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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

And our sunshine noir author for December is … Deon Meyer!

A new months calls for a new sunshine noir author sending shivers down the spines of local thriller fans…

This month, the co-author of the popular Detective Kubu series, Michael Sears, had the opportunity to interview one of South Africa’s finest thriller writers, Deon Meyer, for The Big Thrill – the magazine for international thriller writers.

Deon Meyer is renowned for his cliff-hanging thrillers, writes Sears. He’s one of South Africa’s most popular authors and successful world-wide. His books have been translated from the original Afrikaans into 27 languages and have won a slew of prizes, and last year his novel Dead Before Dying was adapted as a TV miniseries in Germany under the title Cape Town. Deon also writes and produces movies and TV series for the South African market.

With all that going on, you’d think that he would be content to play out his ever-popular characters. Not if you know Deon. This year saw the release in English of a blockbuster stand-alone thriller set in South Africa in the near future titled Fever.

Here’s how Marcel Berlins in the London Times summed it up: “It’s a crime thriller, but it’s far more. The first sentence is: ‘I want to tell you about my father’s murder.’ The actual crime takes place more than 400 absorbing, emotional and atmospheric pages later; the solution comes even later than that. The narrator, who is aged 47, tells of his teenage years when his father founded a small settlement, safe from a virus that has killed most of the world’s population. But as the community grew, so did their problems, their jealousies and the moving relationship between father and son. There are shades of Cormac McCarthy’s superb The Road, but Fever grips even more.’

For me, this is Deon’s break-out book. Stephen King thinks so too, commenting that Fever is “Reminiscent of The Stand and The Passage. Great stuff.”

Deon, I guess you must be very tired of this question by now, but I have to ask it. What persuaded you to set aside your highly successful and acclaimed contemporary police procedurals and thrillers for a post-apocalyptic future saga?

Thanks for the most kind comments. My philosophy has always been to only write those stories I really feel passionate about, and not worry too much about exactly how they fit into a genre, or my general body of work.

I had more passion for Fever than any of my previous novels. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps, subconsciously, I was aware of the possibilities. And some of the themes in the book are very dear to me. I did not analyze my fervor for writing it (I never do), I just went with it. Hoping that suspense and an attempt at human characters would at least make it familiar enough to regular readers.

However, I knew from the beginning that Fever was going to be different enough in terms of the setting (the very near future, in a world devastated by a virus), structure (it spans five years, all my other books span a week or two at most) and genre (I’ll plead guilty to speculative fiction) that I asked the advice of my agent Isobel Dixon. She gave me the green light, which finally gave me the courage, but also proposed that I write two more Benny Griessel novels (Cobra and Icarus) before embarking on this slightly alternative journey.

The book is indeed a powerful thriller, and at the heart of it is the question of why Willem Storm was killed and who killed him. Was this the kernel of the idea that grew into the book?

No, it was an element that came later in the concept development. Fact is, I can’t remember exactly what the first spark was that lit the Fever fire. Perhaps the wonderful book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman? Or a short story I read six or seven years ago, that had the promise of a Fever ending, and never delivered?

Like all my novels, the final product was a puzzle built with a hundred pieces.

Continue reading their conversation here.


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