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And our sunshine noir author for October is ... Paul E. Hardisty

A new months calls for a new sunshine noir author sending shivers down the spines of local thriller fans…

This month, the co-author of the popular Detective Kubu series, Michael Sears, had the opportunity to interview Paul Hardisty for The Big Thrill – the magazine for international thriller writers.

Here’s what Michael and Paul chatted about:

A Canadian by birth and now the CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science based in Queensland, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist, and environmental scientist. He has rough-necked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, and rehabilitated village water wells in the wilds of Africa. He survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a in 1993, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war.

Yemen was the setting for Hardisty’s powerful debut thriller, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, which was short-listed for the Crime Writers Association Creasy New Blood Dagger award – the premiere British award for first novels in the mystery/thriller genre. It was followed by The Evolution of Fear last year.

Paul’s protagonist, Claymore Straker, is a South African who went through the mill of the Angola war and was badly chewed up in it. In Reconciliation for the Dead we find out what really happened to him then and why. It’s Clay’s backstory.

How much of that story have you always known, and how much have you developed in the writing of this book?

I have been thinking about and working on the plot and character elements of this series for the last 15 years. Clay’s experiences as a young man growing up in South Africa during apartheid were always going to be the essential backstory for the books, and I had a number of pretty specific events from his past fixed quite early. These appear as fragments of flashbacks and recollections in the first two books, which are set 13-plus years later, after Clay has been dishonorably discharged and exiled from SA.

In the third book, Reconciliation for the Dead, Clay goes back to South Africa to testify to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), seeking amnesty for the terrible things he did during the war. His testimony provides the vehicle for us to go back to 1981, and explore Clay’s past in detail. It explains why Clay is the distant, emotionally closed, damaged man we meet first in The Abrupt Physics of Dying. The progression has been a natural one, I think, and has built suspense. So when you finally find out just what happened back then that was so bad, I hope it pretty much blows you away.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission meeting

Much of the book takes place when he is 21, fighting in the undeclared war in Angola on the side of the South African army. The theme of the book is largely his personal disillusionment with the defense of white South Africa as he learns about the abhorrent things that it’s doing. Yet he finds himself unable to join the other side, whatever his sympathies. Is this unresolved internal tension at the heart of the character we see in the books that are set later?

Absolutely. The man we meet in the first two books is simply unable to forgive himself for what he has done. It forces him, eventually, back to testify to the TRC, in an attempt to win amnesty, but mostly to find some kind of absolution. Throughout this, Rania, the other main character, is trying to help him understand that forgiveness is possible, and that most importantly, he must learn to forgive himself.

Most of the book takes place in South Africa and Angola. How did you develop the background knowledge to set a book in two countries you don’t know well?

Actually, I have worked extensively across Africa over the last 30 years. I was married in West Africa in the 1980s, was in Ethiopia in the early ’90s as the Mengistu regime fell, and have traveled extensively across Southern Africa. So I know some of the continent pretty well, and obviously, tried to set as many of the scenes as I could in places I know. I have supplemented that with extensive research on the period (1980-82), and mention a couple of key sources in the back of the book. I also consulted with friends who were there at the time.

Continue reading their conversation here.
Book details

The Abrupt Physics of Dying

  • The Abrupt Physics of Dying: One Man. An Oil Company. A Decision That Could Cost His Life by Paul E. Hardisty
    EAN: 9781910633052
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

The Evolution of Fear

Reconciliation for the Dead

Book bites: 20 August 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

The Wandering EarthThe Wandering Earth
Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus
Book fiend
This collection of award-winning sci-fi short stories explores human desire, distant galaxies and potential futures. The titular story’s grand premise is that the Earth’s rotation must stop and its orbit move away from the sun. In “For the Benefit of Mankind” an assassin is hired to kill specific targets before approaching aliens take over the Earth. The power of “The Wandering Earth“ lies not just in Liu’s scientific flights of fancy but his ability to get to the heart of the human condition. These are magnificent tales of people in love in the face of galactic doom. The stories will satisfy space geeks and sci-fi junkies yet are just as accessible to dreamers. – Efemia Chela @efemiachela

See What I Have DoneSee What I Have Done
Sarah Schmidt, Headline
Book thrill
Long before OJ Simpson, Amanda Knox and Oscar Pistorius, the murder that garnered massive public interest was in 1892 when Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally killed with an axe in their Massachusetts home. Lizzie Borden, their daughter, was arrested and found innocent. It’s a story that’s been told in rhymes, movies, books and songs. This is Sarah Schmidt’s chance and she wins. This is a psychological thriller about the family dynamics told from key role-players’ points of view. It’s an emotional journey that shows there was a crisis, even before that fateful day. – Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

The Reason You're AliveThe Reason You’re Alive
Matthew Quick, Pan Macmillan
Book hug
Sixty-eight-year-old Vietnam vet David Granger is a layered man. Irascible, unlikable – he seems like an alt-right dream. One who loves guns and hates everything and everyone. But as he tells his life story and reveals his true character and the daily battles of living with post-traumatic stress syndrome, the reader cannot help but sympathise and like the old man. Quick has written another bestseller filled with characters so compelling and American, you can hear Robert de Niro talking. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Book details

Hitmen for Hire takes the reader into a world of hammermen, informers, rogue policeman, gang leaders and crooked businessmen

Hitmen for Hire
When you next sit down at your local coffee shop, look around you: there may just be a professional hitman sitting at the next table. As author Mark Shaw reveals in this highly original and informative book, the ‘upper world’ sails perilously close to the underworld.

Hitmen for Hire takes the reader on a journey like no other, navigating a world of hammermen (hitmen), informers, rogue policemen, taxi bosses, gang leaders and crooked businessmen. The book examines a system in which contract killings have become the norm, looking at who arranges hits, where to find a hitman, and even what it is like to be a hitman – or woman.

Since 1994, South Africa has witnessed some spectacular underworld killings associated with various industries and sectors. Drawing on over a thousand cases, from 2000 to 2016, Shaw reveals how these murders have an outsized impact on the evolution of both legal and illegal economic activity.

Mark Shaw is director of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime and senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science’s International Drug Policy Project. He was until recently National Research Foundation Professor of Justice and Security at the Centre of Criminology, University of Cape Town, where he is now an adjunct professor.

“Gripping, a must-read. This work is of immense value.”
– Vusi Pikoli, former head of the National Prosecuting Authority

“This is an extraordinary, enthralling read. With his unique insight, Mark Shaw has thrown a spotlight onto the underworld, exposing the commercialisation of murder in South Africa. I have interviewed a fair number of hitmen as a journalist, but this book still shocked me from cover to cover.”
- Mandy Weiner, author of Killing Kebble

“Mark Shaw takes a subject usually confined to the pages of pulp fiction and turns it into the stuff of serious analysis on the place that assassinations occupy in South Africa’s political, economic and social life.”
- Jonny Steinberg, author of A Man of Good Hope

Book details

"Hendrik weet hy het nie die seun geskiet nie, maar hoe bewys hy dit?" Heiliger is ’n aangrypende regsdrama deur Dibi Breytenbach

Hendrik skiet uiteindelik ’n sluwe rondloperhond. Die eerste koeël mis rakelings, maar die tweede is sekuur. Nou is die oud-soldaat in ’n goeie bui. Dit is byna Kersfees en dinge tussen hom en Amalia wil-wil lyk of dit kan uitwerk.

Toe gebeur dit: Die plaaslike speurder, Buthelezi, daag op en slaan Hendrik in boeie. Die klag? Sy buurman se seun is dood en daardie opslagkoeël word verdink.

Dadelik word hierdie insident ’n rasse-voorval, want die seun is swart. Die gemeenskap is woedend en die onbevoegde blanke speurder wil wys dat hy nie ’n wit man sal laat wegkom met moord nie.

Hendrik weet hy het die seun nie geskiet nie, maar hoe bewys hy dit?

Die teks is briljant, want so gereeld gebeur dit dat stinkryk mense wegstap van ’n moordsaak op grond van tegniese punte. Die publiek voel dan verraai. Nou gooi Breytenbach die leser in die diepkant in, want ons het simpatie met Hendrik, maar die redes waarom die reg nou skynbaar onreg pleeg teenoor hom, is presies dieselfde wat ons as gewone sterflinge vra wanneer tegniese detail in hofsake ter sprake kom.

Saam met Hendrik beleef ons magteloosheid in die stinkende tronk- en hofselle terwyl die regslui en die polisie kibbel.

Breytenbach is ’n regsgeleerde en met hierdie boek sleep sy die leser saam met haar. Dit is ’n naelbyter, want natuurlik wil almal weet hoe die seun gesterf het. Gaan Hendrik oud word in die tronk?

Stukkie vir stukkie word die gebeure aanmekaar gelas en die reg se tentakels word beleef soos nog nooit te vore in Afrikaans nie.

Dibi Breytenbach se eerste twee boeke was goed. Hierdie een plaas haar onder die voorste krimiskrywers in ons land. Heiliger sal ewe goed verstaan word in plekke soos die VSA waar die onreg van die regsproses dikwels afhang van ’n mens se geld, aldan nie.


Jassy Mackenzie: our July sunshine noir author

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

Book details

Win! Wen! Ukuwina!

Jonathan Ball Publishers are giving away four copies of the younger-reader edition of Michaela DePrince’s highly moving memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe. Beautifully and gently illustrated by Ella Okstad, the book is available in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa. Visit our Facebook page to enter.

Ballerina DreamsBallerina Dreams

“One windy day, a magazine blew down the road. I reached out and caught it. A pretty picture of a woman was on the front cover of the magazine. She wore a short pink dress that stuck out around her in a circle. She looked very happy.”

At the age of three, Michaela DePrince found a photo of a ballerina that changed her life. She was living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone at the time, but was soon adopted by a family and brought to America. Michaela never forgot the photo of the dancer she once saw, and decided to make her dream of becoming a ballerina come true. She has been dancing ever since, and after a spell as a principal dancer in New York, now dances for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.

My Ballerina DroomMy Ballerina Droom

“Ek loer deur die verhooggordyn en sien die entoesiastiese gehoor. Hulle wag vir die ballerina om te verskyn. Die musiek begin. My hart klop vinnig van al die opwinding en dan vlieg ek op die verhoog. Die ballerina is ek!”

Michaela DePrince was ’n driejarige oorlogwesie in Sierra Leone toe sy op ’n dag ’n windverwaaide tydskrif optel met die foto van ’n glimlaggende ballerina op die voorblad. Daardie dag het haar obsessie met ballet begin. Sy het haarself daar en dan voorgeneem sy sou eendag ook so gelukkig soos die vrou op die foto wees.

Sy is kort daarna deur ’n Amerikaanse gesin aangeneem. Sy het egter nooit die foto van die ballerina vergeet nie. Toe haar nuwe ma bewus word van haar belangstelling in ballet het sy begin klasse neem.

Sedertdien het sy nog nooit ophou dans nie en vandag is sy ’n hoogs suksesvolle ballerina. ’n Storie wat enige jong meisie (of seun) sal inspireer om groot te droom.

* Die boek is die geïllustreerde kinderboekuitgawe van DePrince se roerende memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe. Die kleurvolle illustrasies is deur Ella Okstad.

Iphupho lomdansi we-BhaleyiIphupho lomdansi we-Bhaleyi

“Ngelinye ilanga elinomoya, iphepha likamagazini lapheshulwa ngumoya lehlisa umgwaqo phambi kwesango. Ngelula isandla ngalithatha. Isithombe esihle sowesifazane sasisoqwembeni lomagazini. Wayegqoke ilokwana elifishanyana elibukhwebezane elalivulekile lenza isiyingi esimzungezile. Wayebukeka ejabule kakhulu.”

Eneminyaka amithathu, uMichaela DePrince wathola isithombe somdansi we-bhaleyi esasizoguqula ukuphila kwakhe unomphelo. Ngaleyonkathi wayehlala endaweni ezintandaneni e-Sierra Leone, kodwa maduzane watholwa umndeni othile wayiswa eMelika.

Nakuba ekuqaleni wayengazi ukuthi i-bhaleyi iyini akasikhohlwanga isithombe somdansi we-bhaleyi ake wasibona. Wayefisa ukujabula njengalomdansi. Lapho umama owamtholayo ebona ukuzimisela kwakhe nge-bhaleyi, waqalisa ukumyisa ezifundweni ze-bhaleyi. Selokhu adansa kusuka lapho kuze kube manje.

UMichaela waqokwa njengomdansi osemqoka omncane kunabo bonke ku-Dance Theatre yase-Harlem. Manje udansa ne-Dutch National Ballet, inkampani ephezulu ye-bhaleyi yasemandulo.

UMichaela waba ngumlingisi oyinhloko ku-First Position, idokhumentari eyawina umklomelo. Usebonakale kaningi kuthelevishini kuhlanganise i-Dancing with the Stars ne-BBC News.
Ngo-2015, uhlelo lwethelevishini yase-Hollandi lwenza ukuthi uMichaela abonane okokuqala no-Magali Messac, umdansi we-bhaleyi owayesesithombeni.

AmaPhupha oMdanisi weBhaleyi

AmaPhupho oMdanisi weBhaleyi

“Ngenye imini eyayigqutha, kwawela imagazini endleleni phambi kwegeyithi. Ndayichola. Le magazini yayineqweqwe elinomfanekiso womama omhle. Wayenxibe ilokhwe epinki emfutshane. Wayekhangeleka onwabile.”

UMichaela DePrince wathi xa eneminyaka emithathu wachola ifoto yomdanisi webhaleyi. Loo foto yabutshintsha ubomi bakhe. Ngelo xesha wayehlala kwikhaya labantwana abangenabazali eSierra Leone. Kodwa wakhawuleza wathathwa lusapho oluthile lwamenza umntwana walo, lwaza waya kuhlala naye eMelika.

Nangona uMichaela wayeqale ngokungayazi ukuba yintoni ibhaleyi, zange ayilibale ifoto yomdanisi webhaleyi awayeyibone ebuncinaneni bakhe. Wayefuna ukonwaba njengaloo mdanisi. Umama wakhe wamsa kwizifundo zebhaleyi esakuqaphela indlela ayithanda ngayo. Yaba kukuqala kwakhe ukudanisa oko.

UMichaela wachongwa njengoyena mdanisi mncinane kwiDance Theatre of Harlem yaye ngoku udanisa neDutch National Ballet, eyona nkampani iphambili kwibhaleyi.

UMichaela uye wangumdanisi ophambili kwidotyhumentari eyaziwayo, iFirst Position. Ukhe wavela kwiTV amatyeli ngamatyeli, kuquka kwiDancing with the Stars, Good Morning America nakwiBBC News. Ngo-2014, iThe Times yamfaka kwi‘Top 25 Under 20’ uMichaela yaza iElle UK yamfaka kwi‘30 Under 30’.

Ngo-2015, inkqubo yeTV yesiDatshi iye yalungiselela ukuba uMichaela adibane okokuqala noMegali Messac, laa mdanisi webhaleyi wayembone efotweni.

Book details