Following DARTS OF DECEIT, retired journalist Wilf Nussey’s latest political thriller details a sophisticated attempt after the 1994 Mandela election to secede a large piece of South Africa as a white-ruled state. Though fiction, it could have plunged South Africa into civil war.
Fact is stranger than fiction. It may yet happen.
“Sporadic violence between 1990 when apartheid collapsed, and 1994 with the first democratic election, portended a gloomy future for South Africa. Then came the Mandela magic, and the country glowed under a rainbow of amity. But behind it lurked powerful forces for anarchy. After a mysterious death in Johannesburg, clever work by an experienced detective, plus luck, puts him and a young lecturer on the plotters’ track. It leads to widespread bloodshed and mistrust, military confrontation and attempted assassination,” said Nussey.
He added, “Mandela waved a magic wand of peace and reconciliation. Black and white worked together to shape the future, beginning with the writing of a constitution widely regarded a model of democracy. Blacks took over government, life carried on much as before. And then the country began a long slide into its present state of decay.”
When asked which scenes make the novel most compelling, Nussey replied, “There are many. The systematic seizure and mass slaughter of hundreds of African National Congress supporters and officials in the north-east of the country. The bloody conflict in Zululand between supporters of one party armed with spears and clubs, and a handful of men of another party using assault rifles. The car-bombing in Cape Town of a much-respected, elderly right-wing parliamentarian. The random attack aboard a suburban train on holidaymakers returning from a day at the beach. The race by car to save a young lawyer from being killed in her apartment by an international assassin. The machine-gunning by attack helicopters of black rebels advancing from Mozambique into South Africa. These and other highlights are linked by a web of intrigue on both sides, police and plotters. The last-page revelations, when the president’s life is saved.”
Nussey said inspiration for the novel came from his reporter days. “I had heard many whispers about the Third Force years before apartheid ended but it was so secretive, and the government so restrictive, it was very difficult to get information. Much of it was within the police and defense forces, which were heavily blanketed by journalistic censorship. When apartheid ended in 1990, I believed the first threat to the new regime would be from the Third Force. It still is a threat.”
The author advises aspiring writers. “Let your imagination run wild but structure your story around what you know, your characters on personalities you know, your scenes on places you know, your stories on reality as much as possible. Do not clutter your writing with voluminous detail about street names and numbers, details of buildings, the food your characters eat and the like—use only what is necessary to tell the story.”
Nussey started with the basic skeleton and it grew body as he progressed. He said, “I sketched out a plot I thought THE HIDDEN THIRD would use, then the kind of ending I wanted, which I thought in reality would happen anyway. The rest just seemed to grow between.
“As for writing versus rewriting, I do a fair amount of rewriting, mostly adding to the story and polishing sentences and phrases. It’s amazing how a good night’s sleep improves yesterday’s work, a big change from news reporting where the first write is the last.”
Nussey said reading a vast volume of good authors’ work in many genres and styles, and constructive criticism from some excellent editors, past and present, has helped his career.
There are no immediate titles for readers to look forward to, but Nussey said, “I’m working on something involving ancient gold mining in Africa and modern treasure which has required considerable research, itself a fascinating journey. It’s held up by documents which need translation. I’m finishing a look-back into life and legend from the colonial times in rural South Africa.”
Regarding research, forensics and setting he encountered writing thrillers, Nussey said, “Not much research needed in South Africa, where the media are full stories of political intrigue, corruption, mayhem, poverty, wealth and, amid the doom and gloom, lots of sunshine. The setting is pretty straightforward and drawn from my own experiences in all these places. There wasn’t much need for forensics except in detail about guns, aircraft and a hand grenade.”
Nussey closed with thoughts about the new world of publishing, eBooks versus tree-books. “I love the feel of a tree-book in my hands when I’m reading, and all the books on my shelves. I’m not yet accustomed to handling an electronic reader. I think eBooks are a great advance because they make good literature available to a huge audience. Unfortunately, ePublishing has also generated a mass of junk, and eBooks give authors a slightly better deal. Publishers and bookshops grab a ridiculous amount of the revenue from tree-books.”
To learn more about Wilf, visit his website.