Part of the Around the World in 8 Hours virtual conference. It’s a simple question: What sells in South Africa? Well, the latest Twitter chat for #quantum16 hoped to delve into that topic with Jennifer Malecówna (moderator) and authors Deon Meyer and Charlie Human.
Jennifer begins with introductions: Deon Meyer is undeniably South Africa’s best known crime writer, and Charlie Human is the author of two novels and our specialist fiction expert. Starting with Deon, what drove him to the crime genre? “I never hoped or planned to specifically become a crime/thriller author,” he explains. “I just wanted to tell stories. When publishers and critics told me I was a crime author, I loved it. Ed McBain & John D. MacDonald were my heroes. So, here I am…”
Does he think South Africans respond to a certain type of crime story? “SA crime readers respond to exactly the same kind of stories than any other country. I have found no difference in crime reader preferences in any of the 28 languages I am published in. SA crime fiction in English and Afrikaans [is] similar to that of the UK and USA. Only real difference is the setting. But SA setting is (forgive me) so much more interesting than the USA/UK. SA is dynamic, vibrant unique country.”
Having met a lot of international crime writers at festivals, does he think they hold a different attitude to the genre? “Most crimes writers I’ve met have more or less the same view, I think. Lot of pretty humble people… No real difference in the SA crime fiction published in English by mainstream publishers, but crime fiction published by smaller publishers in African languages are quite unique. Similar to Ugandan and Nigerian crime fiction.”
As for recommendations, he says for the who’s who of South African crime writing, to visit this website. “There are so many great SA crime authors. I haven’t read all of them please forgive my omissions! My favourites… @MikeNicol @MargieOrford Andrew Brown @AngelaMakholwa @detectivekubu @sifisomzobe @MallaNunn in English. Meshack Masondo writes brilliant crime in Zulu, Diale Tlholwe published probably best 2 books in the SA genre. In Afrikaans, @karinbrynard, Chris Karsten, and Irma Venter are brilliant, and deserve a much wider audience.”
Taking a break and shifting over to Charlie, local sci-fi fantasy really taken off in the past few years – why does he think we have a special interest in the genre? “I think there’s always been interest. It’s just that a few notable successes have made it more accessible.”
Is there something specific about (South) Africa that makes the genre appeal there? “Well, the magickal school I wrote about might have been run better [had it been set in Finland]. But no, I think SFF nerds are everywhere. More a subcultural thing. There’s this secret society of geeks like me that I’ve connected to through my books.”
Charlie notes that “The Raft by Fred Strydom is a great new(ish) South African spec-fic addition” and also offers a link for those looking to explore some excellent South Africa writers, over on BookRiot.
A brief snapshot into two genres that do well in South Africa.