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Link Love: Harvey Tyson, Nicholas Yell, Springbok Press and Writing Inc

Harvey TysonBlood on the PathCircling the Great KarooAlert! Nicholas Yell has a yen for unusual yarns – a quality that has led him to start Springbok Press, on the one hand, and Writing Inc, on the other.

The websites are vehicles for unusual books that point toward a busy publishing future for Yell – and certainly merit BOOK SA’s link love.

Let’s start with Springbok Press. Among its first-fruit pickings is a 500-page historical novel called Blood on the Path from the pen of Harvey Tyson – pictured here paying a visit to the BOOK SA stand at the Cape Town Book Fair – that encompasses 100 years of SA history and “all the people of the African sub-continent who became the first South Africans”. Guy Willoughby likes it: “[Tyson] has taken the increaslingly obscure events of more than a century ago and breathed urgent life into them… [you will marvel] at the sheer verve and empathy with which he tells a cracking good story,” he writes in the book’s foreword.

Here’s the complete blurb:

This is the sweeping, adventurous saga of all the people of the African sub-continent who, 100 years ago, became the first South Africans. It is an exciting and fast-moving historic account in novel form, and although it is packed with arresting and accessible facts, the story eschews long lists of dates and reams of text concerning treks, frontier wars and the racial struggles of the period.

Instead, Tyson chooses to portray the fears, prejudices and motives seen through the contemporaneous eyes of a cast of “ordinary” people. Their lives intersect cleverly with many of the famous figures of the era; people such as J. X. Merriman, Sol Plaatje and Cecil Rhodes, and so the history of the era is unveiled – with total dedication to the facts – in a highly readable format.
Tyson believes that we can best understand history if we are standing in the shoes of those who lived it. To understand their worlds we need to listen for the thump of thousands of spears on shields before the fighting; the stamp of foot while dancing; the rustle of skirts while courting. We also need to smell the pre-battle fear and see the blood.

Simply a must-read for all those interested in the roots of modern-day South Africa.

Tyson is also the star of Writing Inc, a website that showcases stories from around the world in more than a dozen categories, including cycling, humour and – birding!

The bulk of the writing featured on this site is Tyson’s – but one of the books on its front page is Yell’s: Circling the Great Karoo: A Back-roads Journey through History on an Old Scrambler. The title says it all – but here’s the blurb in case you don’t get the picture:

There is a sense of great exhilaration when you set off on a long motorbike journey – alone. Especially when it entails riding the Great Karoo’s minor dirt roads seldom visited by anybody other than the diehards who farm there, and who manage to co-exist with one of the harshest environments and climates on the planet.

But this is not just any journey through the Karoo; it is a journey that aslo delves into both its recent and ancient evolutionary past. The result: a historical treasure-trove filled with stories about South Africa’s earliest and more recent inhabitants, European explorers’ and outlaws’ trails, accounts of the Anglo-Boer War battles that pop up along the way and revelations about the mammal-like reptiles and first true dinosaur fossils that are uncovered during the journey.

While well documented in many different reference books, the many fascinating historical gems and interesting geological phenomena of the Great Karoo are not readily accessible to the lay reader in a single, armchair travel format, and this is certainly one of the book’s main advantages.

For the writer, motorbike travel is his muse, his solace and his teacher. It allows his soul often to ride pillion – exalting in the sheer wonderment of being allowed its own time and space to be revel in. And to be – just to be.

Adventuring comes naturally to Yell: as Tyson writes in Circling‘s foreword: Sailing to Rio in a 30-footer had been a great project for him years earlier. Exploring the islands off the Brazilian coast had been fun. Navigating a 4X4 across the roadless wilds of Botswana and the eastern edge of the Kalahari had been exciting… But now he wanted something different… something to be done entirely alone.”

Yell’s Springbok Press, meanhwhile, has several further publications that are worth a look, including Laugh, the Beloved Country and Birders of a Feather.

Pay a visit to Springbok Press and Writing Inc when next you’re in the literary vicinity!

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