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Doing Foolish Things in the Name of Love: An Extract from Blind Date at a Funeral by Trevor Romain

Blind Date at a FuneralPenguin has shared an excerpt from Trevor Romain’s latest book, Blind Date at a Funeral, a collection of coming-of-age stories which the author recorded in journals, notebooks and on beer-stained bar napkins over the years.

In the extract below, the narrator recalls the “pretty dumb things” he did as a young man when it came to dating. One of these incidents occurred when he was in the army in Potchefstroom and fell in love with a photograph of his tent-mate’s cousin.

One day his tent-mate informed him he was in luck – his great uncle had just died and it would be the perfect opportunity for the narrator to meet his cousin. It wasn’t that easy though, when they arrived at the funeral a burly rugby player stood between him and everlasting love.

Read the excerpt:

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(Soundtrack: ‘Hold the Line’ by Toto)


Her eyes were as blue as the sea around the Greek isles.

     I was in love with her.

     In my mind we were already married. The whole idea was quite absurd because I had not even met her yet.

     As a youngster, I did some pretty dumb things when it came to dating.

     I once went on the Breakfast Run on the back of a motorcycle driven by a girl I fancied. She dropped that bike so low on corners that I just about had a heart-a-fi t. I clung to life for three hours, and I almost needed a crowbar to pry my fingers loose from the back of the seat when we finally stopped. Upon arrival she threw herself all over a huge Hells Angels dude who was crisscrossed in home-made prison tattoos. He was packing a smirk and a snarl that would have made a pit bull run away whimpering.

     I hitchhiked back to Johannesburg.

     I once helped a girl secretly move out of her boyfriend’s fl at while he was at work. I had high hopes of being her future boyfriend. Not so. I got the old ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’ story from her. I also almost got turned into a eunuch by her ex-boyfriend when she moved back in with him and told him I had helped her move out!

     No, I did not help her move back in.

     The one that really takes the cake happened when I was at Fourth Field Regiment in Potchefstroom during my army days. One of my tent-mates showed me a picture of his cousin and I fell in love. She was an Afrikaans girl studying at the teachers’ training college in Potch.

     I kept the picture of the girl in my wallet and almost convinced myself I was already dating her before we even met.

     My friend tried a few times to organise a chance meeting, without her knowing that it was all a set-up, but those opportunities never came to fruition.

     Finally, one afternoon, he came rushing into the tent and gave me the thumbs up.

     ‘My great-uncle died,’ he said, smiling.

     ‘I’m so sorry …’ I began.

     ‘It’s perfect,’ he said. ‘You can meet her at the funeral.’

     And that spelled the beginning of something very special.

     I honestly tried talking my way out of going to the service. I truly did. I told him I would stick out like a sore thumb. A Joburg joller in a Herman Charles Bosman story. An Orange Grove boy at nagmaal. But he would have nothing of it.

     ‘You’re going! Finished and klaar,’ he said.

     So, I put on my army step-outs. Polished my shoes. Made sure my beret sat nicely on my head (and didn’t look like a chef’s hat). And I went to the memorial service.

     And not surprisingly, my suspicion was validated. I did indeed step into a Herman Charles Bosman story. The memorial ceremony was actually a wake. It took place at a farmhouse outside Potch.

     I felt more out of place than Keith Richards at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

     I must say, I was welcomed with open arms, even though my Afrikaans wasn’t nearly good enough to understand most of what people were saying to me. (My Afrikaans did improve immensely during my stint in the army.)

     Within ten seconds of my arrival, a shot of witblits, home-made alcohol, was shoved into my hand. And we drank in the old man’s honour. The rest of the night was pretty much a blur.

     I do remember a few pertinent details though:

     The first and most sobering one was that the girl was indeed stunning. She was gorgeous. But she arrived with a date. I do believe his name was Rampie and he was a genuine farm-raised provincial rugby player. The guy’s paws were enormous. He shook my hand so firmly that my eyes almost popped out of my head and I think my tongue popped out too. But that may have been because she was so beautiful.

     The second thing was the incredible story her other great-uncle, the one who hadn’t died, told me. And, not surprisingly, it was a Herman Charles Bosman story.

     The old oom looked like one of the characters in a Bosman book, with booze-flushed cheeks, a magnificent white moustache, a freshly pressed safari suit and long socks with veldskoene, topped off with a felt hat with a leopard-skin band around it. He took a long swig of what looked like peach brandy and recited the first paragraph of the Bosman story, verbatim.


     ‘… Oh yes, there are two varieties on this side of the Limpopo. The chief difference between them is that the one kind of leopard has got a few more spots on it than the other kind. But when you meet a leopard in the veld, unexpectedly, you seldom trouble to count his spots to find out what kind he belongs to. That is unnecessary. Because, whatever kind of leopard it is that you come across in this way, you only do one kind of running. And that is the fastest kind.’

     I must say, I really wanted to run away from that gathering when I first arrived and saw the burly rugby player between me and my future with the pretty girl. There would be no connecting with her – no dating, and no enduring romance.

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Extracted from Blind Date at a Funeral by Trevor Romain (Penguin)

Share Your Favourite Books and Win a Hamper Plus Weekend Passes to the SA Book Fair!

The 2015 South African Book Fair

The 2015 South African Book Fair will take place from 31 July – 2 Aug, 2015, in Johannesburg, and to celebrate we have some awesome prizes to give away.

The theme for this year’s fair is #DiscoverYourBookself.

In that spirit, to stand a change of winning simply take to Twitter and share five books that greatly influenced your life.

Use the hashtag #DiscoverYourBookself and don’t forget to mention @BooksLIVESA and @SABookFair so that we see your entry.

If you’re feeling creative, share a picture of your books instead. Selfies get bonus points ;)

Two lucky winners will win a hamper of five books, plus a weekend pass for two to the SA Book Fair.

The hamper includes:

The Dream HouseEugene de KockThe LegacyEat, Drink and Blame the AncestorsA Life Digested

The Dream House, by Craig Higginson

Eugene de Kock, by Anemari Jansen

The Legacy, by Melissa Delport

Eat, Drink and Blame the Ancestors, by Ndumiso Mgcobo

A Life Digested, by Pete Goffe-Wood


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Terms and Conditions
1. The competition closes at midnight on July 28, 2015. 2. The winners will be notified on Twitter 3. The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. 4. The prizes are not transferable and may not be converted to cash. 5. Please supply a valid email address. 6. This competition is being held by Books LIVE and South African Books Fair as a service to its readers. 7. Staff members of the Times Media Group and South African Books Fair as well as their advertising agencies and immediate family members may not enter the competition. 8. Participants and winners of this competition indemnify and hold Books LIVE and South African Books Fair harmless against any liability, claim, damage or loss that may result from participating and/or winning of prizes. 9. By entering the competition you agree to receive further communication and direct marketing material from Books LIVE. 10. People residing outside South Africa may enter, but the prize can only be delivered within South Africa. 11. Winners must be able to travel to Joburg – travel costs are not included in the prize.

Victorian Tenderpreneurs - Tom Eaton Discusses Dean Allen's Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa

The Unauthorised History of South AfricaEmpire, War & Cricket in South AfricaTom Eaton recently wrote a piece for Times LIVE about Dean Allen’s book, Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa.

Eaton says Allen “paints a vivid picture” of the history of sport at the end of the 19th century, specifically cricket, which became a “potent ideological tool” in Britain’s new colonies.

Eaton praises the book’s physical appearance – “an object that demands to be picked up and paged through” – as well as the excellent introduction by Professor Andre Odendaal. Reflecting on the main figure in Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa, Eaton draws the conclusion that James Logan was indeed a rather shrewd tenderpreneur.

Read the article:

Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa by Dean Allen paints a vivid picture of how cricket was injected into South Africa as much for political and propagandistic reasons as for sporting ones; and he explores the life of a man who was crucial to this project. James Logan is called many things in the book – ambitious, hard-working, self-aggrandising – but most modern South Africans would recognise him for what he was: a tenderpreneur.

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Shortlist for the 2015 Nielsen Booksellers' Choice Award Announced

Alert! Nielsen has announced the shortlist of five titles that booksellers selected as the ones they most enjoyed reading, promoting and selling in 2014.

Last year’s award went to the controversial yet incredibly popular Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Sally-Ann Creed, David Grier, Jonno Proudfoot and Tudor Caradoc-Davies. In 2013 Frank Chikane won the award for Eight Days in September: The Removal of Thabo Mbeki.

This year’s shortlist includes three Afrikaans titles, another low carb lifestyle book and one English novel. Without further ado, here are the five books up for the R20 000 prize:

150 StoriesGoeiemore, Mnr. MandelaKamphoerLow Carb is LekkerThe Keeper


  • 150 Stories by Nataniël, published by Human & Rousseau
  • Kamphoer by Francois Smith, published by Tafelberg
  • The Keeper by Marguerite Poland, published by Penguin

The winning book and author will be announced at this year’s PASA and SABA Annual Conference on 26 August, which is being held in Johannesburg.

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Press release


London, Cape Town, Monday 13 July, 2015

Whether you are keen on fiction – contemporary or historical, food & drink or biography, there is something for everyone on this year’s shortlist.

South African booksellers had the opportunity to vote in this annual award to choose the book they most enjoyed reading, promoting or selling during 2014. The promotion, now in its fifteenth year, celebrates South African writing, by South African authors to showcase the best that South Africa has to offer.

Mo Siewcharran, Director of Marketing and Communications at Nielsen Book said: “Nielsen Book has been sponsoring and supporting this award since 2000 and we are delighted to continue that support and encourage writers to tell their stories for all those eager readers. The winning book and author will be announced at this year’s PASA and SABA Annual Conference on 26 August, which is being held in Johannesburg.”

The Shortlist consists of three fiction titles, covering contemporary, historical and romance, and for the second year running we have a healthy eating title on the list – this year we are looking at low carbohydrates – to complete the five titles on the shortlist there is a biography that connects with many people today.

  • 150 Stories by Nataniël le Roux, published by Human & Rousseau
  • Goeiemore Mnr Mandela by Zelda la Grange, published by Penguin Books South Africa
  • Kamphoer by Francois Smith, published by Tafelberg Publishers
  • Low Carb is Lekker by Ine Reynierse, published by Struik Publishers
  • The Keeper by Marguerite Poland, published by Penguin Books South Africa

Dr Sally-Ann Creed, one of the winning authors from 2014, said:

“It was one of the highlights of my life to be part of the team who won the Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award – it was an enormous honour for us all! The support of Nielsen Book has been extremely important to us, and we look forward to a wonderful response as we bring the Real Meal Revolution to Europe and beyond. Thank you Nielsen Book for the coveted award, it means the world to us!”

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"6 000 Abject Pounds ... For Most South African Fiction Writers that’s the Stuff of Pure Fantasy" - Tom Eaton

TexasThe De Villiers CodeTom Eaton, who describes himself as “a columnist, screenwriter and sometime novelist”, has written a post on his blog Calling Through the Fog about Alison Flood’s article “Authors’ incomes collapse to ‘abject’ levels” in The Guardian.

Flood reported that “the average professional author is now making well below the salary required to achieve the minimum acceptable living standard in the UK”. In the article, the reporter looks at the median income of professional authors and how this number has depreciated in the last decade. Flood also spoke to a number of authors to discover what this means for them in real life.

Eaton takes on the article and translates it to a South African context, outlining how sales and royalties work in this country. While he acknowledges that the situation is indeed serious for British authors, he says “6 000 abject pounds a year can’t keep a Briton in Marmite but that’s still about R115 000 a year, and for most South African fiction writers that’s the stuff of pure fantasy.”

Read the article:

That’s what the headline on The Guardian said, and I was frantic to know more. Which authors? Was it me? Were my annual royalty cheques of R250 about to plunge to R50? Less?

Usually I read like a millenial, which is to say I base my world view on the first three words of headlines from Buzzfeed articles on Twitter. But this time I read on.

Many professional authors in the United Kingdom, I discovered, were seeing their royalties plunge. Some who had earned their living from writing books were facing the prospect of – dear reader, are you sitting down? – not being able to write fiction as a full-time occupation.

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Highlights of the 2015 South African Book Fair

The 2015 South African Book Fair


Here are some of the highlights of the 2015 South African Book Fair, taking place in Johannesburg from 31 July to 2 August.

The SABF programme was released last week, and will feature over 100 authors, writers, poets, publishers and playwrights.

We’ve picked out some of the unmissable events from this year’s South African Book Fair:

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An Exceptionally Simple Theory (of Absolutely Everything)WastedFriday 10 AM (Brink Room)

Get published!

Mark Winkler talks about how he broke through the lit barrier and two publishers give their tips and suggestions on how to get published.

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Walter and Albertina SisuluFriday 12 PM (Achebe Room)

Why is it important to talk to children in their own language?

In this insightful talk, Elinor Sisulu, NLSA & PUO discuss “Children’s literature publishing in indigenous languages: How do we achieve a quantum leap?” Facilitated by the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation.

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Meaning in LifeThe Arrogance of PowerOn the PostcolonyWhat is Slavery to Me?Education, Economy and Society

Saturday 9:30 AM (Anglo Auditorium)

Goodbye to all that: Decolonising culture and institutions

Thaddeus Metz, Xolela Mangcu, Achille Mbembe & Pumla Gqola, chaired by Salim Vally. In conjunction with the M&G Literary Festival.

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The ReactiveThe Dream HouseFalse RiverWhat Will People Say

Saturday 11:30 AM (Gordimer Room)

The power of family

Leon de Kock discusses the sometimes complicated, sometimes supportive nature of the family with novelists Masande Ntshanga, Craig Higginson, Dominique Botha & Rehana Rossouw.

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101 DetectivesBroken MonstersPostcards from Soweto

Saturday 1 PM (Gordimer Room)

Stories from the street

Novelists Ivan Vladislavić, Lauren Beukes & Mokone Molete talk about their cities and the role they play in their lives. Moderated by Bontle Senne.

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A Flawed FreedomRace, Class and PowerThe Limits of Democratic Governance in South AfricaWhat Will People SaySouth Africa's Suspended Revolution

Saturday 1:30 PM

South Africa at a fork in the road (Anglo Auditorium)

John Saul, Steven Friedman, Louis Picard & Rehana Rossouw, chaired by Adam Habib. In conjunction with the M&G Literary Festival.

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Hugless Douglas Goes to Little SchoolSaturday 2 PM

Do you want to be an illustrator? (Alice’s Room)

Join award-winning David Melling as he shows you how he came to illustrate books, how he makes characters come to life and how you can learn to do the same. Interactive and fun! Age 7+

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Sunday 9:30 AM

South African fiction publishing at 21 (Brink Room)

Gatekeeping or rainmaking? – Fourie Botha (Umuzi), Bridget Impey (Jacana), Thabiso Mahlape (The Blackbird), Palesa Morudu (Cover2Cover), Debra Primo (UKZN Press) & David Robbins (Porcupine Press), chaired by Raks Seakhoa. In conjunction with the M&G Literary Festival.

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10 AM (Alice’s Room)

The Trouble With Cats (DC)

Wonder Woman races to save Batman & Superman from her arch-enemy, Cheetah on an island off the coast of Mozambique. The story takes a twist to Soweto where a young girl has to find her inner heroine & save the day. Lauren Beukes & art by Mike Maihack. Suitable for age 5+ & includes a brief talk on how comics are made. Grown-up comic fans welcome. Dressing up as a super hero is encouraged!

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African Delights101 DetectivesStrange PilgrimagesThe Reactive

11:30 AM (Gordimer Room)


Siphiwo Mahala talks to Ivan Valdislavić, Achmat Dangor & Masande Ntshanga about the art of the short story.

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The RaftThe LegacyBroken MonstersDark Windows

1 PM (Gordimer Room)

Science fiction, fantasy and horror – what are the rules of this new reality?

Speculative fiction is explored by Fred Strydom, Melissa Delport & Lauren Beukes. Chaired by Louis Greenberg.

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Bad SexArctic SummerThe Texture of ShadowsWay Back HomeGreen Lion101 Detectives

1:30 PM (Anglo Auditorium)

The South African novel at 21

Leon de Kock discusses with novelists Damon Galgut, Mandla Langa, Niq Mhlongo, Henrietta Rose-Innes and Ivan Vladislavić. In conjunction with the M&G Literary Festival.

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2:30 PM (Achebe Room)

Want to try your hand at professional editing?

Join this 50-minute hands-on workshop to see if editing is meant for you. “A lightning tour of the skill of editing” will have exercises and questions, so come expecting to be challenged … and supported. Please book early as we will need to restrict the number of participants to 25.

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3 PM (Alice’s Room)

A dress-up “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”

In celebration of Alice in Wonderland’s 150th anniversary and the launch of Alice in isiZulu, with readings in both English and isiZulu. The Queen of Tarts, Tina Bester, will be serving it up! Prizes for the best-dressed! On the guest list – the Gruffalo, Wally, Floppy, Peter Rabbit and more … The grand finale to the bookfair!

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Empire, War & Cricket in South AfricaArctic SummerDF Malan and the Rise of Afrikaner NationalismThe Texture of ShadowsStrange Pilgrimages

4 PM (Anglo Auditorium)

The Monuments Men: Rewriting reputation – Rhodes, Malan, Mandela & EM Forster

Dean Allen, Damon Galgut, Lindie Koorts & Mandla Langa, chaired by Achmat Dangor. In conjunction with the M&G Literary Festival.

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