International

News from South Africa

By Michael Sears

This weekend – a long weekend in South Africa – saw the Knysna Literary Festival.  Knysna is a small town on the south coast of South Africa, mainly famous for its spectacular lagoon and oysters.  But it seems to be traditional in this part of the world to have cultural events taking place in small towns.  And this year the festival had a focus on mysteries, thrillers, and true crime.
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News From South Africa

By Michael Sears

Jassy Mackenzie burst onto the South African thriller scene with her debut novel RANDOM VIOLENCE (2010), introducing Jade de Jong, and reflecting the violent tension of Johannesburg that hadn’t been a focus of current South African thriller fiction before her book.  Jade was back in STOLEN LIVES (2011), and this month sees the release of her new book THE FALLEN.  Tess Gerritsen described it as “A white-knuckle thriller with an utterly chilling finale and twists you’ll never anticipate. I raced through this book and wanted more!”

Jassy was born in Rhodesia (as all ex-Zimbabweans still prefer to call it), moved to South Africa when she was eight years old, and now lives in Johannesburg. She loves the energy, danger and excitement of Johannesburg, and believes there is no better place for a thriller writer to live. I asked Jassy to chat about the novel and the intriguing Jade.
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News From South Africa

By Michael Sears

Joanne Hichens is a writer, editor and journalist.  Her new thriller, DIVINE JUSTICE, has just been released in South Africa and will be available on Kindle by the time you read this.   DIVINE JUSTICE is her third novel, following OUT TO SCORE (2006), co-authored and published in the USA as CAPE GREED, and STAINED (2009), published in the UK and France. She edited the first anthology of South African crime-fiction short stories, BAD COMPANY (2008) (also now available on Kindle), and THE BED BOOK OF SHORT STORIES (2010), both of which include her own work. She lives in Cape Town.
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News From South Africa

By Michael Sears

Taking over this column from Mike Nicol, I’m very aware that I have big shoes to fill.  And I have only one foot to do it, because I’m actually only one half of a mystery author.  I’m the Michael half of the writer “Michael Stanley”.  My long-time friend and partner in crime (writing that is) is Stanley Trollip.With luck, he and – from time to time – other southern African writers, will help me report on the mystery writing news from this part of the world and hence fill that other shoe.
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News From South Africa

By Mike Nicol

I started reporting on South African crime fiction for International Thriller Writers back in October 2008. That was the start of the local version of the genre in SA.  Somewhat of an explosion as it turned out.

Up until 2006, crime thrillers were a big hole in the country’s literature. Sure there had been James McClure and Wessel Ebersohn, and June Drummond had produced a number of crime novels set in South Africa during her writing career which went back to the 1950s, but for the most part there was a gap.
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News From South Africa

By Mike Nicol

A couple of months ago Deon Meyer won a Barry Award for his novel, THIRTEEN HOURS. Now he’s back with his seventh crime novel in English, TRACKERSs. It’s a very different sort of book. At one level it’s an experiment in how to tell a story. At another it’s a spy story with two novellas – one about a security guard charged with minding some rhinos in transit; the other about a straight down the line PI investigation. Of course all the pieces fit together, as they should. I put a couple of questions to Deon about his book.
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News From South Africa

By Mike Nicol

Recently, a political science student by the name of Thorne Godinho took SA crime fiction writers to task for being rainbow-struck. That allusion is to the tag ‘Rainbow Nation’ which Archbishop Tutu coined in those heady days of 1994, after the country’s first democratic election. Godinho really waded in and laid three charges against crime writers that were, well, pretty bruising. In fact he was critical of most of the crime fiction published here in recent years. So much for whatever hardboiled swagger we writers have developed. I have to confess I was stung into a quick reassessment.

Charge No 1: ‘The current trends in local crime fiction, however, tend to be a more docile response to the issues which plague our nation – not a literary revolution of sorts. Writers now work within the carefully-drawn lines which surround our society – poignant paragraphs rallying against economic inequality, etc remain scare. Where are the writers who challenge the status quo?’
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News From South Africa

By Mike Nicol

September was a busy and notable month for SA crime fiction what with Deon Meyer winning the Barry award for best thriller of the year, and a soon to be published Michele Rowe winning a CWA debut dagger award for her manuscript.

On top of that came the publication of Peter Church’s new novel Bitter Pill which is a follow-on of sorts to his first novel, Dark Video.  If you would like to read an extract from the novel click here.
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News From South Africa

One of the fascinating elements of crime thrillers is what they have to say about social issues.  In the last couple of months the Michael Stanley duo (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) published their third novel, Death of the Mantis, which has the future of the Bushmen in southern Africa, particularly in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, as a major theme.  Not long after their book appeared, came Worst Case from Jassy Mackenzie which deals with corporate malfeasance, among other matters.

During interviews on my blog Crime Beat with these authors here’s what they had to say. I asked Michael Stanley what drew them to their topic?
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News From South Africa

By Mike Nicol

Back in 2005, the top literary award in South Africa (the Sunday Times Fiction Award), went to a novel that was really a crossover between crime fiction and general fiction, in that some of it was conventional police procedural.  The book was Coldsleep Lullaby by Andrew Brown and was the first time the award had been given to a book that fell as easily into a genre as it did into the serious highbrow category.

And now it’s happened again that the Sunday Times Fiction Award has gone to another hybrid.  This time the book is part a coming of age novel, part a tale of criminal life in the vicious underworld of the township of Umlazi, near Durban.  The book is by Sifiso Mzobe and called Young Blood.  It’s his first novel and apart from the Sunday Times prize also won the 2011 Herman Charles Bosman award for fiction.

Last year I did an interview with Sifiso on Crime Beat and asked him, among other things, about the car hijacking that goes on in that township and forms such a central part of the novel.
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News From South Africa

By Mike Nicol

The CWA did a survey of the body count in British crime fiction last year and came up with an average of 8.38 bodies per book.  However, one enthusiast had turned in a slaughterhouse of 150 bodies.  Seems these fictional victims met all manner of horrible ends from being sliced up in an olive machine to being taxidermied alive, poisoned by Ribena, and gored by the horns of a goat. I did a quick whip round of the South African crime writers and found that we didn’t come out too badly when compared against the northern contingent.  Over 19 books there was an average of 18 bodies per book, this largely due to some impressive figures turned in by Roger Smith. Then Chris Marnewick wrote to say he had 75 bodies in his book and with that the average went through the roof.  Here’s a quick survey from the local gang on their own body counts arranged in order of licentiousness:
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News From South Africa

By Mike Nicol

Last month at the winelands village of Franschhoek there was a literary festival that has become something of an attraction on the calendars of most South African writers.  There were two crime fiction panels but the one – Exactly What is a Krimi? – had only local writers in discussion and raised some interesting points.  The panelists were Jassy Mackenzie, Sarah Lotz and Sifiso Mzobe.

The debate started off a few days before the festival on Crime Beat with a rerun of Roger Smith’s contention that some international crime writers ‘place themselves and their work at the centre of political and social debate, and make no bones about the fact that if a crime writer dodges socio-political issues, he’s copping out. Unlike in South Africa where there still seems to be a lot of shuffling of feet and forelock tugging amongst crime writers, with mutterings of “arrrr, it be only entertainment.”’
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Dance of the Dead by Ines Eberl

By John T. Cullen

Art expert Hans Bosch’s mentor, Prof. Arnulf Salchenegger, dies myseriously of mushroom poisoning. Famous gallery owner Tobias Tappeiner lies dead in the fish pond at Castle Hellbrunn. Bosch rules out accidental death in both cases, and suspects murder. His investigation takes him to a wealthy art collector’s villa, where he comes upon a faked Medieval Madonna. As his involvement deepens, he blends into the shadowy and dangerous  underworld of the art trade—filled with fascinating personalities, including both genuine artists and talented forgers. Hans Bosch’s dramatic and dangerous investigation leads to a harrowing climax.
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News From South Africa

By Mike Nicol

Three takes on the South African crime fiction scene this month.  The first, an outsider’s perspective, by no less an authority than Tess Gerritsen who had a promo trip through the country in March.  Then Roger Smith argues for the need of SA crime writers to face the social and political issues head on and to back-peddle on stressing the entertainment value of the genre.  Finally, a short piece I wrote for Crime Time about writing crime fiction in SA.
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News From South Africa

By Mike Nicol

After missing the March issue of The Big Thrill, sorry about that, – partly because I was on holiday, partly because there was nothing to write about on the SA crime thriller scene – here’s a long make-up column, most of which is a Q&A with Tess Gerritsen done days before she visited the country last month.  Following that discussion are also some thoughts on what the crime fiction fan wants from a thriller, and to end, two book trailer videos.
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Exacerbyte by Cat Connor

In New Zealand crime fiction author Cat Connor’s newest, Exacerbyte, after the violent death of a close friend, Supervisory Special Agent Ellie Conway realizes a child trafficker known as Hawk is back. She believes Hawk killed her husband and was responsible for her friend’s death.

A request for help sends Ellie to New Zealand, on Hawk’s trail. Her job; to locate missing children before they disappear forever. Meanwhile, back in Virginia a child with ties to Ellie is in danger.

Can she uncover the hidden agenda of the suspected terrorist and his real identity in time to save the children?
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Blood and Ashes by Matt Hilton

In British crime fiction writer Matt Hilton’s newest, Blood and Ashes, Brooke Reynolds died in a car crash. Tragic accident, the police say. But her father knows otherwise. And he wants Joe Hunter to find the men responsible. Trouble is, they find Joe first. The ensuing blood bath is only the beginning of a trail of death that leads to the heart of a racist conspiracy.
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News from South Africa

By Mike Nicol

While rains have flooded other parts of South Africa, the Fairest Cape has been anything but fair over the last two months.  Our summer wind, the nerve-rending south-easter, has blown at gale force for days at a time, and our house has seemed like the Flying Dutchman to be forever at sea rounding Cape Point with creaks and bangs and the slam and whistle of the wind against the windows.

But as I write now all is quiet.  We have an interregnum until tomorrow afternoon when the weather forecasters anticipate the return of what, in days of yore, was a trade wind.  Right now I would trade it for a quieter corner of the globe.
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News from South Africa

By Mike Nicol

It’s 2011 but it’s best to start at the end of 2010.  Last year was a dire one for book sales in South Africa, as it was in most countries.  Yet there were nine thrillers published, against seven in 2009 and nine in 2008 so at least the crime thriller is holding its own in terms of published books.

In fact there is now a core group of writers who have produced at least two crime novels: Wessel Ebersohn, Sarah Lotz, Jassy Mackenzie, Chris Marnewick, Deon Meyer, Margie Orford, Roger Smith and Michael Stanley.  Most of them published this year and all of them are due to publish in 2011.  I am not sure if there are any surprises on the horizon but judging by the load of thriller manuscripts beginning to land on publishers’ desks, we should soon see the core group expanding.
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Every Bitter Thing by Leighton Gage

By Michael Haskins

Leighton Gage’s fourth Chief Inspector Mario Silva thriller, Every Bitter Thing, is a fine companion to his three other books in the series. Gage fills the pages with murder and mayhem as well as a plane full of suspects and corrupt Brazilian politics and police.

Silva and his small team of dedicated federal investigators’ frustrations and triumphs turn this book into a page-turner as the agents track down leads, discover more bodies and deal with political kibitzing.
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News from South Africa

By Mike Nicol

Well, the first crime fiction festival to be organised by South African crime writers happened over the final weekend of November in Johannesburg.  Called CrimeWrite it consisted of panel discussions and one-on-one conversations, all of them determined by the writers themselves.

So the topics ran from the good old fall-backs such as methods of killing to discussions on fast cars and country rock music, and from writing court room scenes to deadly females and the legacy of our founder of the genre in SA, James McClure.
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The Priest by Gerard O’Donovan

By Milton C. Toby

Like many successful authors, Irish journalist Gerard O’Donovan has a resume brimming with travel and many different jobs.  Unlike most authors, though, one of O’Donovan’s early attempts at crime fiction was shortlisted for a prestigious award, the Debut Dagger presented by the Crime Writers’ Association in England.  Travel broadened O’Donovan’s perspective while confirming his love of Ireland; the Debut Dagger nomination was an affirmation of his talent.
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News from South Africa

By Mike Nicol

The power of Facebook proved itself this past month when one of our crime novelists, Jassy Mackenzie, lamented on my page that there were no dedicated crime fiction festivals in South Africa.  Let’s start our own responded another crime novelist, Margie Orford, and Helen Holyoake, a book promoter and marketer in Johannesburg, then said, sure, we’re having a book promotion at the end of November why not make it a part of that.  Three days later we had a draft programme of what will be called CrimeWrite, and if all goes well we’ll be chatting crime fiction through the weekend of 27 and 28 November.
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News from South Africa

mike-nicol.jpgBy Mike Nicol

Crime fiction and books on true crime I tend to see as two very different things, especially in a country such as South Africa where crime is in our faces much of the time.  But there is a tendency at local book fair discussion groups to lump the two together.  Invariably we end up at the same table.

This happened at the Cape Town Book Fair this year, it happened at a conference in Johannesburg last year that was ostensibly about true crime, and it happen last month at the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival in Johannesburg.  Which is unfortunate as I don’t believe our true crime scene has anything to do with our fantasy world of crime fiction. more »

 
 

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer

thirteen-hours.jpgBy Milton C. Toby

Since the days of King Solomon’s Mines, Africa has provided the setting for an untold number of thrillers.  Typically, though, the continent has been a backdrop for the exploits of foreigners who have come to the continent from somewhere else.

Deon Meyer writes from a different perspective.  His novels deal with people who, like the author, call post-apartheid South Africa home.  
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News from South Africa

mike-nicol.jpgBy Mike Nicol

Two years ago a hard-hitting anti-capital punishment book hit the shelves here called Shepherds & Butchers by an advocate named Chris Marnewick.  The book was a mixture of fact (the gruesome details of a hanging) and fiction, the crimes that had resulted in the various characters being sentenced to death.  The book was controversial even though South African abolished the death penalty some years ago.

Last month Marnewich published his second novel, The Soldier Who Said No, which has another social injustice at its heart.  But this is a bonus.  Because for the rest his novel is an unputdownable thriller.  Under the auspicious of my blog, Crime Beat, he and I had a chat about his new novel.
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Red Station by Adrian Magson

red-station.jpgBy John T. Cullen

Recently I interviewed British author Adrian Magson about his remarkable new spy thriller Red Station (Severn House, August 2010).

Red Station: MI5 officer Harry Tate finds himself posted to a faraway operation called Red Station, somewhere in Central or Eastern Europe, while the media fuss dies down from a drug bust gone sour. A former soldier, now a loyal Security Services officer and civil servant, his credibility is down the drain after two civilians were shot dead during a drug intercept under his control. The idea is to wait it out before coming back up for air. Or so Harry is told.
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A Sudden Dawn by Goran Powell

By Michael Parkera-sudden-dawn.jpg

Goran Powell has spent more than 35 years in Martial Arts. He is a qualified instructor with Daigaku Karate Kai (DKK), on of the United Kingdom’s leading clubs, and assistant coach to the successful mixed martial arts team; DKK Fighters. He is a regular contributor to martial arts magazines and has appeared twice on the cover of the Traditional Karate magazine. He is a freelance writer and has won numerous advertising awards. Powell is married and lives in London with his wife and three children.
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Deadly Trust by JJ Cooper

deadly-trust.jpgBy L. Dean Murphy

In JJ Cooper’s Deadly Trust, a riveting thriller set along Australia’s eastern coast, former army interrogator Jay Ryan enjoys the quiet life after leaving the military behind–or so he thinks. Old habits die hard, and when he realizes someone is trying to kill him and make it look like an accident, he’s interested to find out who…and why.
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The Moses Expedition by Juan Gómez-Jurado

the-moses-expedition.jpgBy J. H. Bográn

The Ten Commandments, even if not accepted as God’s word by some people, are still accepted as general guidelines for decent behavior in any society. Always one of the Sunday school favorites: Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Decalogue tablets, then destroying them upon finding the people of Israel worshipping a Golden Calf. The remains were gathered inside what is known as The Ark of the Covenant, since lost in the realms of History.
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