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Author interview: Peter Swanson

Published in the Sunday Times

Peter Swanson, author of All The Beautiful Lies. (Author photo: unknown.)

 
What’s the one book our world leaders should read?

I’d have them read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s the bleakest vision I’ve read about a post-apocalyptic world. Maybe it would do its part in preventing one of our leaders from reaching for the nuclear button. If not, it’s still riveting fiction.

Which book changed your life?

The first Agatha Christie novel I read was Sleeping Murder. It’s not her best, but I fell in love with mystery novels because of her, and I’ve never turned back.

What music helps you write?

I listen exclusively to movie soundtracks when I write. They create a mood but they also fade into the background. Lately, I’ve been listening to Jonny Greenwood’s score for Phantom Thread and James Newton Howard’s score for Red Sparrow.

The strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

I’m always looking up information on Google about how to murder someone, questions such as “How long do you need to hold someone under water for them to drown?”.

You’re hosting a dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?

Stephen King, Kate Atkinson and David Mitchell. If I was allowed to invite dead writers it would be Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett and Kingsley Amis.

What’s the best book you’ve received as a gift?

On the occasion of the UK publication of my second novel, The Kind Worth Killing, my wife bought me a first edition of Darker than Amber, my favourite Travis McGee novel by John D MacDonald. I love the book, but I also love the memory of that night.

What books are on your bedside table?

I’m reading The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson. The next book I’m hoping to read is James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss and then next on the pile is Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, because I never like to be too far from my favourite novel.

What would you tell your younger writing self?

Stop trying to be the next Hemingway and start writing thrillers. Another way of phrasing this would be to tell myself to write the books that I’d want to read.

What did you edit out of this book?

I write extensive histories for all of my main characters. Sometimes those histories make it into my books and sometimes they don’t.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I have used multiple ways to select names, including baby name books, genealogy sites, plus just scanning my own bookcase. Lately, I’ve found a couple of good surnames by taking walks through cemeteries and reading the headstones.

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson is published by Faber & Faber, R275

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A School Where I Belong reflects on transformation and belonging in South African schools

Over the past few years, it has become clear that the path of transformation in schools since 1994 has not led South Africa’s education system to where we had hoped it could be.

Through tweets, posts and recent protests in schools, it has become apparent that in former Model-C and private schools, children of colour and those who are ‘different’ don’t feel they belong.

Following the astonishing success of How to Fix South Africa’s Schools, the authors sat down with young people who attended former Model-C and private schools, as well as principals and teachers, to reflect on transformation and belonging in South African schools. These filmed reflections, included on DVD in this book, are honest and insightful.

Drawing on the authors’ experiences in supporting schools over the last twenty years, and the insight of those interviewed, A School Where I Belong outlines six areas where true transformation in South African classrooms and schools can begin.

THE AUTHORS
Dylan Wray is co-founder and director of Shikaya – a non-profit that supports teachers and school leaders to ensure young people leave school thinking critically, and being compassionate, engaged, democratic citizens. Wray has worked globally as a teacher, facilitator, materials developer and author, and is co-founder of FutureProof Schools.

Roy Hellenberg has served on senior management teams of two top traditional boys’ schools in South Africa. Hellenberg has special interest and expertise in education in post-conflict societies, and has worked with Shikaya and FHAO over the past 11 years in equipping teachers to develop inclusive classrooms that encourage critical thinking and democratic practice. Hellenberg is also a co-founder of FutureProof Schools.

Jonathan Jansen is Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Stellenbosch, and served for many years as Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State. Jansen has a formidable reputation for transformation and for a deep commitment to reconciliation in communities living with the heritage of apartheid. He holds an impressive collection of degrees and awards including the Education Africa Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Watch: Vishwas Satgar discusses The Climate Crisis

Capitalism’s addiction to fossil fuels is heating our planet at a pace and scale never before experienced.

Extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels and accelerating feedback loops are a commonplace feature of our lives. The number of environmental refugees is increasing and several island states and low-lying countries are becoming vulnerable.

Corporate-induced climate change has set us on an ecocidal path of species extinction. Governments and their international platforms such as the Paris Climate Agreement deliver too little, too late.

Most states, including South Africa, continue on their carbon-intensive energy paths, with devastating results. Political leaders across the world are failing to provide systemic solutions to the climate crisis.

This is the context in which we must ask ourselves: how can people and class agency change this destructive course of history?
 

Volume three in the Democratic Marxism series, The Climate Crisis investigates ecosocialist alternatives that are emerging. It presents the thinking of leading climate justice activists, campaigners and social movements advancing systemic alternatives and developing bottom-up, just transitions to sustain life.

Through a combination of theoretical and empirical work, the authors collectively examine the challenges and opportunities inherent in the current moment. This volume builds on the class-struggle focus of Volume 2 by placing ecological issues at the center of democratic Marxism. Most importantly, it explores ways to renew historical socialism with democratic, ecosocialist alternatives to meet current challenges in South Africa and the world.

Vishwas Satgar is a democratic ecosocialist and has been an activist for over three decades. He is an associate professor of International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He edits the Democratic Marxism series for which he received the distinguished contribution award from the World Association of Political Economy.

Satgar recently discussed the impact capitalist industrialisation, among others, has on the planet’s ecosystem during an evening hosted by Tshisimani. Watch in full:

Vishwas Satgar: The climate crisis and democratic eco-socialist alternatives from Tshisimani on Vimeo.

The Climate Crisis

Book details

  • The Climate Crisis: South African and Global Democratic Eco-Socialist Alternatives edited by Vishwas Satgar
    EAN: 978-1-77614-054-1
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

Book Bites: 1 July

Published in the Sunday Times

When She Was GoneWhen She Was Gone
***
SA Dunphy, Hachette, R285

David Dunnigan is in turmoil when a shoe belonging to his niece, Beth, is delivered to his doorstep. Thing is, she was wearing the shoes when she was kidnapped 18 years earlier, while she was with him. He has never forgiven himself and that has ruined his relationships and his career as a criminologist. Who left the shoe and why? Is Beth still alive? Dunnigan’s hopes revived, he delves into Dublin’s seedy underworld where his quest takes him to a chilling psychiatric asylum run by a mad shrink and his psychotic sidekick. Then to an Inuit village in frozen Greenland where trafficked slaves are worked to the bone in a fish factory. A thrilling read that takes you to the extremes of human cruelty. Gabriella Bekes @gabrikwa

The Long ForgottenThe Long Forgotten
****
David Whitehouse, Pan Macmillan, R285

A cantankerous professor discovers a black box flight recorder of a plane that went missing 30 years ago, and unlocks a story that spans decades, generations, and continents. A young man named Dove works in an emergency dispatch call centre until he starts getting excruciating headaches that present themselves as flashes of someone else’s memories. Twenty years hence a cleaner by the name of Peter Manyweathers discovers a love letter with a list of rare flowers in a library book, and sets off on a quest for adventure – and love. How do these stories fit into each other? Beautifully intertwined and skilfully crafted, Whitehouse spins a narrative that leaves the reader aching for more. Anna Stroud @annawriter_

The ReckoningThe Reckoning
***
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Hodder & Stoughton, R300

There is something relentlessly grim about Sigurðardóttir’s Icelandic noir novels. The setting is a cold, mostly unfriendly atmosphere of grimy police stations, dimly lit parking garages and a country that is as isolating as it is small and claustrophobic. The characters are unfathomable yet fascinating. This is the second book in the Children’s House series. The detective Huldar and child psychologist Freyja’s careers have both suffered because of the last case they worked on and now they are investigating a chilling case – family secrets and gruesome murders with severed hands and feet found in odd places. Their feelings for each other also complicate matters. Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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Betree die wêreld van David Walliams!

David Walliams het die kinderboekwêreld stormenderhand verower. Tans is hy die grootste Britse kinderboekouteur wat die afgelope dekade gedebuteer het. Sy boeke het sover meer as 40 miljoen eksemplare in die Verenigde Koninkryk alleen verkoop, en is sover in meer as 40 tale vertaal – Afrikaans ingesluit!

Mr Stink (Mnr Stink, 2016), The Boy in the Dress (Die seun in die rok, 2017), Gangsta Granny (Ouma is ’n kroek, 2015, 2017) en Billionaire Boy (Boudebiljoenêr, 2016) is aangepas vir Britse televisie. Ratburger (Rotburger, 2015) en Demon Dentist (Die tandeterroris, 2017) het albei die National Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year in Brittanje gewen. Dit is geen verrassing dat Walliams in dieselfde asem genoem word as sy held Roald Dahl nie.

OOR DIE ILLUSTREERDERS
Tony Ross is ’n baie suksesvolle kinderboekillustreerder wat bekend is vir titels soos Harry the Poisonous Centipede deur Lynne Reid Banks, en die Little Wolf-reeks deur Ian Whybrow.

Quentin Blake is een van Brittanje se mees geliefde illustreerders en spotprenttekenaars. Hy is bes bekend vir sy samewerking met outeurs soos Roald Dahl, en sy illustrasies het verskeie pryse ingepalm, die Hans Christian Andersen-prys vir illustrasie ingesluit.

OOR DIE VERTALER
Kobus Geldenhuys is bekend vir sy kinderboek-vertalings van outeurs soos J.K. Rowling en Roald Dahl. In 2015 het hy die Elsabé Steenbergprys vir vertaalde kinder- en jeugliteratuur in Afrikaans ontvang vir Cressida Cowell se Hoe om jou draak te tem: Hoe om Drakonees te praat (Protea, 2014), en in 2016 is hy met die Alba Bouwerprys vir kinder- en jeugliteratuur bekroon vir sy vertaling van Michael Morpurgo se Hoekom die walvisse gekom het (Protea, 2015). Hy het by geleentheid ook Artes- en Safta-toekennings ontvang, en is verskeie kere benoem vir sy gesinchroniseerde vertalings van TV-reekse en animasiefilms vir die destydse SAUK-oorklankingsafdeling. Wanneer hy nie vertaal nie, skryf hy televisietekste vir Suid-Afrikaanse sepies en dramas soos Villa Rosa, Swartwater en Binnelanders.

Oupa ontsnap

 

Baie jare gelede was Oupa ’n bobaasvlieënier in die Tweede Wêreldoorlog. Maar sedertdien is hy na die ouetehuis Twilight Towers toe gestuur waar die onheilspellende matrone Swine die septer swaai. Oupa en sy kleinseun, Jack, moet ’n waaghalsige plan beraam om te ontsnap. Min weet hulle dat die bose matrone hulle fyn dophou …

“Ek is absoluut mal oor David Walliams se boeke. Hulle gaan klassieke werke word.” – Sue Townsend, Guardian

“Uiteindelik ’n waardige opvolger vir Dahl.” – Telegraph

Boekbesonderhede

Author Q&A: Chris Carter

Published in the Sunday Times


Chris Carter, author of Gallery of the Dead.


 
If you could require our world leaders to read one book, what would it be?

Any book that could teach them to be humble, tolerant and understanding. It seems that most of the world has been lacking in those basic human attributes of late.

Which book changed your life?

To be honest, no book has really changed my life. I never read very much — as a child or as an adult. Writing became part of my life more by chance than by choice.

What music helps you write?

I can listen to just about anything, but if I have a choice then definitely rock music.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

I have done a lot of strange things while researching for a book. Mind you, I’ve done a lot of strange things while not researching for a book as well, but maybe lying inside a coffin to see how it feels would be top of the list. That was a little odd.

You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?

Can it be musicians? They are much more interesting than writers. In that case I would have Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and Nikki Sixx. Can you imagine the party afterwards?

What’s the best book you’ve received as a gift?

I would have to say I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. Great story.

What is the last thing that you read that made you laugh out loud?

An article about Brexit in the UK. All of it is a joke.

What are you most proud of writing?

Every single one of my novels. For someone who never even considered writing a short story, writing nine novels so far is quite an achievement. I am very proud of that.

What keeps you awake at night?

My cat. He keeps jumping on and off the bed.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell myself to start earlier. I started writing when I was 42 years old.

What did you edit out of this book?

A lot. My editing process is very thorough. With every book I write, I end up editing a hell of a lot out of it. I can’t remember exactly what I cut, but it amounted to about 15000 words.

How do you select the names of your characters?

At complete random, but I do use a rule. I only use names that are easy to pronounce no matter in which country the reader is. I once stopped reading a book because I could not pronounce many of the characters’ names. It was annoying. All my characters have easy names no matter which country you’re in — Mark, John, Jennifer, Carlos, Barbara, etc.

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