A new month calls for a new local thriller author sending shivers down readers across the continent’s spine.
This month, the co-author of the popular Detective Kubu series, Michael Sears, had the opportunity to interview Jassy Mackenzie for The Big Thrill – the magazine for international thriller writers. Jassy was born in Zimbabwe, but currently resides on a small farm near Johannesburg.
She exchanged romance novels for noir, and has written four successful novels featuring her P.I. Jade de Jong. Her fifth book in the series, Bad Seeds, was recently published.
Here, Michael and Jassy discuss her attraction to mysteries and her new book. Intrigued? Read on…
Over the last several years you’ve been writing romances. Why did you decide to take a break from thrillers and what drew you back?
While I was writing Pale Horses, my mother became ill and passed away – it was a very sad time for the family and I decided I needed to do something different to cheer myself up. So I wrote a humorous erotic romance, Folly, which became a bestseller in South Africa, and I followed it up with a few others. I didn’t plan on leaving it too long before returning to the thrillers, especially since I had some readers contacting me to ask when I was going to stop writing these silly romances and get back to proper storytelling! Bad Seeds took longer than anticipated to write, firstly because life got in the way, and secondly because I didn’t feel the plot was pulling together believably enough, so I left the story for a while. In fact, the delay was a good thing because when I came back to the book and did further research, I discovered a recently published news report on Pelindaba that provided astonishing new information, and the perfect solution to my plotting dilemma.
In Bad Seeds, Jade is faced with a plot to steal weapons-grade uranium from a nuclear research center near Johannesburg. To non-South African readers that may sound far fetched, but there is just such a research center here, South Africa did build nuclear weapons in the apartheid days, and the material is still in South Africa. The plot is completely believable, and, although you changed the name of the research center, the background is real. How much of the plot is based on fact, and how much is pure invention?
Pelindaba has a fascinating, if rather dark, history – and a surprising number of the facts about my fictitious nuclear research center, Inkomfe, are based on factual news reports about Pelindaba. The plight of the apartheid-era workers who fell ill from radiation-related causes is documented in a number of articles – the best one titled “Apartheid’s Nuclear Shame”. The report which ended up being the game-changer that allowed me to finish the book, was about the nuclear ingots. Yes, there really is a stash of highly enriched uranium ingots at Pelindaba from the dismantled weapons. Yes, the U.S. is extremely concerned about it. Yes, if they were stolen, these ingots could be used by terrorists because there’s enough material to create half a dozen mega-bombs. And yes – there have been attempted raids on the research center, some of which have come very close to succeeding.
To complicate things, Jade finds herself in a serious conflict of interest between her client – Ryan Gillespie, head of security at the plant – and her mark – Carlos Botha, a consultant who has been behaving suspiciously. Then she gets emotionally involved, which makes it worse. The two men keep her guessing. You once called Jade “immoral,” but she does seem to try to do the right thing when the chips are down. Is that how you see her?
Yes, Jade always tries hard to do the right thing, although it’s her version of it, rather than society’s version, or the law’s version. Deep down, I think most of us would love to be renegades from time to time, especially when we see a situation we perceive as being unfair. Sometimes the law doesn’t resolve injustices the way it should, and we dream of being able to intervene and set things right … Jade gets to actually do it.
Continue reading their interview here.
- Bad Seeds by Jassy Mackenzie
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