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An Unnatural History: Hedley Twidle Reviews Henrietta Rose-Innes' Green Lion

Peter Harris' In a Different Time Wins the 2009 Booksellers' Choice Award

In a Different TimePeter Harris signs the Book Lounge BagAlert! Peter Harris’ In a Different Time, a true-life legal drama about the defense of the Delmas Four group of umKhonto we Sizwe soldiers, was named as the winner of the R10 000 Booksellers’ Choice Award in Durban last night.

The announcement was made at the annual PASA/SABA dinner, which also incorporates the Sefika awards for publishers and booksellers. Jonathan Ball was announced as Publisher of the Year for 2008, while Cape Town’s The Book Lounge collected the Independent Bookseller of the Year award – for the second year running – and Berlut Books the Independent Publisher of the Year award. The last two pick up cheques for R5 000 each.

Harris, who hails from Durban, was present to collect his award, presented by Simon Skinner of Nielsen Book, which sponsors the award. His book has been on a roll: it also won the 2009 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award.

Congratulations to Harris and Umuzi, his publishers. For some insight into how the book came into being, watch Harris’ Alan Paton Award acceptance speech.

In a Different Time was up against five other books for this award; click here to view the shortlist. Here’s the official press release from Nielsen, which includes judges’ comments; thanks to their representative in South Africa, BookData/SAPnet/Booknews, for sending it through:

Press release

Peter Harris wins BOOKSELLERS’ CHOICE AWARD 2009 with In a Different Time

18 August 2009, Woking

Durban author Peter Harris has won the coveted Booksellers’ Choice Award 2009 with his acclaimed book In A Different Time. Simon Skinner, Sales Director of award sponsors’ Nielsen Book, announced the winner of this year’s prize at the prestigious PASA and SABA Conference dinner held at the Sibaya Conference Centre in Durban. He presented Harris with a cheque for Rand 10,000.

The award is judged by South African booksellers, who are given the opportunity to vote for the books that they most enjoyed reading, selling or promoting during the previous year.

Harris fought off stiff competition from fellow shortlisted authors: Dana Snyman for On the Back Roads (Tafelberg Publishers); Jeremy Gordin for Zuma: a Biography (Jonathan Ball Publishers); Zapiro’s Pirates of Polokwane (Jacana Media); Max du Preez for Of Tricksters, Tyrants and Turncoats (Zebra Press); and Steve Hofmeyr’s Mense Van My Asem (Zebra Press).

In A Different Time tells the story of four young South Africans who embark on a mission that will ultimately take them to Death Row. They are highly trained and experienced assassins and the narrative details their infiltration into the country, their operations, arrest and subsequent trial. The story is set in a South Africa gripped by unrest and political tension, when the ANC was in exile and repression at its height. The characters are linked by bizarre coincidence and tragedy in a true account narrated by their attorney.

Comments on the book from some of the judging booksellers reflect its strength: “An extraordinary and poignant true story. Exposes the dark history of South Africa and a determined fight for what we believe in”; “a wonderful slice of history; emotional read” and “an astonishing and important book, brilliantly written”.

Last year’s winner, Craig Ray, had this to say about the award:

“Winning the Booksellers’ Choice award was a surprise considering the quality of the work that ‘In Black and White’ was shortlisted against. Sports books don’t often win publishing awards, so simply being nominated was recognition itself.”

Awards were also presented for Independent Bookseller and Independent Publisher, each recipient receives Rand 5,000. This year’s winners are: The Book Lounge: Independent Bookseller Award and Berlut Books cc: Independent Publisher Award.

Nielsen Book is delighted to continue to sponsor the Booksellers’ Choice Award and the Sefika Awards, particularly as these awards are not only chosen but presented by the trade in recognition of outstanding contribution to the industry. Nielsen Book sponsors similar awards in Australia and New Zealand.

Peter Harris was born in Durban and grew up in the Eastern Cape. He was educated at Michaelhouse, Rhodes and Warwick University. He practiced law for 15 years at Cheadle, Thompson & Haysom and in the early 1990s was seconded to the National Peace Accord, after which he headed the Monitoring Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission for the 1994 election. He returned to law and did international consulting for the UN as an election operations expert in Mexico, Haiti and other places. He then was appointed Director of Programmes at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm for two years. Back in South Africa he co-founded the Resolve Group Management Consultancy of which he is the current Executive Chairman.


Book details


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
    August 19th, 2009 @11:15 #

    Congratulations to all winners, especially The Book Lounge!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    August 19th, 2009 @11:45 #

    More well-deserved recognition for Harris' truly remarkable book.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    August 19th, 2009 @19:14 #

    Word is, The Book Lounge actually won three awards last night: Best Independent Bookseller, Best Bookseller, and Bookseller That Goes the Extra Mile. That's quite a haul - congrats to Mervyn and Co!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    August 19th, 2009 @19:26 #

    It's an astounding book. And damn straight on The Book Lounge triple win. Congratulations Mervyn and all.

  • Mervyn
    August 20th, 2009 @09:20 #

    Thanks Ben, Karina and Lauren. Surreal is the word of the week for me at the moment. Trying to do a press release this morning, but can't remember the wording of the third award - such problems! Seriously though, it was great to get this kind of affirmation from publishers and I'm very grateful for the various awards. The conference was held in the monstrous Sibaya Casino and Conference Centre which is a shrine to tacky greed like no other, an eyesore outside Umhlanga quietly going about it's business of contributing to South Africa's social problems. I don't know what the hell we were doing there, and the inappropriateness of the venue was only matched by the crassness of the MC for the awards dinner. I don't know his name, nor do I want to - do we really need crass jokes about Madiba and Tutu in our lives? I had a lovely evening in spite of the surroundings, largely a result of sharing a table with Peter Harris and his wife (and after we'd finished the table, sharing many whiskies too). As a bookseller I was so relieved that In a Different Time picked up the award and Peter was his usual lovely, humble self. I've got oodles of respect for the man. I then flew up to Joburg yesterday morning to meet Jaci, one half of the team that have opened Joburg's newest indie bookshop, Love Books. I've had a fair amount of contact with Jaci and Kate, and it was great to finally see their cool space and get a sense of what they're doing. To top it all Jaci generously lent me her driver for the day which allowed me to see more bookshops and book people than I would otherwise have managed. It was particularly lovely spending some time with Corina at Boekehuis and comparing notes with someone who shares a similar ethos about bookselling.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    August 20th, 2009 @09:22 #

    A table with Peter Harris and The Book Lounge - you could've sold tickets! Wish I could've been there.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    August 20th, 2009 @09:43 #

    Awesome and very well deserved (to Peter Harris and the wonderful Book Lounge). I think the Book Lounge stands out, not only for the welcoming, comfy, old-school bookish vibe but because of the folk who work there - I can't tell you how great it is to be sent personal recommendations about books I had no clue had been released (there's a juicy new Stephen King biography waiting for me there at the mo), although my overdraft doesn't agree. But thanks Vee, Werner, Johan, Mervyn, Catherine et al for being so cool and supportive of writers (especially ones who get scared before book launches).

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    August 20th, 2009 @09:49 #

    Congratulations Peter and to the Book Lounge too. Also, I really love Love Books, it's like a bookshelf i wish i had. I hope they start doing launches and events there and if Jaci and Kate would like any help with guestlists etc i am sure there are many jhb writers, publishers and poets here who would love to be involved :)

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    August 20th, 2009 @11:23 #

    Congratulations to Peter and Book Lounge. Wow 3 awards - brilliant. (Where is Love Books? Want to check it out next time am in Jozi)

    Met Peter H at ST Awards - he is a wonderful man, not in his ego at all, he looked at me all the time we were talking, right into my eyes. Made me feel like he was interested & could see me. (Unlike some of the other glitterati i met the same night.) Which is probably why he is trusted by his clients including the ones he writes about In A Different Time.

    Book Lounge - there aren't words to describe how fab they are and what a difference they have made to Cape Town. What was CT like again BBL?

  • Mervyn
    August 20th, 2009 @14:59 #

    Thanks again for all the kind comments. Colleen - Love Books are in Mellville. Let me know when you're going up next and I'll put you in touch with them.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Jaci</a>
    August 20th, 2009 @21:37 #

    It is always wonderful when awards are given to people who truly deserve them - congratulations to peter harris and to the book lounge - two truly talented and fabulous winners! Kathryn, we are looking forward to hosting many more launches at LoveBooks now that we are settled in, and would love involvement from interested parties - thanks for your kind words!


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