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‘The best piece of writerly advice? Never give up.’ – Q and A with David Gilman

Published in the Sunday Times

The Last HorsemanThe Last Horseman
David Gilman (Head of Zeus)

What books are on your bedside table?
My House in Damascus by Diana Darke, Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz, A Single Swallow by Horatio Clare, A Hero of France by Alan Furst, and Woman of the Dead by Bernhard Aichner.

The last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?
The late, great Tom Sharpe was always guaranteed to make me laugh. So too, Joseph Heller and his Catch 22.

Which book changed your life?
No one book has done that. But George MacDonald Fraser (Flashman, in particular) has been a constant companion and cannot be bettered. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood made a strong impression, as did Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song.

What keeps you awake at night?
The current book I’m writing, and thinking about the one that I am not.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
Dickens and Beethoven.

What is the best piece of writerly advice you have received?
Never give up – from my father when I was a boy, but it has served me well.

Do you keep a diary?
No, but there’s a visual record fairly well lodged in my mind.

What novel would you give a child to introduce them to literature?
I have never subscribed to the idea that books should be age-related. I would take them to a library and let them choose.

What phrases do you overuse?
I’ve no idea/Haven’t got a clue. (These being the phrases.)

What are you working on next?
Two or three things are bubbling along. More historical fiction, a crime/thriller novel and a novel set in World War II.

Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Why?
Nonfiction fascinates me. It plays a big part in my life because of my research, but to read a well-written work of fiction is a joy.

Book details

Book bites: 23 October 2016

Published in the Sunday Times

I Shot the BuddhaI Shot The Buddha
Colin Cotterill (Soho Press)
Book Mystery
This is the 11th novel featuring Dr Siri Paiboun, now retired as the best (and often only) coroner in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. A Buddhist monk disappears. He was sheltered by Siri and his wife, Madame Daeng. He left a note asking them to smuggle a fellow monk back across the Mekong River to Thailand. The pair soon find themselves not only investigating the monk’s disappearance, but also a trio of murders that took place on a single night in 1979. A whodunit with a slight supernatural twist, I Shot The Buddha shines in its wit and its multifaceted characters, set against a backdrop of the conflict between communism and spirituality. – Andrew Salomon

The Bone SparrowThe Bone Sparrow
Zana Fraillion (Orion)
Book monster
Madeleine L’Engle said: “If the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” This is what Zana Fraillion has done with her heart-shredding tale of Subhi, a Rohingya refugee who lives in an Australian immigration detention centre. This young storyteller and his sidekick, a Shakespearian rubber duck, take readers into the camp where hope is a scarcity and residents yearn to be visible to a society that would prefer to forget they exist. His only connection to the outside world is Jimmie, a motherless girl, who lives on the other side of the fence. Together, through their shared love of stories, a friendship is born. A must-read for all ages. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

How To Sound CulturedHow To Sound Cultured: Master the 250 Names that Intellectuals Love To Drop Into Conversation
Hubert van den Bergh & Thomas W Hodgkinson (Icon)
Book brain
Hodgkinson recently wrote in a Telegraph piece that he and his co-author had only two rules when compiling the list of philosophers, scientists, poets and artists included in this book: the first was that each name had to be one that was bandied about by intellectual show-offs and the second was that it had to be one that made one feel personally insecure because we either knew nothing about the person or because we were aware that we ought to know a little bit more. These short, punchy bios are not only unusual bits of info but are also downright funny. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

The One ManThe One Man
Andrew Gross (Pan Macmillan)
Book thrill
The Nazis, the Holocaust, and the race to develop the atom bomb are subjects that never get tired: this well-researched action adventure combines all three. Despite co-authoring five books with James Patterson, Andrew Gross is a good writer, and this story is close to his religious and cultural roots. The US sends a spy to infiltrate Auschwitz and rescue a Jewish scientist, the one man with the knowledge the Manhattan Project desperately needs. Ranging from chess to electromagnetic physics and romance, with great escapes and a couple of exciting twists in between, The One Man is the perfect distraction, and not just for World War II buffs. – Aubrey Paton

Book details

‘We are each the narrators of our own truth’ – Read Craig Higginson’s 2015/16 University of Johannesburg Prize acceptance speech

Craig Higginson, Eliza Kentridge and Nkosinathi Sithole win the 2015/16 University of Johannesburg Prizes
The Dream HouseSigns for an ExhibitionHunger Eats a Man

Craig Higginson, Eliza Kentridge and Nkosinathi Sithole were recently awarded their University of Johannesburg Prizes at a ceremony at the university’s Bunting Road Campus in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.

The R75 000 UJ Prize is awarded to the writer of the best South African work in English published in the previous calendar year, while the R30 000 Debut Prize is awarded to the best debut South African English work in the same time period.

Higginson won the Main Prize for his third novel, The Dream House, while Kentridge and Sithole shared the Debut Prize for her poetry collection Signs for an Exhibition and his novel Hunger Eats a Man.


Higginson has kindly shared his eloquent acceptance speech with Books LIVE:

* * * * *

I was recently struck by this quote from Tennessee Williams:

We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.

Talk of love often feels sentimental and ineffectual – especially in the context of a burning house. What we should probably save first from a burning house is our spouse, our children, our pets (with the possible exception of the hamsters), and (in the days we wrote letters and printed photographs) our letters and our photographs. In other words, our computers.

But where does love reside if not in our family and our repositories of memory? These are some of the things that make us human. When we live in a perpetually burning building, what we need to save from it, time and time again, is our humanity.

Our humanity is not a constant. It is something we earn. When someone drives a truck into a crowd of children and their parents who are looking at fireworks by the sea – that is a moment when someone of the human race has set aside what we might call their humanity – and decided on a different path, where everything that every generation since the beginning of time has worked towards – wherever they might have lived in the world – is set aside and we become not as bad as animals but worse than animals – for no animal behaves as we do when we are at our worst.

And the problem is that we are never at our best – or never for long. We humans are incapable of sustaining anything. Perhaps we are best defined by our laziness, our complacency. Perpetually, we have to refresh ourselves. Love has to be looked for and regained – if neglected or taken for granted, it soon fades away again. We have to work in order to retain our humanity. Iris Murdoch said we are the only animals that create a picture of what we want to be and then try to become it.

What picture do we want to move towards? Because in choosing a picture for ourselves, we are also choosing a picture for the world – we are giving life to a vision that does not yet exist, and will probably never exist – but in that work towards some form of redemption or home, we discover ourselves – what we are capable of – what a miracle a single life can become.

And that is what Tennessee Williams means by love, I think.

This is also why I continue to write. Not because I have an abundance of love to offer the world. Often, it feels like the opposite. I feel dejected, disillusioned, disappointed with myself, my country, the direction of our humanity.

I have to work hard to regain that path towards hope, and one way I do it is through the fictions I write – the imagined lands that do not yet exist, and will never exist, but that might – at their best – help us to see ourselves and our potential more clearly and urgently.

At the moment our world feels particularly frightening – whether it is in this campus or in the campus next door, where thousands of young people are feeling impotent, incoherent, full of rage – at their worst – and full of hope, courage and righteousness – at their best. Because both are true – both impulses are competing at present. If we look a bit further into the heart of our country, there are further reasons to fear, to recoil from what we have become. And of course we are also in the middle of a third world war – a war that nurtures the idea of terror, a war that seems to dance only to the sound of hate.

For me good writing has always been an activity that goes in the opposite direction of hate. And that is why literature is difficult to achieve. Our worst impulses want to drag us well away from it. We like to hate, we like to fear – because then (being the lazy, complacent creatures we are), we can respond with unambiguous action. The world suddenly appears simpler, more manageable. We can draw lines in this direction and that – and, as Susan Sontag said somewhere, drawing lines can be an act of violence.

But in the end writers are no different from anyone else. We are each the narrators of our own truth – or our own failure. Right now each of us – and each of our stories about ourselves and each other – is being tested. What kinds of storytellers would we like to become? What stories would we like to leave in our wake?

Literature remains to show us how language – and the pictures it creates – can be used as an instrument for restoring hope, for finding grace in the least likely of places.

We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must rescue from it, time and again, is love. And yes – that definitely includes the hamsters.

I am honoured to be receiving this award. I’d like to congratulate Nkosinathi and Eliza – and feel proud to be standing with them today.

I would like to thank my wife Leila for tracking me down in each of my burning buildings – whether they be real or imaginary.

And thanks also to my PhD supervisor Michael Titlestad, my editor Alison Lowry, my publishers Terry Morris and Andrea Nattrass – and to everyone at Pan Macmillan for continuing to carve out places for hope.

Finally, I would also like to extend my gratitude to the University of Johannesburg and the judges of this award.

University is where I first came up with the unlikely idea of myself as a writer and started to write. At the age of 19, I decided I would be an artist for the rest of my life.

Universities are dream houses – places for dreaming. Let’s hope we can imagine a country where each of us has the opportunity to arrive at themselves, as I did, and know the place for the first time.

* * * * *

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Book details

Arresting accounts: Andrew Brown and Paul McNally discuss their books Good Cop, Bad Cop and The Street

Published in the Sunday Times

Arresting accounts: Andrew Brown and Paul McNally discuss their books Good Cop, Bad Cop and The Street
The StreetGood Cop, Bad Cop


In our latest “aeroplane conversation”, Andrew Brown and Paul McNally discuss their books about bribery, honesty and hardship in the police service:

Brown: How fortuitous is this, Paul? To end up sitting next to you on this plane, me flying to Johannesburg with the usual trepidation, you fleeing the sleepy Mother City to return home. I’ve just finished The Street – great book, congratulations. An important book, I think. Interesting – and difficult – for me as a cop to read this perspective on corruption in the police. Do you feel the research confirmed existing fears you already harboured? Did you go out looking for – or anticipating – this story?

McNally: Thanks very much. Even though I discovered a range of corrupt relationships between the police and drug dealers in Johannesburg, writing the book and interviewing police officers in their homes made me incredibly sympathetic towards them. The conditions and lives we force on our police is astoundingly horrid. I set out to write about corruption, but found stories of how everyday South Africans are pushed into a world of drugs and murder and how they are forced to adapt and survive. I’ve just finished reading your book, Good Cop Bad Cop, which I loved. I was fascinated by how you balanced your duties as a police reservist with those of a suburban father. In The Street I found people really battling to reconcile a mission of fighting against crime and personal goals, and yet you seem to have managed it. Tell me more?

Brown: One of the chapters in the book is titled “Schizophrenia” and that is really what it feels like sometimes. The chapter describes me saying goodbye to my 20-year-old son as I go on duty – all kitted out in bullet-proof vest and heavy boots – and his habitual refrain, “Don’t get shot, dad.” It hits my heart every time, week after week. You never get used to it. I think he knows that, he wants me to be awake, to be conscious about what it is I am going into. And all around the country, every evening, every morning, hundreds of policemen and women are bidding their children farewell and getting the same poignant reply. Most of them will come home. But not all. And it takes its toll. You describe that in The Street – policemen like Khaba, trying to do the right thing, trying to stay sane, trying to keep the moral compass working.

McNally: Khaba was the officer who brought me into this world of watching the police and the bribes they receive from the drug dealers. For my first visit with Khaba he was “leaking” – he wanted to speak to someone about what he was seeing in the police. Khaba was on the run from KwaZulu-Natal for trying to prosecute two of his colleagues for torture. They threatened to burn his house down when he said he would talk. And when he fled to Joburg he was forced to live in the police barracks for his own protection. He lived in a single room not much larger than a double bed. His meticulous scrubbing with bleach of his tiny room and the sharp creases of his running shorts revealed Khaba as a proud man whose poor financial state didn’t sit well with him. He believed his poverty was a sign of him being clean and not taking bribes. He would tell me there were colleagues of his in the force who were swarming around, hungry to collect their bribes. He believed himself to be different from these men. He was offered bribes himself every day, but a more powerful draw was the opportunity to expose colleagues — and this could directly endanger him. I wanted to know how you stay motivated as a reservist when the police are so corrupted?

Brown: I think your book was challenging for me because my view of the police is not of an institution that is inherently corrupt, and you painted a picture that was unsettling. I struggle with senior police management who seem sometimes to have no structured plan, and with political interference in policy and decision-making. But on the ground, working where I do, I don’t see corruption as endemic. Maybe I am naïve, or just lucky, but I have never seen one of my colleagues take a bribe. I have been offered bribes many times – the drunk middle class are quick to offer their wallets. I was offered a considerable bribe by a drug dealer once – he had a lot of cocaine on him! I don’t know if the area you were working in was particularly bad, or if you were looking for it harder than I do (although it did seem to be pretty blatant). I was hoping that you had just picked the rotten part of the apple. But I fear that your depiction may not be inaccurate and that the problem is getting worse. What is your sense of that?

McNally: I am encouraged to hear that you have never seen anyone take a bribe, but I can assure you that Ontdekkers where The Street is set isn’t the only patch where cops and drug dealers have a financial understanding. What was most fascinating for me was how residents are asked to choose where they stand on a daily basis. And they feel that the more they protest against the police, the more likely they aren’t going to receive support and protection from the cops when they truly need it.


Book details

Paul Beatty wins 2016 Man Booker Prize for The Sellout – the first American author to take the award

Alert! Paul Beatty has won the 2016 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sellout.

The Sellout is published by small independent publisher Oneworld, who won their first Booker last year with Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings.

Beatty, 54, is the first American author to win the prize in its 48-year history, after US authors became eligible in 2014.


From the Man Booker:

The book is narrated by African-American ‘Bonbon’, a resident of the run-down town of Dickens in Los Angeles county, which has been removed from the map to save California from embarrassment. Bonbon is being tried in the Supreme Court for attempting to reinstitute slavery and segregation in the local high school as means of bringing about civic order. What follows is a retrospective of this whirlwind scheme, populated by cartoonish characters who serve to parody racial stereotypes. The framework of institutional racism and the unjust shooting of Bonbon’s father at the hands of police are particularly topical.

2016 Chair of judges Amanda Foreman said: “The Sellout is a novel for our times. A tirelessly inventive modern satire, its humour disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.”

Foreman was joined on the 2016 panel of judges by Jon Day, Abdulrazak Gurnah, David Harsent and Olivia Williams. 155 books were considered for this year’s prize.

Beatty wins £50,000 and a trophy, as well as a designer bound edition of his book and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted.

He can also expect a spike in sales. Last year’s winning novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, went on to sell over 360,000 copies in the UK and Commonwealth, as well as 120,000 copies in the US.

The 2016 Man Booker Prize shortlist of six novels

The SelloutHot MilkHis Bloody ProjectEileenAll That Man IsDo Not Say We Have Nothing



Related news:


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Are publishers afraid of new ideas? Margaret von Klemperer examines the trend of updating Jane Austen and Shakespeare

By Margaret von Klemperer for The Witness

EligibleWhat is happening to creative imagination? Killed off by a push for profit? These questions are prompted by the arrival on my desk of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible for review. I’ve been looking forward to this – Sittenfeld’s American Wife was a terrific book – and with Eligible, she has been persuaded to join in Harper Collins’s Austen Project.

I thought she might rescue one of the silliest ideas to come from a publishing house in recent years – not as daft as adult colouring-in, but close. The plan was for bestselling writers to “update” Jane Austen’s novels into a contemporary setting, keeping the basic plot. First was Joanna Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility (the ampersand to distinguish it from Austen’s version, not that anyone was likely to confuse the two). She could have been a good choice, but she lacked Austen’s delicate sense of irony.

Then we had Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma. I was never going to be easy to convince as this is my favourite Austen, and it was a thumping dud. The plot, which worked in the early 19th Century is disastrously wrong for the 21st, and McCall Smith’s central character is irredeemably nasty in a way Austen’s never is. Val McDermid’s take on Northanger Abbey was harmless but unmemorable. Comedy of manners is tricky when manners have changed so much in a couple of hundred years, and this one fell flat.

They all flopped. Good writers being laced into cripplingly tight corsets. So on to Sittenfeld. She has moved Pride and Prejudice to Cincinnati, called it Eligible after the television dating show in which “Chip” Bingley has been a participant, and produced a lively, hefty (it clocks in at 514 pages compared to the 369 of my battered old P&P) romp. The Bennet girls are older than in the original. Jane teaches yoga; Lizzy is a magazine journalist; Mary a perpetual student and Kitty and Lydia do nothing except tone themselves in the gym and live off their parents. Mrs Bennet is a compulsive shopper and Mr Bennet has been too idle to keep control of his money, so times are about to get very hard. Darcy is an arrogant neurosurgeon, alarmed by the extreme tackiness of the Bennets. It is engaging, and Sittenfeld has found clever ways to deal with things like elopement that would hardly cause a flutter now. Fun, but for a writer of Sittenfeld’s ability, it seems rather pointless.

So, who are the readers for this wobbly collection? Austenites are unlikely to be blown away by a feeble attempt to update their favourite characters. We also know the stories, so narrative tension is long gone. Anyone who hasn’t read Austen is hardly likely to be sent to the originals. Trollope, McDermid, McCall Smith and Sittenfeld fans may be a bit bewildered.

Personally, I blame Colin Firth’s delectable wet shirt moment in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Suddenly, Austen was sexy. So greedy publishers’ eyes turned to pound and dollar signs at the thought of a contemporary bestseller hitched to sexy old Jane. I haven’t seen an announcement of new names attached to Persuasion or Mansfield Park, so I hope this is the end of it.

There has been life in Austen for authors happy to use their own imaginations rather than be dragooned into a publisher’s template. PD James had fun with Death Comes to Pemberley, taking the Pride and Prejudice story forward, and even better was Jo Baker’s dive below stairs in the Bennet household in Longbourn, which is a fine standalone novel. A homage to Austen that digs a little deeper.

Poor old Austen isn’t the only one getting the treatment. There is the Hogarth Shakespeare series where – wait for it – bestselling contemporary authors are reworking the plots of some of the plays into novels. This is actually more successful – a borrowed cloak rather than a straitjacket. Three have crossed my path up to this point, all using problematic Shakespeare texts. Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time is a new look at The Winter’s Tale. The novel is a winner, being clever, sparky, moving and managing to make a kind of sense of what, with apologies to Will, is a distinctly weird story.

Ann Tyler’s Vinegar Girl takes on the rampantly un-PC The Taming of the Shrew. The play is seldom staged these days, but here another writer at the top of her game has picked it up and shaken the pieces into a glorious jeu d’esprit with a fabulously silly twist. When it comes to Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is my Name, I admit to not being Jacobson’s greatest fan, but the novel has been well received and Jacobson has wisely not tried to update the plot but has tackled the underlying themes. Still to come, we have Margaret Atwood’s take on The Tempest, published this month as Hag Seed and set in a prison; Tracy Chevalier’s Othello; Gillian Flynn’s Hamlet; Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth and Edward St Aubyn’s King Lear.

But even if all of them, the Austens and the Shakespeares, worked well, I would still ask: what is it for? It is as if publishers, like movie makers who seem to rely on films based on comic book superheroes to win at the box office, are afraid of genuinely new ideas. Attach the names of Austen or Shakespeare to something and make money. But two or four hundred years from now, I doubt if any of the updates will still be around. Unlike the originals.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible is published by Harper Collins.

Book details

Mongane Wally Serote, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Penny Siopis and Albie Sachs honoured at 2016 ACT Awards

RumoursScatter the Ashes and GoRevelationsQuite Footsteps
Stukke teaterPanoramaPenny SiopisThe Soft Vengeance of a Freedom FighterMakebaMy Son's StoryMissing

Alert! The Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) recently announced the winners of the 2016 Awards.

The Lifetime Achievement awards went to Dr Mongane Wally Serote for Literature, Pieter-Dirk Uys for Theatre, Johnny Clegg for Music, Penny Siopis for Visual Art, Albie Sachs for Arts Advocacy and Johaar Mosaval for Dance.

ACT CEO Pieter Jacobs said: “Our list of South African icons would not be complete without entering the names of these remarkable individuals alongside the likes of Miriam Makeba, Nadine Gordimer and Dr John Kani, to mention a few.”

“Their exemplary careers have enriched the arts and culture industry significantly, leaving a legacy that inspires young artists, such as the ImpACT Award recipients, to strive to reach a high level of excellence in their chosen fields,” Jacobs continued.

ACT also celebrates the winners of the ImpACT Awards for young professionals; young artists or businesses that have reached a notable level in their career.

Read the Press release for more information on these prestigious awards and their notable recipients:

* * * * *

ACT announces 2016 Award winners

A Sophiatown theme and exceptional entertainment set the tone at Sun International’s The Maslow Hotel last night, when ACT named their Award winners.

At the core of the Awards, is the announcement of Lifetime Achievement recipients who have each had a lifelong commitment to the arts, and this year, six deserving luminaries were recognised.

The recipients are nominated by the ACT Board of Trustees and selected by current and previous ACT Trustees. Categories include: Theatre, Music, Visual Art, Literature, Arts Advocacy and Dance.

This year, ACT honoured Pieter-Dirk Uys for Theatre, Johnny Clegg for Music, Penny Siopis for Visual Art, Dr Mongane Wally Serote for Literature, Albie Sachs for Arts Advocacy and Johaar Mosaval for Dance.

“Our list of South African icons would not be complete without entering the names of these remarkable individuals alongside the likes of Miriam Makeba, Nadine Gordimer and Dr John Kani, to mention a few,” ACT CEO, Pieter Jacobs, said. “Their exemplary careers have enriched the arts and culture industry significantly, leaving a legacy that inspires young artists, such as the ImpACT Award recipients, to strive to reach a high level of excellence in their chosen fields.”

The ImpACT Awards for young professionals are given annually to honour young artists or businesses that have reached a notable level in their career. Giving the masses a voice through the public nomination process, ACT proudly boasts a first-rate selection of these individuals in the categories of Theatre, Visual Art, Music, Dance and Design.

Visual artist, Chepape Makgato; singer, Thandi Ntuli; actor Mkhululi Z Mabija; designer, Jody Paulsen; and dancer, Sunnyboy Motau were named the 2016 ImpACT Award winners. Each boasting a burgeoning creative career, this year’s winners collectively represent determination, dedication and ineffable talent.

The 2016 Awards saw ACT partner with the Distell Foundation, The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) and Sun International to see this group of young professionals being lauded for the remarkable impression they have made in the first five years of their careers. Each winner will receive R10 000 and additional PR opportunities that will be generated through the ACT Awards. ImpACT Award recipients will also get on-going backing from ACT in the form promotional support in their professional careers.

The 19th annual ACT Awards was hosted by Sun International in association with the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), and supported by Business and Arts South Africa (BASA). The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) sponsors the Lifetime Award for Music, the Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (DALRO) for Theatre, Media24 Books for Literature, the Nedbank Arts Affinity for Visual Art, JTI for Dance and Creative Feel for Arts Advocacy, which will see recipients each receiving R45 000.

For more information about the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) please visit and use the hashtag #ACTAwards across all social media channels.

2016 ImpACT Awards Finalists

Chepape Makgato

Khehla Chepape Makgato was born in Johannesburg and raised in Makotopong village, outside Polokwane in Limpopo. Makgato has the diploma equivalence for Fine Arts majoring in Printmaking from Artist Proof Studio and a Diploma in Media Practice majoring in Journalism through Boston Media House. Makgato was one of two South African delegates and one of three SADC regional youth delegates to the 2012 Africa Utopia Youth Arts, Cultural and Olympia Festivals of the World at the Southbank Centre in London, UK. He has participated in numerous art exhibitions and fairs both locally and internationally. Makgato collaborated with William Kentridge on a project in January 2015 and continues to work on some small projects for Kentridge. He has had solo shows in 2013 (MARIKANA; Truth, Probability & Paradox), 2014 (VOICES FROM THE KOPPIE ñ Towards Speculative Realism), 2015 (MARIKANA; The Rituals) and 2016 (Manuscripts Found From The Koppie) to be exhibited in Cape Town. In 2014 he won a studio art bursary from the African Arts Trust to be a resident artist at Assemblage Studios. He is also an inaugural recipient of 2016 Art Across Oceans Residency at Kohl Children’s Museum in Chicago, USA in partnership with Play Africa. Makgato now works full-time as an artist at Assemblage Studios and freelance arts writer for ArtAfrica, The Journalist, Ampers and various online publications.

Thandi Ntuli

Ntuli was born in 1987 in one of South Africa’s largest townships, Soshanguve (Pretoria). She comes from a lineage of rich musical heritage, being the niece of guitarist, pianist and lead vocalist of 70′s pop fusion band Harari (The Beaters), Selby Ntuli. At the age of four, she started taking classical piano lessons under the tutelage of Ada Levkowitz. However, her keen interest for jazz was only kindled later in life, leading her to enrol and complete a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance at The University of Cape Town. Since the release of her debut jazz album, The Offering, which she released independently, Ntuli is fast making an imprint in the local jazz scene with her unique voice. The Offering has received critical acclaim as well as numerous awards and recognition since its release in 2014, including a Metro FM Award nomination for Best Urban Jazz in 2015.

Mkhululi Z Mabija

Mabija graduated from Tshwane University of Technology with a BA in Musical Theatre Performance (2006) and from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing (2010). At the age of 24, he became the youngest adjunct professor at New York University teaching a subject called South African Culture through History, Art and Media. Mkhululi has written many operas and musicals with various composers. Mkhululi has adapted Athol Fugard’s novel, Tsotsi for the musical theatre stage with composer and singer, Zwai Bala. Tsotsi will premiere in November 2017.

Jody Paulsen

Jody Paulsen was born in 1987 in Cape Town, where he continues to live and work. He specialised in Print Media at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Arts. On graduating, in 2009, Paulsen was awarded the Kathrine Harris Print Cabinet Award. In 2012, Paulsen won the Jules Kramer Departmental Scholarship Award and went on to complete his Masters Degree, also at UCT’s Michaelis School of Fine Art, with his solo exhibition What You Want, Whenever You Want It in 2013. Notable group exhibitions include: 2015′s Young, Gifted and Black, curated by Hank Willis Thomas, in Cape Town; Making Africa at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain (2015); Poppositions at Canal Warf in Brussels, Belgium (2015); MiArt 2014 in Milan, Italy and START Art Fair 2014 in London, United Kingdom. Paulsen has also collaborated with fashion designer Adriaan Kuiters, as Creative Director of Adriaan Kuiters + Jody Paulsen (AKJP) to present multiple collections at Mercedes-Benz Cape Town Fashion Week (2013-2016), and notably, at New York Fashion Week in 2015. AKJP has most recently, in 2016, participated in the Generation Africa fashion show at Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy.

Sunnyboy Motau

Named among Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans, a 2015 Naledi Theatre Award nominee, and an acclaimed choreographer and dancer, the dynamic powerhouse of Sunnyboy Motau is set on a road called success. Beginning in community arts groups in Alexandra, he trained at Moving into Dance where he continues to work. His collaborative commission by the Dance Umbrella 2015 was among the top three of the National Arts Festival. His co-choreography with Jessica Nupen toured Germany 2015, opened the Dance Umbrella in 2016 and tours Italy in September. Currently, Motau is choreographing for the Playhouse Company in Durban after a successful production for The Market Theatre in February and the HIFA Pop-Up Festival in Harare in May.

Book details

Bad things happen on beautiful days: Introducing Sunshine Noir – crime writing from hot countries

Bad things happen on beautiful days: Introducing Sunshine Noir – crime writing from hot countries
nullA Carrion DeathDeath of the MantisA Deadly TradeDeadly HarvestA Death in the Family

This Fiction Friday, read a new short story by award-winning crime-writing duo Michael Stanley from the anthology Sunshine Noir.

Michael Stanley is the pen name of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both Sears and Trollip were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. They are the authors of the famous Detective Kubu series, the most recent being A Death in the Family.

To find out more about the idea behind the anthology, read the editors’ note:

Why Sunshine Noir?

“Nordic Noir stories,” we hear their proponents say, “are a cut above ordinary crime fiction because the landscape and weather of the northern countries intensify the darkness of the crime and deepen the psychological complexity of the characters.”

We writers of crime in hot countries beg to differ. Knowing full well that shadows are darkest where the sun is brightest and understanding, as we do, how heat can be more psychologically debilitating than cold, we decided to throw down the gauntlet to the Nordic noirists. We are here to challenge the dominance of dark-climate fiction; to show that stories set in sunny climes can be just as grim, more varied in plot and characters, and richer in entertainment value than those of the dark, grey, bone-chilling north.

To make our case, we’ve recruited crime-fiction writers from around the world. The authors in this volume will convince you with complex, beautifully written stories that span the hot places of the planet. Read these stories. You will agree.

The writers bring a variety of writing styles, which we have maintained to highlight their wonderful diversity.

Finally, we thank all the authors in the anthology for their enthusiasm and support. For their kind words, we also extend our gratitude both to Peter James, best-selling author and winner of the 2015 WH Smith Best Crime Author of all Time Award, and to Tim Hallinan, award-winning author of the Poke Rafferty series, set in Bangkok, and the Los Angeles-based Junior Bender mysteries.

You can follow us on Facebook and at Twitter @Sunshine_Noir.

Annamaria Alfieri and Michael Stanley

International bestselling author Peter James said of the anthology:

“… a whole new movement, spearheaded by Sunshine Noir”

There is a very haunting line at the beginning of a Nicci French novel I read years ago that has always stayed with me: Bad things happen on beautiful days.

For some years many of the most successful books storming the international crime scene have been under a dark, gloomy, wintry, brooding cloud, and have become known by the soubriquet of Scandi Noir. The long dark winters, freezing, hostile climate and the dour, grimly philosophical nature of some of that region’s inhabitants have created a certain style of crime and thriller writing that has proved enormously successful, in part because of the freshness it brought to this genre we love so much.

Many years ago I met very warm and friendly Maxine Sanders, widow of Alexander who is often credited as being the founder of modern satanism in the UK. She told me, “The light can only shine in darkness.” But now I sense with the publication of this gem of an anthology – hand in hand with some of the best crime writing in the world today – that there could be a whole new movement, spearheaded by Sunshine Noir! Where the darkness can only shine in the searing heat of the midday sun …


The editors have kindly shared an excerpt from “Spirits” by Michael Stanley:

It had been another scorching day in New Xade, with the temperature passing 100 degrees and not a trace of moisture. Usually things cooled off at night in the Kalahari, as the sand threw the heat back at the sky, but for weeks it had been stifling at night as well. Constable Ixau lay naked on his bed, trying to catch the breeze from an old desk fan on the table opposite him. Being a Bushman, heat and dryness didn’t usually bother him, but the persistent drought was upsetting. It’s a bad time, he thought. People are worried; people get angry. There will be trouble.
        Just then there was a hammering on the door and a woman’s voice calling him.
        “I’m coming!” he yelled, turning on the light. He pulled on a T-shirt and shorts and jerked open the door.
        “Q’ema! What is it? What’s the matter?” He’d recognised her at once. How not? She was the most attractive girl in the village, and all the young men sought her attention. Ixau had a secret longing for her, but he was much too shy to do anything about it. But tonight she wasn’t pretty. She looked as though she’d been crying.
        “What’s the matter?” he repeated.
        “It’s my father! He’s … you have to help me. Please. I’m so worried and scared. Can you come at once?”
        Ixau wanted to tell her it was all right, that he’d take care of the issue. But he was flustered, and he just stood in the doorway and looked at her.
        “He’s … I don’t know. He’s on the ground. Writhing. Saying mad things.” She hesitated. “There’s blood running from his nose.”
        Ixau felt icy fingers touch his spine. Everyone knew this was a sign that a man had entered the spirit world, the sign of the shaman. Indeed, Q’ema’s father, Gebo, fancied himself as just that, but people laughed at him behind his back and gave him no respect—particularly after he’d promised to bring rain, with no result. Still, these were not matters to be taken lightly. If Gebo had gone to the spirit world, perhaps he couldn’t get back? These things were known. Ixau felt the icy fingers again.
        “I think a spirit has him! An evil spirit,” Q’ema said, as though reading his thoughts. “Will you come? You must come!”
        Ixau pulled himself together. “Have you been to the clinic?” When she shook her head, he added, “We must get the nurse. She won’t be at the clinic now, but you know where she lives. Go and fetch her. Maybe your father is sick. I’ll go to him right now. Don’t worry, it will be okay.”
        She gave him a grateful look and turned to go, but he called after her. “Perhaps you should call N’Kaka too. After you call the nurse.” She nodded and disappeared into the night. There was no real Bushman shaman in New Xade, but N’Kaka was old and respected and knew things. If there was indeed a spirit, he might know what to do.


Ixau walked quickly to the house where Gebo lived with his daughter. He found the man on the floor with his back propped against a table that had been knocked onto its side. He was breathing fast and, as Q’ema had said, there was blood on his face. When he turned to Ixau, the constable saw a glassiness in his eyes that reminded him of the trances he’d seen brought on by drugs. Maybe Gebo had been trying to communicate with the spirit world and had taken too much? Perhaps that was it.
        “Gebo, it’s me, Constable Ixau. Are you all right?”
        The older man stared at him blankly.
        “Where is Q’ema?” Gebo said at last. “I heard her calling in the other world, but she wasn’t there.”
        “She’s coming with the nurse. And N’Kaka.”
        “That old fool? What does he want?” He tried to stand, but couldn’t manage. He held out his hand to Ixau, who pulled him to his feet. He staggered, and Ixau had to steady him. Then he grabbed Ixau and shouted, “They’re coming for Yuseb! You have to stop them! Yuseb …” His eyes rolled back and he collapsed, and Ixau had to drag him to a chair, where he slumped, unconscious.
        Ixau felt panic. Was the man dying? Should he give CPR? He remembered the brief course he’d done in the police college, but hated the idea of putting his mouth to Gebo’s bloody face. He checked his wrist and could feel an erratic pulse. Relieved, he decided to do nothing and wait for the nurse.
        Suddenly the small room was full as Q’ema, N’Kaka, and the nurse burst in. The nurse pushed Ixau aside and started examining the unconscious man. N’Kaka tried to peer over her shoulder, but she pushed him away too. Q’ema started to cry.
        “I helped him up, and he seemed okay,” Ixau told Q’ema, “but then he started shouting something and passed out. I carried him to the chair.”
        “What?” N’Kaka growled.
        “He passed out and I—”
        “No!” N’Kaka interrupted. “What did he say?”
        What had Gebo said? Ixau wondered. A good policeman would remember. Something about Yuseb? Something about someone coming for him. He told N’Kaka as closely as he could recall.
        N’Kaka liked neither Gebo nor Yuseb, who didn’t show him the respect he felt he deserved. “It’s the spirits who speak through Gebo,” he said. “They’re angry with Yuseb because he doesn’t show them respect. He’s in grave danger.” He nodded with satisfaction.
        Q’ema had stopped crying. “What about my father? Is he all right?”
        N’Kaka shrugged. “They are finished with him now.”
        The nurse looked up from her patient. “Yes,” she said to Q’ema. “Once the drugs wear off. What did he take?”
        Q’ema looked at the floor. “What he takes to visit the spirit world. He was going to beg for rain, I think. He said they could help if they wanted to.”
        There was a groan, and Gebo eyes fluttered.
        N’Kaka snorted. “He’s a fool. They won’t listen to him. He has no power. They took him and chewed him and spat him back to us.” He turned away and left without another glance at Gebo.
        “Help me get him to his bed,” the nurse said. “I’ll bring him something. He’ll be fine in the morning.”
        “Yuseb,” Gebo muttered. “They are coming …” He groaned again.
        Ixau knew his duty. Although he was scared, he knew he must check on Yuseb. He would first fetch his knobkerrie even though it wouldn’t help him against powerful spirits.



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Black to the future: Authors announced for the Abantu Book Festival

Authors announced for the Abantu Book Festival

Alert! The Abantu Book Festival has revealed a sneak peek of writers and performing artists who will be leading the inaugural event.

The Abantu Book Festival will be happening in Soweto, 6-10 December 2016.

The impressive lineup includes Angela Makholwa, Bheki Peterson, Bongani Madondo, Bontle Senne, Chika Unigwe, Dikeledi Deekay Sibanda, Duduzile Zamantungwa Mabaso, Don Mattera, Elinor Sisulu, Eusebius McKaiser, Florence Masebe, Fred Khumalo, Gcina Mhlope, HJ Golakai, James Murua, Khadija Patel, Khaya Dlanga, Khosi Xaba, Koleka Putuma, Lebo Mashile, Lesego Rampolokeng, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Malaika wa Azania, Mongane Wally Serote, Natalia Molebatsi, Ndumiso Ngcobo, Niq Mhlongo, NoViolet Bulawayo, Nozizwe Jele, Percy Mabandu, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Redi Tlhabi, Rehana Rossouw, Sabata-mpho Mokae, Sihle Khumalo, Siphiwe Mpye, Siphiwo Mahala, Thabiso Mahlape, Thandiswa Mazwai, Thato Magano, Unathi Kondile, Unathi Magubeni, Vangi Gantsho, Xolisa Guzula, Yewande Omotoso, Zukiswa Wanner, and others still to be confirmed.

Panashe Chigumadzi, author of Sweet Medicine and the festival’s curator, says:

In this lineup we find depth and variety. Some of our authors have been telling stories for as long as others have been alive, while others have just begun but are bringing incredible innovations to the art. Together with our storytellers, we’ll be looking black to the future.

Black Widow SocietySigh The Beloved CountryPowers of the KnifeNight DancerThe Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story!Memory is the WeaponWalter and Albertina Sisulu
Run Racist Run#ZuptasMustFall and Other RantsHave You Seen Zandile?The ScoreTo Quote MyselfThese handsIn a Ribbon of RhythmA Half Century Thing

“Abantu” is the Nguni word for “people”, and the festival’s mission is to be “the literature event that provides black writers and readers the platform and visibility they deserve”.

The first annual Abantu Book Festival will be a five-day experience of readings, discussions, music and other forms of storytelling, as well as workshops and film screenings.

Organised under the theme – Our Stories – the festival celebrates African stories through written and spoken word, visual arts, music and film. It will explore the ways in which our stories are told, and how these inform, or are informed by, our ways of being.

The Soweto Theatre (Jabulani) and Eyethu Lifestyle Centre (Mofolo) are the main venues, and African Flavour Books will be on site to make sure your favourite African and diasporan titles are on sale.

The programme will be published in November 2016.

Full author profiles are available at the Abantu Book Festival website!

The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesMemoirs of a Born FreeRumoursEat, Drink and Blame the AncestorsAffluenzaWe Need New NamesHappiness is a Four-Letter Word
The Everyday WifeRapeEndings and BeginningsWhat Will People SayGa ke ModisaAlmost Sleeping My Way to TimbuktuWhen a Man Cries
Ukuba MtshaThe Woman Next DoorLondon – Cape Town – JoburgSweet MedicineNwelezelanga

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‘Picture Boris Johnson spliced with Gwede Mantashe’: Andrew Harding on writing The Mayor of Mogadishu

Published in the Sunday Times

nullThe Mayor of MogadishuThe Mayor of Mogadishu: A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia
Andrew Harding

I was sitting in the back seat of a car in Mogadishu, peering through tinted glass at the gunmen blocking our way, and wondering if maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all. I’ve been visiting Somalia regularly over the past 15 years, reporting on the extravagant supply of bad news – famines, pirates, warlords, militants and endlessly shifting frontlines. I’m used to the queasy experience of driving through Mogadishu’s ruins, braced for trouble.

But this time was different. I’d come not as a journalist, but as a guest speaker at the city’s fledgling book fair. I’d just written my book, The Mayor of Mogadishu, and launching it in Somalia seemed like the proper thing to do.

Except that I was on my own this time. No BBC News team beside me in the car. And Mogadishu was going through an upsurge in car bombings, assassinations, and coordinated attacks on hotels by the Islamist militants of al-Shabaab.

To add to my unease, the local media and the book fair’s organisers had publicised the timing of my speech at a downtown hotel. No chance of slipping in under the radar. My guards made no secret of their anxieties.

Then there was the book itself. My initial plan to write a traditional “journalist” book about my experiences in Somalia had been sideswiped by a chance encounter with a man known as Tarzan.

I first met him in 2010, days after he’d returned from 20 years in London, to take on the seemingly impossible job of Mogadishu’s mayor. He seemed an almost cartoonish figure. Brash, brave and thuggish. Picture Boris Johnson spliced with Gwede Mantashe.

But then I dug into his past and came to realise there was more to Tarzan. That his story was also Somalia’s. Born into a nomadic family, dropped off in an orphanage during a famine, he was a ruffian who fell in love with an upper-class girl and took her on dates to open-air cinemas. Then came Somalia’s collapse, escape to London, and, two decades and six children later, Tarzan’s determination to come “home”.

Others have demanded to know why I chose to write a book about ‘a scumbag’

Today Tarzan is a profoundly divisive figure. A hero to some Somalis. But others have jabbed me in the chest to demand why I have chosen to write a book about “a scumbag like that”. He’s accused of corruption, and worse. And now he’s campaigning to be president in elections due later this year.

And so, as our convoy finally made it safely through the security cordon outside the book fair, I was braced for a different kind of hostility. Not just the “why should we listen to yet another foreigner, telling us about our country?” sort. But also the suspicion that I was trying to help Tarzan’s election campaign. Those questions came, but politely. The crowds at the book fair were young, huge, exuberant – relishing the chance to celebrate their city’s progress and culture, and to push back against the bleak brand of a “failed state”.

“What do you like best about our city?” An earnest student stood in front of me, my book clutched in his hand, awaiting my signature. He was proud of Mogadishu, and I was glad I’d come back.

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