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By Michael Sears

Joanne Hichens is a writer, editor, and journalist, and lectures in creative writing. Her third novel –DIVINE JUSTICE – made the top ten in the South African Sunday Times Killer Thriller list.  It followed OUT TO SCORE (2006), co-authored and published in the USA as CAPE GREED, and STAINED (2009), a youth novel published in the UK and France.

Joanne was responsible for the critically acclaimed first anthology of South African crime-fiction short stories – BAD COMPANY- published in 2008.  Now she has exciting news about a new venture with the South African National Arts Festival – the SHORT, SHARP STORIES Award that she has pulled off.  She is the curator of the new award.

But there’s more…Over to her:

Mining more diamonds….

A new South African crime/ thriller fiction anthology for 2013

When Lee Child said, of the first South African crime-thriller anthology BAD COMPANY, ‘I knew there were diamond mines in South Africa, but look what just came out,’ I was thrilled (and I will never forget!) that a writer of international stature had given our project the stamp of approval. Another was David Hewson, to whom I am ever grateful for sound advice. It was so wonderful to have the support of ITW.

It is with great pleasure then that I announce that 2013 will see a new collection of South African crime/ thriller short stories to be published as the first of the newly initiated ‘Short Sharp Stories’ series. The anthology, which has a cash prize attached, will feature established names such as Jassy Mackenzie, Roger Smith andMichael Stanley, but will specifically include new, fresh voices.

The ‘Short Sharp Stories’ team really want to offer emerging writers an opportunity for publication, as well as to grow the readership of crime and thriller fiction in South Africa by bringing to the market another smorgasbord of home-grown tales. It is also important to grow a market beyond our shores by showcasing more of our story tellers and sharing their writing with a larger audience.

Going back a little in our history, it’s true that various authors produced noteworthy thriller reads before 1994, during which the first free and fair elections saw Nelson Mandela elected as President. But the focus of novels was almost exclusively on the struggle against the oppressive political system of Apartheid. With the human rights atrocities perpetrated during those dark years, it was as if a good thriller was considered illegitimate. Even though James McClure, thought by many to be the Big Daddy of South African crime fiction, was widely read and enjoyed, publication of most fiction depended on whether a novelist was addressing issues of Apartheid or not.

A sense of literary exhilaration was experienced as writers were ‘free at last’ to explore whatever stories they wanted to, through whatever genre. And so the pool of South African crime and thriller fiction writers started to expand. Exciting times, then, as the genres continue to grow in popularity worldwide, and as South African writers get recognition for bringing thrilling tales to the reader.

The most recent South African prize winners are SifisoMzobe winning the Wole Soyinka Literary Prize awarded in Nigeria for YOUNG BLOOD; Deon Meyer won the South African M-net fiction prize (for film) for SEWE DAE (SEVEN DAYS); and Michael Stanley, just a couple of weeks back, won a Barry at Bouchercon for DEATH OF THE MANTIS.  (A Barry was awarded to Deon Meyer last year for THIRTEEN HOURS.)

Numerous debates continue, too, around the question of whether the South African crime novel particularly, might indeed be the replacement ‘political novel’, as crime is such a scourge in our country. Particularly violent crime, which is often at the forefront, as far as themes go, of South African literature. For this anthology we will welcome edgy, danger-filled stories as well as clever, nuanced stories, in which the small crimes we commit everyday with impunity are explored. We’re also hoping a measure of justice might be done, so sorely needed in South Africa.

Perhaps this anthology too, might further consolidate a South African ‘identity’ in crime/thriller fiction. Whether, as South Africans, we live in sprawling townships, bustling cities, or rural farming towns, there is a particular ‘style’ to living here, even though life varies from culture to culture. So, not only will this be a collection of nail-biting, twist-in-the tale stories, I hope it will be distinctly South African, taking into account the diversity of the ‘Rainbow’ nation.

I am pleased to share too, that the foreword will be penned by Deon Meyer. I look forward, as editor, to enticing you to cut your teeth on more diamonds – more South African tales of mystery, intrigue, and suspense.

The working title for the collection is BLOODY SATISFIED!

South African citizens or residents are invited to submit stories for the new collection.  The stories must be set in South Africa and submitted by 30th November 2012.  More details can be found at The National Arts Festival and Short, Sharp Stories.

Michael Sears
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