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Q&A: John Kane-Berman

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

Book details

Between Two Fires is also available as an eBook.

 

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