Category Archives: Uncategorised

There’s no beating about the bush with this comprehensive guide

beat about the bushReview: Vivien Horler

Beat about the Bush – exploring the wild, by Trevor Carnaby (Jacana)

When my son was a small boy I explained to him that my Cape Argus colleague John Yeld was the environment reporter, which meant he knew all about the world.

A few days later I was puzzling over a problem. Thomas said: “Ask John Yeld.” Huh? Tom said: “Mom, you said John knows everything in the world”.

John is retired now, so if you need someone like him, Beat About the Bush is probably the book for you and anyone of a curious turn of mind, including small children. Continue reading

Beware hubris – and keep your secrets to yourself

anatomy of a scandalReview: Vivien Horler

Anatomy of a Scandal, by Sarah Vaughn (Simon  Schuster/ Jonathan Ball)

The advice most parents would like to give their children is: don’t do anything that could spoil your life. But it’s in the specifics that things become tricky.

Don’t drive drunk. Beware of drugs. Condomise. And you can just see them rolling their eyes: “Ja, ma,” they say, and all you can hope is that something from all those years of bringing them up has stuck.

And another thing. Never expect anyone to keep your secrets for you. Not even your best friend. Not even your spouse. Continue reading

Cops, a sangoma – this thriller could only have been written in Africa

Review: Vivien Horler

Knucklebone, by NR Brodie (Picador Africa)

Knucklebone takes the SA-based detective thriller to a whole new level.

Set in a vibrant and rather sinister Johannesburg, we have a burglary, a company that helps foreign big game hunters, and the butchering of poached animals.

Then there are also a coven of witches, a sangoma, and a tokoloshe.

Ian Jack is a former cop known to his friends as Cousin – I suspect you need Cornish links to get Continue reading

Noakes book: all you wanted to know about nutrition? Not so much


Lore of Nutrition – challenging conventional dietary beliefs, by Tim Noakes & Marika Sboros (Penguin)

This is a curious book and its title is something of a misnomer. While Noakes’s first book, Lore of Running, is described by reviewers as covering “everything runners, trainers and coaches need to know about running”, Lore of Nutrition is less about nutrition and more about Noakes’s “trial” by the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

Of the 365 pages of the book proper – excluding a forward, two prefaces, a closing chapter, bibliography, notes and an index – 304 pages deal with Noakes and the furious controversy he engendered with the Continue reading

When the land becomes art



sculpting the land

Scarlet rose petals are used to form a spiral beside the sea at Koeël Bay in the Western Cape.

Review: Vivien Horler

Sculpting the Land – artistic interventions with the landscape, by Strijdom van der Merwe ( Protea Book House)

Much of the art we admire has endured for centuries; some, like marble sculpture, is set in stone. But the work of Strijdom van der Merwe is ephemeral: based on light, shadow, water, wind, leaves and sand.

sculpting the landVan der Merwe is a land artist, a man who uses the materials of his chosen site to create geometrical forms that speak to the landscape in which he works. Sometimes he imports materials to complement a site, such as red rose petals in a beach installation, or scarlet flags in a field of wheat stacks.

He will also create essentially manmade shapes and superimpose them on a natural site: sawdust crosses on a forest road, a huge red cotton cross between two trees which seems to constitute a formidable bar to entry. One piece, worked in Nieuwoudtville during spring flower time, is a field of orange and yellow Continue reading

Camilla reaches the sunlit uplands

the duchess camillaReview: Vivien Horler

The  Duchess – the untold story (William Collins/ Jonathan Ball)


In the late 1960s Camilla Shand, the woman who was to become Prince Charles’s second wife, had a boyfriend called Andrew Parker Bowles.

He was  a “deb’s delight”, the sort of man young upperclass British girls fancied rotten. He was good-looking, charming, a polo player and an officer in the Household Cavalry.

He was fond of Camilla, but then he was fond of a lot of girls. Camilla was determined to marry him. The early years of their relationship marked what journalist and biographer Penny Junor describes as the beginning of “a long torturous romance”, because he couldn’t resist other women, many of them Camilla’s friends.

A young Chilean historian, Lucia Santa Cruz, lived in the flat above Camilla in London’s Belgravia, and felt sorry for her. Santa Cruz happened to know Prince Charles, then 22 and with  no girlfriend, and in 1971 introduced the pair. Continue reading

September 11 2017

woman of stateWoman of State (HarperCollins/Jonathan Ball)


It’s Belfast, 1991. Not the height of the Troubles, perhaps, but a long way to go before peace in Northern Ireland. Maire Anne McCartney has just finished her A-levels when she is persuaded by her boyfriend to be the bait in a honeytrap. She’s reluctant, but what has she ever done for the struggle, he asks her. There will be no violence. Except there is. Maire, just 18, has to flee to Dublin. More than 25 years later human rights lawyer Anne-Marie Gallagher is appointed Minister of State for Security and Immigration. But then there is a tipoff. A body is found in a field, and Detective Chief Inspector Jon Carne begins investigating. Now it looks as though the new minister’s secret life might be uncovered. Simon Berthon is an award-winning filmmaker, and this is his first novel.


skollie fredericksSEPT 11

Skollie – one man’s struggle to survive by telling stories (Zebra Press)


Last year the film Noem my Skollie was South Africa’s official entry for the 89th Oscars. It told the story of John Fredericks, born and raised in Kewtown, who went to Pollsmoor at just 17. And there he quickly learned that he was no longer able to protect himself using violence. And so he drew on another skill: storytelling. He became the “prison cinema” making up yarns of cops and robbers, using his fellow inmates’ names in his tales. He tells of the humiliations of being in prison, of sitting bare-arsed on a concrete floor to “vries sy gat” before getting cuts, of fellow inmates selling food for tobacco, of blood and violence. Later he was released, only to be charged with a murder he did not commit. Many years on he wrote the screenplay for the film. Now in his 70s and living in Athlone, he has written his own story, the story of his life. The book is being launched at Artscape on Sunday September 17.