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Archive for the ‘Jonathan Ball’ Category

Louis Botha is depicted warts-and-all in this biography, writes William Saunderson-Meyer

Published in the Sunday Times

Louis Botha: A Man Apart *****
Richard Steyn
Jonathan Ball Publishers, R260

It’s a cliché that we must take lessons from the past. There are at least two problems with this.

The first is hubris. Each generation feels that is unnecessary, since it is clearly wiser and more competent than the previous one. Until, of course, the passage of time proves it wrong.

The second is a growing, priggish moralism that demands right-thinking and right-speaking. Swathes of history are ignored, especially in SA, simply because the protagonists don’t fit into contemporary mores.

Richard Steyn seems to have a particular contrarian interest in the political giants who have fallen foul of such dismissive revisionism. This is his third biography, following upon his well-received works on Jan Smuts, then the friendship between Smuts and Churchill.

But Steyn is no hagiographer.

In enviably clear and unadorned prose his is a warts-and-all depiction, especially as regards the casual racism and assumed superiority of the white man.

While always sensitive to historical context, he examines in detail the failures and blind spots of Botha, including his “mixture of respectful paternalism towards any individual with whom he came into contact … and a disbelief that blacks as a group should enjoy the same political rights as whites”. It was an attitude that culminated, under his premiership, in the pernicious Native Land Act of 1913.

Following the Anglo-Boer War, it was Botha’s first priority to heal the deep divisions between Afrikaans- and English-speaking whites, as well as between the vanquished Boers and the victorious British.

His determination to achieve this took him along a remarkable, painful path: taking the former Boer republics into a union with the British colonies of the Cape and Natal; taking the Union into World War 1 on the side of the British, against the Germans who had nominally supported Boer independence; suppressing with force of arms the resulting Afrikaner rebellion; and conquering German South-West Africa.

Steyn makes the point a number of times that during the Anglo-Boer War those who called most stridently for war were those who most rapidly melted away when they got their wish. Whereas men like Botha, who had opposed the war, were the ones who were left to prosecute it.

Botha, the most brilliant of the Boer generals, paid a high personal cost for a war he never wanted. His health was shattered by the privations of those gruelling years. The family lost their farm and his brother was killed.

But what perhaps wounded him most grievously was the long, slow process of estrangement from fellow Afrikaners, who felt he betrayed them by allying SA to the Empire.

Reconciliation is never universally popular and there are always those who flourish in exacerbating divisions, rather than minimising them. As we are beginning to see with the increasingly strident repudiation of Nelson Mandela as “sell-out”. @TheJaundicedEye

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A pleasing vignette of our favourite cop: William Saunderson-Meyer reviews Deon Meyer’s novella, The Woman in the Blue Cloak

Published in the Sunday Times

The Woman in the Blue Cloak ***
Deon Meyer, Hodder & Stoughton, R195

One of the great things about Deon Meyer’s work, aside from his infallible ear for the nuances of South African life and his masterful plots, is that they are satisfyingly fat books.

Buy a Meyer and you’ve got the whole weekend sorted.

The Woman in the Blue Cloak, however, is a novella, weighing in at a mere 26,000 words and was written on invitation for the 2017 Week of the Thriller in the Netherlands.

It’s a challenging format, since there just isn’t the same space to build plot and character. Meyer writing a novella is a bit like a world-class marathon runner entering the 100m.

It is interestingly eccentric but one would be naive to expect a gold medal performance.

And so it is with this offering: a pleasing vignette of our favourite cop, dry alcoholic Benny Griessel, but just not enough meat to be anything more than an appetiser. @TheJaundicedEye

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Barbara Kingsolver evokes the anxiety of living through social turmoil, writes Michele Magwood

Unsheltered ****
Barbara Kingsolver, Faber & Faber, R295


Barbara Kingsolver rages against tyranny while writing about ordinary life.
Picture: David Wood

There is a marvellous tableau early on in Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel Unsheltered.

It is 1871 in small-town New Jersey and a young science teacher, Thatcher Greenwood, is visiting his next door neighbour. He thinks she is sitting demurely at her desk, prim and unmoving, until he realises she is patiently feeding her finger to a Venus flytrap.

The neighbour is a fictionalised Mary Treat, the American botanist and entomologist who studied carnivorous plants and who corresponded with Charles Darwin. She is the ideal Kingsolver heroine: a barricade-breaching, society-scorning, way ahead-of-her-time woman, and a scientist to boot.

The town, Vineland, exists to this day. It was built in the 1800s as a utopian experiment, a teetotal haven for free thinkers and spiritualists, but the idealism quickly eroded. Greenwood is close to being run out of town for teaching Darwinism to his pupils, and the community’s prissy and elaborate manners disguise a vicious bigotry.

Kingsolver divides the novel into two narratives 150 years apart and centres them in Thatcher’s house.

The book opens in 2016, when 50-something journalist Willa Knox inherits the collapsing homestead.

It’s evident from the get-go that Willa’s life is threatening to collapse too. She has been made redundant from her magazine editorship and must now try and scrape a living in the online world of listicles and gobbets, her deep dive investigations no longer in demand.

Her academic husband, Ianno, has lost tenure at the university where he was professor and has been forced to take a temporary teaching position at a second-rate college.

Upstairs in the house, Ianno’s emphysemic and uninsured father sucks on his oxygen tank, fuelling himself for racist and right-wing diatribes. Their bristly daughter Tig has returned home from a heartbreak in Cuba and is railing at the world, a shrill Cassandra warning of catastrophe ahead for humankind.

Personal catastrophe strikes faster: the wife of their Harvard-educated but unemployed son Zeke commits suicide and they have no choice but to take in his infant son.

Willa and Ianno have worked hard and made sacrifices all their lives but now as retirement looms they realise that it has counted for nothing.

“How could two hardworking people do everything right in life and arrive in their fifties essentially destitute?” Willa thinks.

When she learns that their crumbling house might be of historical value, and therefore eligible for a grant, she heads for the town’s archives.

It is here that she unearths the characters of Mary Treat and Thatcher Greenwood. They were never lovers, only scholarly friends, but by alternating their story with Willa’s, Kingsolver is able to unfurl her themes.

Although he is never named, Donald Trump looms over the story and Kingsolver’s fury at him and all he stands for saturates her writing.

She has always been a campaigning writer but here she sails worryingly – and at times wearyingly – close to polemical lecturing, using her characters as vessels to rage at the state of the world.

Capitalism, globalism, wastefulness, failing healthcare, iniquitous student loans, white nationalism, stagnant wages and so on, all are aired.

“Today’s problems can’t be solved by today’s people,” Tig warns her mother, “we’re overdrawn at the bank, at the level of our species.”

But Kingsolver is too good a storyteller to lose us completely.

She powerfully evokes the anxiety of living through times of social turmoil, in the here and now, and in the 1880s. The alternating stories echo each other over the decades.

Mary Treat comments on the furore around Darwin’s theory: “When men fear the loss of what they know, they will follow any tyrant who promises to restore the old order.”

There are many ways in which we are unsheltered, physically and emotionally, but she reminds us to take comfort in one another. She reminds us, too, that we have adapted before and we will adapt again. @michelemagwood

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Book Bites: 28 October

Published in the Sunday Times

Melusi’s Everyday Zulu ****
Melusi Tshabalala, Jonathan Ball Publishers, R220

Peals of laughter shook me. The cat ran off without looking back. “Doctor” Tshabalala takes politics head-on, wades through current affairs, family, being a “grown-up” (so many aren’t!) and muses on 21st-century life as a Zulu man with the same wild abandon and unexpected humour. You can learn a Zulu word a day (actually about three), on his site or his Facebook page and blog, as this comedian/social guerrilla infiltrates White Monopoly Culture. But it’s the light touch that does it, the gentle prodding that makes you wish you were learning the entire depth of the Zulu culture and language. A really, really fun read. Ngiyabonga kakhulu Melusi! Ungaphumalela na! David Forbes

The Last GirlThe Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and my Fight Against the Islamic State ****
Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski, Virago, R225

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad’s childhood in the Yazidi community was a happy existence in a village of peasant farmers in an area of Iraq that was a curious melting pot of religions – Muslims, Christians and the ancient Yazidi sect – who in the main tolerated each other. But in 2014 that all changed when Islamic State fighters destroyed her village, killed almost all the men, including six of her brothers, and many of the women and took Nadia and other young women to be sex slaves; to be abused, raped and dehumanised. She eventually escaped, and a Sunni Muslim family risked their lives to get her to safety. Resettled in Germany, Nadia is now an advocate for the Yazidi cause and has spoken all over the world, including at the UN. Her story is a stark and compelling reminder that victims of war include more than the corpses you see on the evening news. Margaret von Klemperer

An Unquiet PlaceAn Unquiet Place *****
Clare Houston, Penguin, R260

Neglected, lost and fragile, Hannah Harrison leaves everything she knows in Cape Town for a bookshop in the Free State. There, she discovers a diary dating back to concentration camps from the South African War. Hannah is intrigued by the idea that she could unravel the mystery of the diary and what happened to the person who wrote it, but she encounters many obstacles: new love, an ex-lover and a deranged woman living on a farm nearby. Houston manages to weave together a complicated tapestry of events in an unexpected and rich way. So masterful is Houston’s writing that at the end readers will likely be inspired to research our history. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

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‘Albright describes herself as an optimist who worries a lot. Hers is a timely warning,’ writes William Saunderson-Meyer of Madeleine Albright’s Fascism

Published in the Sunday Times


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Madeleine Albright at the Aspen Institute Forum in the palace of Versailles, France. Picture: Baptise Giroudon/Getty Images

 
Fascism: A Warning
****
Madeleine Albright, HarperCollins, R330

Sweden, the poster child for an inclusive, tolerant society, recently lurched to the right. So, too, has Italy, while Brazil, pending a presidential run-off, is poised on a sabre edge between left-wing and right-wing versions of populism.

In Europe, neo-Nazi movements have laid siege to the post-World War 2 liberal, multicultural consensus in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Spain.

The whole of Eastern Europe – former Communist bloc countries like Romania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Croatia – has shifted substantially towards and authoritarian style of governance that puts at risk the founding liberal principles of the European Union.

As the writer Primo Levi, himself a Holocaust survivor, ruefully observed, “every age has its own fascism”. He might well have added that no nation is exempt from the affliction, for modern neo-fascism is a global phenomenon and spans the political spectrum.

In our age, as attested to by nations like Russia, Turkey, Venezuela and North Korea, it’s a truism that bridges vast differences in history and ideology. In SA, it was the driving force of the Afrikaner/white Nationalist ideology and, in a breathtaking post-apartheid inversion, it similarly is shaping the black nationalism of the EFF.

It is entirely apt that this lucid, compelling and cautionary book comes from Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state (and first woman to serve in that position) in President Bill Clinton’s administration from 1997 to 2001. She has not only made and lived foreign policy, dealing intimately with the countries she dissects, but she was a child refugee from Nazi fascism, following Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.

In her academic incarnation, she specialised in Eastern European politics, where the Marxian dream of a worker utopia had degenerated into a totalitarian nightmare. Hers has been a lifetime shaped by tussles with tyranny.

Hence, while some political purists may quibble, her rendering of fascism is deliberately broad. In an interview with The Guardian, she points out that defining fascism is difficult.

“First of all, I don’t think fascism is an ideology. I think it is a method, it’s a system … a means of seizing and holding power.”

Fascism’s leaders have an “aptitude for spectacle”, a cult-like ability to establish emotional links to the mob and bring to the surface “deep and often ugly” feelings.

Theirs is an intolerant, antidemocratic “doctrine of anger and fear”, marked by strong ethnic identification, as well as vilification and discrimination against non-members.

It often draws its energy from “a memory of humiliation” that percolates upwards from the general populace. The more painful the grounds for resentment, the easier it is for the fascist leader to build his following by “dangling prospects of renewal or vowing to take back what’s been stolen”.

It relies on intimidation and, often, violence. For it to succeed, the traditionally independent institutions of democracy, such as the police, the prosecutorial services, the judiciary, and civil service, all have to be brought under partisan control.

To the chagrin of Albright, the US, where her fleeing family eventually found refuge, is no longer the bulwark against fascism, of any hue, that it once was.

Under President Donald Trump, there is a resurgence of American isolationism, protectionism, and a tolerance of dictatorships, that Albright worries is eroding the US’s efficacy on the international stage, deepening divisions within the West, and emboldening antidemocratic forces.

While Albright is careful, unlike many Democratic Party leaders, to label Trump as a fascist, her scorn for him is manifest.

“Instead of challenging anti-democratic forces [globally], Trump is a comfort to them, a provider of excuses.”

The Trump administration’s disdain for the international consensus painstakingly built since 1945 is an incentive to a flourishing culture in what she calls the global “Petri dish of fascism”.

This is undermining a critical tenet for the relative equilibrium the world has experienced since, argues Albright – the belief that “victories are more readily won and easier to sustain through co-operative action than by nations acting alone”.

Albright describes herself as an optimist who worries a lot. Hers is a timely warning. @TheJaundicedEye

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“If I had known what I was getting myself into, I would probably never have begun.” Simone Haysom on writing The Last Words of Rowan du Preez

Published in the Sunday Times

The Last Words of Rowan du Preez: Murder and Conspiracy on the Cape Flats
Simone Haysom, Jonathan Ball Publishers
R275

Towards the end of 2013 a friend came to me and said: “I’ve just returned from Cape Town and the craziest things have been happening to a friend of mine.” I had recently moved back to SA after several years studying and working abroad and I was looking for a story, something that could help me understand the baffling, violent country I loved.

This turned out to be it.

The woman he was talking about was Angy Peter, and she was accused of necklacing a young man, Rowan du Preez, who she had been trying to rehabilitate from a life of crime. Angy, a criminal justice activist involved in a campaign to fix the dire state of policing in Khayelitsha, claimed she was innocent. She had been set up, she said, by a policeman she had accused of corruption, and a police force that considered her an enemy had gone along with it.

But the state had, on the face of things, a strong case: eyewitnesses to the assault, and a declaration supposedly made by Rowan himself – to three policemen – as he lay dying.

I spent the next five years researching and writing the story: attending the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry, Angy Peter’s trial, and asking questions in Mfuleni, where the murder took place, poring over transcripts and chasing leads that often didn’t work out.

The story turned out to be as much about the toll that impunity – at high levels and low – has taken on our society, as it was about these specific events.

Sometimes the degree to which the truth refused to be pinned down was so extreme it became absurd. At one point in the trial, during a cross-examination of a witness who was being infuriatingly evasive, the defence advocate asked him: “What do you think the motive for the murder was?”

So intent on dodging questions was he, he replied: “Which murder?”

“This one!” bellowed the advocate, and I thought for a second he might be about to commit another.

If I had known what I was getting myself into, I would probably never have begun. In a story like this, your head can get done in, both by what you don’t find out and what you do.

Working through hundreds of pages of eyewitness and medical testimony on a necklacing begins to take a toll. You tell yourself it’ll be worth it when you find the truth, but that’s elusive. Though I was able to find out far more than the official story, my limitations to getting to the heart of what happened caused me angst.

You can’t get all the access you need: the story is shaped by the gaps you get through. @simonehaysom

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“It was an opportunity to speak to the criminals, to tell their untold story.” Jonas Bonnier discusses his first true crime novel, The Helicopter Heist, with Mila de Villiers

Published in the Sunday Times

The Helicopter Heist is Swedish author Jonas Bonnier’s riveting first true crime novel. Author picture supplied.

 
The Helicopter Heist ****
Jonas Bonnier, Bonnier, R270

Nordic noir is all the rage nowadays – from Jo Nesbo to Henning Mankel to The Killing – yet Jonas Bonnier, author of the Scandi true crime thriller The Helicopter Heist, is “not at all interested in crime or crime novels”.

The Helicopter Heist is an exhilarating read based on the 2009 Västberga helicopter robbery; the heist was executed by four men and one spectacular helicopter roof-landing. The foursome broke into a Group 4 Securicor (G4S) cash depot in Stockholm, making off with 39-million kronor (about R88m). The criminals were caught. The money was never retrieved.

Marketed as “true crime fiction” (much to the affable Swede’s amusement), Bonnier states that he never considered writing a non-fiction account of the heist, reasoning that “I’m not a good non-fiction writer”.

Bonnier was approached by his agent to write the book; hesitant at first, he was persuaded when his agent asked him whether he would be interested in meeting the perpetrators.

“I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve never met any of the characters in my book before’,” he laughs. (The Helicopter Heist is his ninth book.)

“It was an opportunity to speak to the criminals, to tell their untold story. I can’t even imagine this novel written by me if I hadn’t met them.” Meeting with them convinced him to write the book.

The eccentric millionaire character known as Zoran in thenbook (Bonnier provided pseudonyms for the four perps) made a profound impression on Bonnier. He describes the man as a “larger than life character” who had “just stepped out of a novel”. This owing to the fact that “Zoran” ordered a glass of lukewarm water which he didn’t touch once (a trait shared with the fictionalised version of the criminal) and his wealth and extravagant lifestyle (think annual trips to the Cannes Film Festival and horse races in Monte Carlo.)

“I fell so in love with this character!” says Bonnier.

The other three perpetrators who, despite previous incarcerations, remain involved in Sweden’s underworld, were eager to meet Bonnier.

“There’s this hierarchy in prison in Sweden and if you’re a robber you’re the shit,” Bonnier explains.

“And if you’re a robber and you used a helicopter – to some extent,” Bonnier interrupts himself, “I hadn’t used this word yet – but to some extent I think they’re proud of what they actually did.”

Bonnier maintains that the characters’ back stories are “very accurate”.

Zoran aside, the character of Sami is a petty thief-turned-family-man who reverts to his old ways; Michal, a charming and savvy Lebanese criminal who grew up in the impoverished suburbs of Stockholm; and the reckless adrenaline junkie, Niklas, whose appetite for adventure makes him agree to participate in the heist before one can say “Bloukrans bungee!”

During the “hours and hours” that Bonnier sat down with the four men, he did not once ask them about past crimes they’d committed, but focused on character sketches.

“I asked them if they played Nintendo or Sega as kids. I asked them very specific questions that I needed to get out of them, like ‘if you walk up to a bar, what do you order?’”

Bonnier believes two members of the heist squad have read the book and knows for certain that the Michal character had “loved it”.

“I specifically asked him what his friends thought and he said ‘no, no – everybody on every end-station likes it’.”

“End-stations” refers to the final stop of a Swedish subway route and they’re usually in very rough neighbourhoods. “So, the criminals enjoy it!” Bonnier relays with unbridled mirth.

As The Helicopter Heist is based on true events, Bonnier had to maintain a balance between fact and fiction; he says it is “tricky”. Readers would regularly ask him if particular passages were true, and after delivering his first draft to his publishers, he was told that a certain scene was not believable. “Well, that scene was something true!” says Bonnier.

Bonnier used the age-old adage of truth-is-stranger-than-fiction to his advantage: “I realised that nobody would be able to tell the truth apart from fiction and if I had presented the book as ‘pages one to five are true and then there’s some fiction’, I would have skipped the fiction parts. So I tell them it’s all true!” he chortles.

That the criminals were able to pull off the heist was “almost unbelievable”, says Bonnier. He was fascinated by how the foursome went about planning the heist: “I mean, to blow up a roof is not just to blow up a roof! You have to use so many different techniques and find roofs in Stockholm that are constructed in the same way [as the roof of the GS4] and try it out.

“It’s amazing! I really enjoyed listening to them telling their stories. I also learned a lot about explosives,” he says, cracking up.

This is the first time Bonnier set out to write commercial fiction and he describes the experience as more time consuming than usual as he had less free rein with the content and was reliant on the advice of his publishers and crime-fiction writers. “I didn’t know how to write a crime novel.”

“I tried! I really tried!” is the exasperated response when asked whether he read any crime novels as preparation for writing The Helicopter Heist. “I watched maybe 40 movies – I love movies, and I generally like crime and thriller,” says the Oceans 11 fanatic.

Bonnier isn’t the only fan of heist movies – his gripping romp has been commissioned by Jake Gyllenhaal’s production company and will be released as a Netflix film. Bonnier is credited as a co-producer which, according to him, means that “I might be copied in one of the many e-mails that go around.”

Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises, Peaky Blinders) will be responsible for the script.

“This is a large production, no way will they involve some amateur from Sweden,” Bonnier laughs. “But names are good. Big names are good, especially Jake Gyllenhaal.”

As for what’s next – if it doesn’t involve having to kill off a main character (“I get very, very attached to my characters, as long as they’re alive they’re interesting”), or a disillusioned, divorced drunkard of a detective as protagonist (this man really has it in for his fellow Scandi scribes!) – Bonnier’s definitely interested in trying his hand at a second true crime thriller. If only for the fact that the genre definition makes him snigger. Ja, tak! @mila_se_kind

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Kate Sidley on what new book lists tell you about the world

Published in the Sunday Times

Every month, publishers send out This Month’s Highlights e-mails to reviewers like me. The point of the mail is for us to select books to review, but I use it as a handy snapshot of the state of the world. It’s almost as effective as reading the newspaper, and a lot quicker. From recent months’ offerings, I have developed the following worldview:

We wuz robbed

Books about the pillage of the public purse are a thriving industry in SA. There’s at least one new one a month – Licence to Loot; How To Steal a City; Shadow State; Other titles with the words ‘plunder’ and ‘capture’ – and they barely even overlap, so rich is the seam to be mined. There’s enough meat for sequels – I imagine Licence to Loot More, How To Steal Another City and Even Shadowier State.

Veg is the new Banting

The lists are littered with vegetarian and vegan recipe books like The Plant-Based Cookbook and Vegan Christmas. OK, so the titles lack the finger-licking allure of How To Be A Domestic Goddess, which made the full-creamy Nigella Lawson a welcome presence in our kitchens, but no animals were harmed in their making. South African restaurants still relying on pasta arrabiata and the “vegetarian platter” (aka, a plate of fried brown things) as their extensive vegetarian menu, could learn a thing or two.

#MenAreTrash

The number of stories about spousal abuse and gender-based violence is simply appalling. Famous names like Tracy Going (Brutal Legacy) and Vanessa Govender (Beaten But Not Broken) – and lesser-known but equally brave survivors – are telling their stories.

But people are pretty awesome

There they are, overcoming cancer, fighting apartheid (100 Mandela Moments), swimming long distances in very cold water, challenging injustice, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and climbing mountains on their one remaining leg – not at the same time, just to be clear. And we get to read about it. It’s properly inspiring.

Except for the ones that are psychos

There they are, murdering, abusing children, running apartheid death squads, mucking up the country (The Lost Boys of Bird Island being a case in point). And we get to read about it. It’s properly depressing.

We drink too much

The Craft Beer Dictionary, The Bourbon Bible, The Vodka Lover’s Guide to Cirrhosis, and wine, wine, wine. The world is all boozed up, and increasingly adventurously so – no longer does one simply add some T to one’s G – you toss in lavender and star anise and burnt orange peel.

We need help!

People, we are struggling! And there are books to help. From colour therapy to feng shui, to spiritual guidance, to diet secrets, to career advice, they make big promises – like Mr Bitcoin: How I Became a Bitcoin Millionaire at 21. I can’t vouch for the success of the methods, but the category is booming.

We need escape

Leave the predictable daily grind for the mystery of novels where people who are thought dead turn out not to be, or whether the assumed killer is but a red herring. Be transported to Tuscany, into the chiselled arms of a handsome stranger. Or to a Chicago speakeasy. Or to suburban London. Any place, really. Any place but where you are.

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Licence to Loot
Licence to Loot by Stephan Hofstatter
EAN: 9781776093120
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How To Steal A City

How To Steal A City: The Battle For Nelson Mandela Bay by Crispian Oliver
EAN: 9781868428205
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Shadow State

Shadow State: The Politics of State Capture by Ivor Chipkin, Mark Swilling
EAN: 9781776142125
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The Plant-Based Cookbook

The Plant-Based Cookbook by Ella Mills
EAN: 9781473639218
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Vegan Christmas

Vegan Christmas by Gaz Oakley
EAN: 9781787132672
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Brutal Legacy

Brutal Legacy: A Memoir by Tracy Going
EAN: 9781928420125
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Beaten but not Broken

Beaten but not Broken by Vanessa Govender
EAN: 9781431426799
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100 Mandela Moments

100 Mandela Moments by Kate Sidley
EAN: 9781868429028
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The Lost Boys of Bird Island

The Lost Boys of Bird Island: A shocking exposé from within the heart of the NP government by Mark Minnie, Chris Steyn
EAN: 9780624081432
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The Craft Beer Dictionary

The Craft Beer Dictionary by Richard Croasdale
EAN: 9781784723880
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The Bourbon Bible

The Bourbon Bible by Eric Zandona
EAN: 9781784724573
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Mr Bitcoin

Mr Bitcoin: How I became a millionaire at 21 by Mpho Dagada
EAN: 9781431426720
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“Don’t listen to anyone. Just write for yourself” – Wilbur Smith on ‘writing advice’, his characters, favourite authors and more…

Published in the Sunday Times

Author Wilbur Smith’s latest release Courtney’s War was published in August 2018. Pic supplied.

 
Which of your novels has been your favourite to write? All of them. However, working “with” Taita (character from the The Egyptian novels) is very amusing.

What inspired you to start writing? I always had an urge to tell stories, so I just sat down and wrote them.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My mother. She exposed me to the world of books and the wonder of storytelling.

What would you tell your younger self? Do it all again, and do it better.

The secret to your success? Tenacity, commitment and hard work.

A motto or mantra you live by? I thank the Lord for what I have, but for a little more I would be glad.

Do you plan out the plots to your books, or do you see where the story takes you? I know how the story will end, but my characters guide me there.

Who is your favourite character that you’ve written? Why? My old friend Taita. He is close to me and always talks to me.

How long do you spend researching your books? Each one is different. I use first-hand knowledge from the research trips I have done since 1950.

What is the best piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer? Don’t listen to anyone … just write for yourself.

You’ve had many amazing experiences in your life. The most memorable? Every Facebook message I receive from my fans around the world is the best thing to come out of the hectic digital age for me. To be able to connect with so many people who care for my stories and my characters is something I cherish every day.

Where do you write? In my head and seated at my desk.

How do you structure your writing day? Just sit down and write.

Favourite authors writing today? Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden.

A favourite book from your childhood? King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain by H Rider Haggard and Biggles by WE Johns.

What is Courtney’s War about? It’s about a heroic spy, lover and adventuress named Saffron Courtney.

You’ve written about World War 2 in Power of the Sword. Were you excited to return to that period? I’m always excited to write about my characters in difficult times of human history. Saffron is a strong female lead.

Are there strong women who have inspired your writing? It starts with my mother and runs through to Margaret Thatcher and to my incredible wife Niso, who is the strongest woman I know.

What drew you to the idea of having the two leads on opposing sides of the war? There are always two sides to any war. Why can’t lovers be on different sides of a conflict, fighting to be together? It’s in my characters’ natures to fight for what they want.

What drew you to writing about a Special Ops Executive? There are not many things more exciting than seeing an attractive and intelligent spy at work.

What kind of research did you do for this book? My knowledge of World War 2 dates back decades and includes travels to France and many other places featured in the novel.

Do you enjoy writing real people (for example, fashion designer for Queen Elizabeth II, Hardy Amies) into your novels? Yes, it’s necessary to the plot and it’s fun to bring these characters back to life.

Will there be more from Saffron? Yes, she is restless and driven to the edge of survival by her circumstances.

Courtney’s War by Wilbur Smith is published by Bonnier, R320.

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Sefika Awards & Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award winners announced!

Issued on behalf of the SA Booksellers Association and Publishers Association of South Africa by Native Worx PR & Communications

29 August 2018

Last night the much-anticipated Grammy’s of the book industry were announced at a packed ceremony held at the Wanderers Club in Illovo, Johannesburg. The annual event forms part of the booksellers and publishers of South Africa co-joined Annual General Meetings (AGM) where topical issues in various sectors of the book industry are discussed. The Awards acknowledge and celebrate booksellers and the role they play in promoting literacy and a culture of reading.

The winners are:

• Academic bookseller of the year – Protea Books
• Education bookseller of the year – Books 24/7
• Library supplier of the year – Hargraves Library Services
• Trade bookseller of the year (chain stores) – Bargain Books
• Trade bookseller of the year (independent) – The Book Lounge
• Academic publisher of the year – Juta Books
• Education publisher of the year (large) – Best Education
• Education publisher of the year (small) – Berlut Book
• Trade publisher of the year – Jonathan Ball Publishers

Winners are selected through a voting process which enables publishers to select the best among booksellers and in turn booksellers choose the winners among publishers.

The evening culminated with the most coveted accolade, the Nielsen Booksellers Choice Award. The award is bestowed upon a local author for a South African published book that booksellers most enjoyed selling or that sold so well that it made a difference to the bottom line of booksellers across the country.

The award went to The President’s Keepers by investigative journalist Jacques Pauw. Published by Tafelberg Publishers, the book exposes a secret at the heart of Jacob Zuma’s compromised government. To date the book has sold over 200 000 copies worldwide.

Mr. Pauw gave a riveting speech by sharing the journey of the book from the moment it hit shelves across South Africa.

“When criminal charges were instituted against me in an effort to ban the book, everyone went out and bought a copy of it and it sold out. In the midst of all the publicity it also become an international best seller on eBooks,” commented Pauw.

The short-listed books for Nielsen Booksellers Choice Award 2018 were:

90 Rules For Entrepreneurs by Marnus Broodryk, published by Tracey McDonald Publishers.
Khwezi by Redi Tlhabi, published by Jonathan Ball.
No Longer Whispering To Power by Thandeka Gqubule, published by Jonathan Ball.
I Write What I Like by Steve Biko, published by Pan Macmillan

The President's Keepers

Book details
The President’s Keepers: Those Keeping Zuma in Power and out of Prison by Jacques Pauw
EAN: 9780624083030
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90 Rules for Entrepreneurs

90 Rules for Entrepreneurs by Marnus Broodryk
EAN: 9780620758352
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Khwezi

Khwezi: The Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo by Redi Tlhabi
EAN: 9781868427260
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No Longer Whispering to Power

No Longer Whispering to Power: The Story of Thuli Madonsela by Thandeka Gqubule
EAN: 9781868427314
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I Write What I Like

I Write What I Like: 40th Anniversary Edition by Steve Biko
EAN: 9781770105102
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