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Andrew Donaldson: The Best Local Writing Is Speculative Fiction

By Andrew Donaldson for The Times


Little GreenLittle Green, by Walter Mosley (W&N)
MOSLEY had intended ending his superb Easy Rawlins series with 2007′s Blonde Faith, but now his iconic sleuth is back with a missing persons case in a Los Angeles still reeling from the Watts riots. As ever, Mosley’s grasp of race politics and historical context from black America’s point of view is on the nail.


Critic Matt Haig recently suggested in The Times of London that this year may be to science fiction and fantasy what 2012 was to erotica. “Already,” he wrote, “we’ve seen Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Lauren Beukes‘s The Shining Girls featuring on summer reading lists among the more standard literary fare.”

BookMarks boldly suggests that, just as 2013 was Beukes’s year, then 2014 could belong to Cape Town’s Sarah Lotz. This is according to Oli Munson, London-based agent batting away for a dynamic group of local authors, who believes that Lotz’s The Three, which comes out in February, is going to be huge.

“The cool ideas and concepts coming out of South Africa at the moment and the sheer verve of the writing are a joy to work with,” Munson told me. “People call this genre-bending literature speculative fiction, which, to me, has always been an opaque way of describing the most cutting- edge writing out there.

“But I do think there’s every chance in the next year or two people are going to be saying, ‘Okay, over the past decade the Scandinavians have shown themselves to be masters of crime fiction, but look at what these South Africa writers are doing with specific’. It’s a genuinely exciting time.”


So, the Khanyi Mbau and Kelly Khumalo biographies have only managed combined sales of 6500 copies. Shame, but they, and their ghost writers, shouldn’t take it too badly; they’re in good company. Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s latest, The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime novel, got excellent reviews but has managed to rack up sales of only 1500 copies in the UK since its release in April.

The fact that she published it under a pseudonym, Robert Galbraith, may have contributed to this. She was outed by the London Sunday Times following an anonymous tip-off. (The work of Rowlings’ agent, perhaps?) “I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience,” Rowlings said. “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”


“[Where] disproportionate numbers of residents lie about reading The Economist.” This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral – Plus Plenty of Valet Parking! – in America’s Gilded Capital, by Mark Leibovich (Blue Rider Press).

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