A new month calls for a new sunshine noir author sending shivers down the spines of local thriller fans…
Here’s what the two thriller aficionados chatted about:
Karin Brynard grew up in the Northern Cape and many of her books are set in that dramatic, semi-arid landscape. She was a journalist and editor for several of South Africa’s major newspapers before she became freelance to concentrate on her writing.
Her novels – originally written in Afrikaans – have been translated into several languages, and she has won a variety of literary and crime fiction prizes. Her next book, Tuisland (the Afrikaans version of Homeland), shot up to number one on the South African best seller list when it was released in 2016.
We chatted about Our Fathers, her latest book available outside South Africa.
Our Fathers is a book that tackles big themes in South Africa – the decay of family units, alienation by place as well as race, and different views from different groups as to the relationship between races in the country. Did you set out to address these, or are they the issues that will almost inevitably arise in contemporary South African crime fiction?
If you try and shadow one ordinary cop in the South African Police Service for a day, you will most likely stumble across every one of the “big themes” of this country.
Cops stand at the coal face of all the realities of life here, ranging from racism to the rape of babies and beyond. And that’s where my stories happen too, so addressing the “issues” becomes sort of inevitable.
The question everybody keeps asking is why. Why do we see so much violence, so much brutality accompanying crime? We realize that this is a deeply complex society and that we’re continuously grappling with major challenges, ranging from poverty to greed, massive urbanization and the accompanying disintegration of cultures and belief systems. It is a society constantly under pressure, exposing all the cracks.
It would be almost impossible to ignore these issues. But: in the midst of all this, there is always redemption: relief in the beauty of the place and of the unexpected warmth of the diverse people who live here, their creativity and vibrant cultures.
What better background for storytelling, especially crime? The bad, the ugly, and the good all in one go.
You ask about “alienation by place as well as race.” Placing Sergeant Johannes Ghaap, a man of Griqua origin, in a predominantly black city like Soweto gave me the opportunity to showcase some of the diversity of our society and how challenging it can be on the personal level. It was such a rewarding exercise doing so, and allowed for wonderful suspense through Ghaap’s stumbling about.
The idea for Our Fathers arose from an interview I did with a man whose son had been accused of murder – bludgeoning his gorgeous girlfriend to death with a hammer.
She was a promising student at the University of Stellenbosch and he a handsome postgraduate with an open, youthful face. It became a sensational case and the family of both the victim and the accused refused to talk to the press.
I tried very hard to get an interview. And then got lucky.
The father of the young man agreed cautiously to talk. We met on a cold winter night and talked for hours. I will never forget the man’s despairing tears as he told me how he was torn from his bed in the middle of the night with the terrible news, and of his feelings of powerlessness as the investigation became a nightmare, his growing frustration with not being able to protect his son from this horror.
After the interview, driving back through the dark, wet streets of this beautiful student town, I thought how lucky this young boy was to have a father such as this.
Which set me to thinking about the role of fathers in the life of a family – and for that matter in the bigger family of a society. In psychological terms, the father is the constant guard at the gate, often sacrificing himself to protect his family and to provide for them. He keeps things stable, provides reason, reflection, order and wisdom, according to the myths of old.
What happens in a household where the fathers are absent? Research shows that more than half of SA children grow up without fathers. It also shows the detrimental effects on the psychological health of those kids, how it impacts on male violence, on suicide, promiscuity, even academic performance.
As the writing of this story progressed, this theme in particular, grew in importance.
Continue reading their conversation here.