene Amsterdammer

'With Choke Valley Frank Westerman has gold in his hands. He shows how myths work, how they come to lie on top of facts, how they push the truth aside. He allowed the facts to ripen for twenty-seven years before making a very tasty cocktail out of them in Choke Valley. You read it avidly from beginning to end.'


‘In Choke Valley Frank Westerman movingly shares his astonishment at what happened in the “valley of death”. The result: a thrilling whodunit. He peels away at his subject layer by layer. Westerman enthrals, entertains and makes the reader a good deal wiser.'

De Gelderlander

‘Frank Westerman is an author who has single-handedly shown that there is no difference at all between the novel and the “true story”. In his latest book Choke Valley he demonstrates that he is at the very top of what in this country is called literary non-fiction. Compelling.'

De Tijd

‘With Choke Valley Frank Westerman has achieved his goal: he meticulously conveys the way stories burgeon and mature. And perhaps the wild stories about the Nyos disaster will one day crystallize into a new myth. By writing a thoroughly engaging book about it, Westerman has turned his readers into eye-witnesses.'

Bert Wagendorp in de Volkskrant:

Choke Valley is the seventh jewel in Frank Westerman’s crown; a great European author, a writer of literature.'

NRC Handelsblad

‘Each and every one of the stories Westerman digs up is brilliant. Choke Valley is a real success as a book. The search for and gathering together of stories was an excellent plan that has been very well executed. Enthusiasm is paramount.’ * * * * 

Hans Renders in Het Parool

Choke Valley is a non-fiction book that does not need the qualification ‘literary’ for it to be considered ‘impressive’. The real ambition of the author is to ponder the facts and reconstruct how, over the course of time, they become a story. It is beautifully done. Here the concept of ‘literary non-fiction’ acquires its true meaning.’ * * * * 

De Standaard

‘Rhetorical art, the author writes, is managing to make the conversion of one thing into another like a homerun. In Choke Valley Westerman proves himself an outstanding batter.’ - De Standaard der Letteren.

Frank about Choke Valley in two minutes

Lake Nyos - Grassfields - Cameroon

Like the eye of a hurricane, the brown mass of water between the green hills covered in elephant grass is the focal point of Frank's new book Choke Valley. The valley of death, still out of bounds to this day, is not visible from this point; it lays two hundred meters further in the background.