Published in the Sunday Times
John Kane-Berman, author of Between Two Fires: Holding the Liberal Centre in South African Politics, on his favourite literary characters, content vs talent, and describing Lady Chatterley’s Lover as a waste of time…
Which book changed your life?
With luck, I learnt a bit from each one.
What music helps you write?
I cannot listen to music when I am writing.
What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?
I holed up in a remote cowboy town called Billings in Montana in the US to meet a deadline for my book on the 1976 Soweto upheavals.
Do you keep a diary?
Nope. I don’t take photographs either.
Who is your favourite fictional hero?
Hercule Poirot as played by David Suchet, with Jeeves as in Jeeves and Wooster a close second.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
These should not be repeated in a family newspaper such as the Sunday Times.
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
None. I’m embarrassed only that I once wasted time reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover when it was banned.
What’s more important to you: the way a book is written, or what the book is about?
I would normally never even start a badly written book. The worst-written book I ever read was by a journalism professor, but I ploughed through it as the subject matter – cover-ups by the New York Times – intrigued me.
Has a book ever changed your mind about something?
Bodyguard of Lies by Anthony Cave Brown taught me to respect military intelligence as used in World War 2.
You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?
Winston Churchill in his guise as historian, Benjamin Disraeli as novelist, and Queen Victoria as diarist.
What novel would you give a child to introduce them to literature?
The Circus of Adventure by Enid Blyton.
Do you finish every book that you start?
I finish 99% of all the books I read and do not start unless I am pretty sure I will like the book.
- Between Two Fires: Holding the Liberal Centre in South African Politics by John Kane-Berman
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