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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

New titles from Tim Marshall and Michael Morpurgo to hit the shelves in April!

Divided
Tim Marshall

• Essential new reading from the no.1 Sunday Times and internationally bestselling author of Prisoners of Geography, which has sold more than 235,000 in the UK and is being translated into 17 languages, selling over half a million copies worldwide.

• Punchy and engaging insights into global politics – this is an intelligent, accessible approach to a complex topic.

• Tim is an established and respected media commentator on foreign affairs, and has a large and loyal following.

• He will be on television and radio to promote the book. We feel more divided than ever. This riveting popular analysis tells you why.

THE BOOK
“One of the best books about geopolitics you could imagine” – Nicholas Lezard, Evening Standard, on Prisoners of Geography
 
 
 
Walls are going up.

Nationalism and identity politics are on the rise once more.

Over 6,000 miles of fences and barriers have been erected in the past ten years, and they are redefining our political landscape.

There are many reasons why walls go up, because we are divided in many ways: wealth, race, religion, politics. In Europe the divisions of the past decade threaten not only European unity, but in some countries liberal democracy itself. In China, the Party’s need to contain the divisions wrought by capitalism will define the nation’s future. In the USA the rationale for the Mexican border wall runs deeper than the need to control illegal immigration; it taps into the fear that the USA will no longer be a white majority country during the course of this century.

Understanding what has divided us, past and present, is essential to understanding much of what’s going on in the world today. In ten chapters covering The Great Divides; China; the USA; the UK; Europe; the Middle East; India and Bangladesh; Africa; The Spaces In Between; and The Bridges Across, bestselling author Tim Marshall presents an unflinching and essential overview of the faultlines that will shape our world for years to come.

Tim Marshall is a leading authority on foreign affairs with more than 30 years of reporting experience. He was diplomatic editor at Sky News, and before that was working for the BBC and LBC/IRN radio. He has reported from 40 countries and covered conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Israel. He is the author of the no.1 Sunday Times bestseller Prisoners of Geography; Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of Flags; “Dirty Northern B*st*rds!” and Other Tales from the Terraces: The Story of Britain’s Football Chants; and Shadowplay: The Inside Story of the Overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic (a bestseller in former Yugoslavia). He is founder and editor of the current affairs site TheWhatandtheWhy.com.

Flamingo Boy
Michael Morpurgo

A stunning new classic from master storyteller Michael Morpurgo for readers of 9+, in the vein of Private Peaceful and The Butterfly Lion.

This is a landmark new novel form the nation’s favourite storyteller, set in the unique landscape of the Camargue in the South of France during WW2. There, a young autistic boy lives on his parents’ farm among the salt flats, and the flamingos that live there. There are lots of things he doesn’t understand: but he does know how to heal animals. He loves routine, and music too: and every week he goes to market with his mother, to ride his special horse on the town carousel. But then the Germans come, with their guns, and take the town. A soldier shoots a flamingo from the sky, and it falls to earth terribly injured. And even worse is to come: the carousel is damaged, the horses broken. For this vulnerable boy, everything is falling apart. Only there’s a kind sergeant among the Germans – a man with a young boy of his own at home, a man who trained as a carpenter. Between them, perhaps boy and man can mend what has been broken – and maybe even the whole town…
 
• A brand new fiction title from the Nation’s Favourite Storyteller and author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo
Listen to the Moon was shortlisted for a Costa Book Award
• Michael Morpurgo’s English Language sales exceed 34 million copies
• Michael’s UK sales exceed 5 million copies (TCM Bookscan, 2013)
War Horse and Private Peaceful books have been made into films establishing Michael Morpurgo as a household name internationally
• Michael currently has over 44k FB likes and his website visits regularly exceed 20k “Please invite this wonderful story in, you won’t regret it. History is rarely more movingly alive.”

Morris Gleitzman Praise for Michael Morpurgo: “Michael Morpurgo writes brilliantly about war and animals, conveying the big emotions without preaching.”

Guardian “Champagne quality over a wide range of subjects.”

Daily Telegraph “There are few children’s writers as compelling as Michael Morpurgo.”

Daily Express “Morpurgo, as always, is subtle and skilful, and incorporates social and moral issues into his writing without being self-righteous or detracting from the quality of the narrative” Elizabeth Reilly, British Council

“The former children’s laureate has the happy knack of speaking to both child and adult readers.” Guardian

Michael Morpurgo OBE is one of Britain’s best-loved writers for children. He has written over 100 books and won many prizes, including the Smarties Prize, the Blue Peter Book Award and the Whitbread Award. His recent bestselling novels include Shadow, A Medal for Leroy and Little Manfred. His novel War Horse has been successfully adapted as a West End and Broadway theatre play and a major film by Steven Spielberg. A former Children’s Laureate, Michael is also the co-founder, with his wife Clare, of the charity Farms for City Children.

Book details

Also available as an eBook.

Also available as an eBook.

Five local eBooks to read this March

Blood Money
Johan Raath

‘Shortly after we took off from the check point I saw an old Opel with young men trying to pass us… I remember the cracks of the AK-47 bullets when it came through our windscreen. Our driver drew his pistol and fired back with his right hand while trying to control the speeding vehicle with his left.’

Johan Raath and a security team were escorting American engineers to a power plant south of Baghdad when they were ambushed. He had first arrived in Iraq only two weeks before. This was a small taste of what was to come over the next 13 years he worked there as a private military contractor (PMC).

His mission? Not to wage war but to protect lives. Raath acted as a bodyguard for VIPs and, more often, engineers who were involved in construction projects to rebuild the country after the 2003 war. His physical and mental endurance was tested to the limit in his efforts to safeguard construction sites that were regularly subjected to mortar and suicide attacks. Key to his survival was his training as a Special Forces operator, or Recce.

Working in places called the Triangle of Death and driving on the ‘Hell Run’, Raath had numerous hair-raising experiences. As a trained combat medic he also helped to save people’s lives after two suicide bomb attacks on sites he then worked at.
 
Manage Your Money Like a F*cking Grownup
Sam Beckbessinger

‘We never get an instruction manual about how money works. We never have to pass a test to get our Money License before we can take a new credit card for a drive. Most of what we learn about money comes from advertising or from other people who know as little as we do.

No wonder we make such basic mistakes. No wonder we feel disempowered and scared. No wonder so many of us just decide to stick our heads in the damn sand and just never deal with it.

I wrote this book, because so many of the people I spoke to told me that they wished someone would.’

In this clear and engaging basic guide to managing your finances, Sam Beckbessinger covers topics from compound interest and inflation to “Your brain on money”, negotiating a raise, and particularly local South African phenomena like “black tax”.

The book includes exercises and “how-to’s”, doesn’t shy away from the psychology of money, and is empowering, humorous and helpful. The book you wish you’d had at 25, but is never too late to read.

Sam Beckbessinger is a writer, user-experience designer and entrepreneur who is on a quest to help the emerging middle class understand how to take charge of their finances. She is the cofounder of Phantom Design, a company that has helped to build bitcoin wallets, cryptocurrency exchanges, smart credit cards and more. She also lectures extensively on online culture, marketing and behavioural economics. Sam holds a BA Honours Degree from the University of Cape Town, studied Strategy Design at the Gordon Institute of Business Science and was a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow at Yale University.
 
The Expert Landlord
David Beattie

You have a residential investment property. Perhaps you are already renting it out. But are you doing it like a pro and do you know how to maximise your return from it? In this book, property management expert David Beattie distils two decades of experience into easy-to-implement steps and shows you how to manage your property like a professional landlord. His goal is to help you make more money in less time and with fewer hassles, by showing you how to run your property investment like a business; navigate and comply with South African rental laws with ease; attract, screen, place and keep high-quality tenants; ensure successful and consistent rent collection; and maintain your property with the least effort and money. The book also includes templates for all the documents the prospective landlord needs.

David Beattie is a well-known property expert in South Africa. He is the founder and director of Chorus Letting, a leading residential property rental agency managing 2000 properties across Cape Town and Johannesburg. More recently, David has turned his attention to the growing market of private landlords. He is also the founder of PocketLet, a tool for private landlords to effectively manage their own properties.
 
The Villager: How Africans Consume Brands
Feyi Olubodun

When Feyi Olubodun, CEO of one one of West Africa’s leading creative agencies, witnessed one too many cases of brands failing in the African marketplace he began to ask himself questions:

* Why did brands, both global and local, so often fail to connect with the African consumer?

* What was it about the African market that brand owners were not seeing?

He began to reflect on his own marketing experiences and out of this emerged the framework for The Villager.

In Feyi’s view, the African consumer begins his life’s journey by moving from the village, his rural dwelling, to the city, carrying with him not only his own dreams but also the dreams of his community. He is a highly aspirational consumer, motivated to succeed, and he becomes the economic portal for the rest of his community back home. But although he may be exposed to global influences and technology, his essential identity remains largely intact. This is why Feyi calls the African consumer a Villager. The Village is no longer a physical space; it is a psychological construct that defines him and the filter through which he engages with and consumes brands.

In developing his construct, Feyi posits that if you wish to engage successfully in a market you may not understand, you must have the right ‘lenses’ to view a people. He believes the secret lies in applying these lenses at the confluence of commerce, culture and consumer. Data is not enough to understand the vagaries of a particular market. Drawing on his wide experience and wealth of astute observations, he provides a highly readable and indispensable guide to the mindset of the African consumer today, yet it is true to say that his insights apply, albeit in a more nuanced way, to consumer behaviour across the globe.

The Villager is essential reading for brand owners wishing to conquer new markets.

Feyi Olubodun spent four years at medical school before changing to another course of study. He transferred his interest in humans from the anatomical to the psychological and graduated with a degree in psychology.

He worked as a Data Analyst and Marketer Researcher, at TNS-RMS for several years and later at Insight Publicis, where he was Strategy Director for before being promoted to Chief Operating Officer. Along the way Feyi got his Global Executive MBA from the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, and in 2016 he was appointed Managing Director/CEO of Insight Publicis Nigeria.
 
Like Sodium in Water
Hayden Eastwood

“Dad thinks lots of things are right-wing. He even thinks He-Man is right-wing. I ask Dad who we are and he says left-wing. Left is opposite to right. If right is bad, then we’re the opposite of that, which means we’re good.”

It’s post-independence Zimbabwe and an atmosphere of nostalgia hangs over much of Harare’s remaining white community. Hayden Eastwood grows up in a family that sets itself apart, distinguishing themselves from Rhodie-Rhodies through their politics: left is good; right is bad.

Within the family’s free and easy approach to life, Hayden and his younger brother, Dan, make a pact to never grow up, to play hide and seek and build forts forever, and to never, ever be interested in girls. But as Hayden and Dan develop as teenagers, and the chemicals of adolescence begin to stir, their childhood pact starts to unravel.

And with the arrival of Sarah into their lives, the two brothers find themselves embroiled in an unspoken love triangle. While Sarah and Hayden spend increasing amounts of time together, Dan is left to deal with feelings of rejection and the burden of hidden passion alone, and the demise of a silly promise brings with it a wave of destruction.

Laced with humour, anger and sadness, Like Sodium in Water is an account of a family in crisis and an exploration of how we only abandon the lies we tell ourselves when we have no other option.

When not informing people about the inadvisability of push-starting motorbikes in close proximity to rivers, Hayden Eastwood develops cryptocurrency trading bots as part of a high-risk low-return business venture portfolio. Non-transferable skills from a doctorate in computational physics have likewise ill-equipped him for gooseberry farming, vehicle maintenance and relationships with women. He lives in Harare.

Book details

Hayden Eastwood’s memoir of growing up in post-independence Zimbabwe is laced with humour, anger and sadness

“Dad thinks lots of things are right-wing. He even thinks He-Man is right-wing. I ask Dad who we are and he says left-wing. Left is opposite to right. If right is bad, then we’re the opposite of that, which means we’re good.”

It’s post-independence Zimbabwe and an atmosphere of nostalgia hangs over much of Harare’s remaining white community. Hayden Eastwood grows up in a family that sets itself apart, distinguishing themselves from Rhodie-Rhodies through their politics: left is good; right is bad.

Within the family’s free and easy approach to life, Hayden and his younger brother, Dan, make a pact to never grow up, to play hide and seek and build forts forever, and to never, ever be interested in girls. But as Hayden and Dan develop as teenagers, and the chemicals of adolescence begin to stir, their childhood pact starts to unravel.

And with the arrival of Sarah into their lives, the two brothers find themselves embroiled in an unspoken love triangle. While Sarah and Hayden spend increasing amounts of time together, Dan is left to deal with feelings of rejection and the burden of hidden passion alone, and the demise of a silly promise brings with it a wave of destruction.

Laced with humour, anger and sadness, Like Sodium in Water is an account of a family in crisis and an exploration of how we only abandon the lies we tell ourselves when we have no other option.
 

The Author
When not informing people about the inadvisability of push-starting motorbikes in close proximity to rivers, Hayden Eastwood develops cryptocurrency trading bots as part of a high-risk low-return business venture portfolio. Non-transferable skills from a doctorate in computational physics have likewise ill-equipped him for gooseberry farming, vehicle maintenance and relationships with women. He lives in Harare.

Book details

Also available as an eBook.

“Put everything in writing” and nine other hot tips for property management from David Beattie

You have a residential investment property. Perhaps you are already renting it out. But are you doing it like a pro and do you know how to maximise your return from it? In this book, property management expert David Beattie distils two decades of experience into easy-to-implement steps and shows you how to manage your property like a professional landlord. His goal is to help you make more money in less time and with fewer hassles, by showing you how to run your property investment like a business; navigate and comply with South African rental laws with ease; attract, screen, place and keep high-quality tenants; ensure successful and consistent rent collection; and maintain your property with the least effort and money. The book also includes templates for all the documents the prospective landlord needs.

DAVID BEATTIE is a well-known property expert in South Africa. He is the founder and director of Chorus Letting, a leading residential property rental agency managing 2000 properties across Cape Town and Johannesburg. More recently, David has turned his attention to the growing market of private landlords. He is also the founder of PocketLet, a tool for private landlords to effectively manage their own properties.

My Top Ten Tips for Expert Property Management

Residential property management is perceived to be a road filled with potholes. But it can be actually quite simple in practice. If you arm yourself with the right skills and tools and team there is no reason why you can’t succeed in managing your own property well.

There are loads of books, websites and experts who can assist you every step along the way. Once you have pushed through the initial lack of confidence and uncertainty barrier, you’ll be confident to make your own way.

To help you start on your property management journey, I have put together my top 10 tips for property management success. These principles will be your beacons along the path, and will act as a solid framework in which to operate.

1. Know your why. Knowing why you own property as an investment will affect how you respond to challenges and how you persevere through them.

2. Your property investment is a business, so treat it like one. A professional and organised approach to property management means better, more consistent performance for your property and a better home for your tenant.

3. Screening your tenants thoroughly is critical. Placing the right tenant who will pay their rent in full and on time each month and look after your property is the foundation for property management success.

4. Always do a joint move-in inspection. A written move-in inspection, done correctly and with your tenant, will mean you have a leg to stand on if your tenant causes damage to your property.

5. Treat your tenant with respect. A happy tenant is a better-performing tenant.

6. Stick to the rules. Be consistent in holding the tenant to what they agreed to in the lease agreement. Keep your side of the bargain too.

7. Put everything in writing. Arguing about who said what creates problems. Written agreements and written communication keep things simple and reliable.

8. Maintain your property properly. Be proactive in looking after your property. This will mean better growth in your asset over time, and will attract better-quality tenants.

9. Be consistent. Property management is about doing the simple things consistently month after month.

10. Always keep learning. Having a learning attitude will mean you’ll constantly get better at being a property manager, and you’ll stay up to date with changes in the market and legislation.

Book details

 
Also available as an eBook.

“Know what you really care about, and don’t piss money away on stuff that you don’t.” A Q&A with Sam Beckbessinger, author of Manage Your Money Like a F*cking Grownup

We never get an instruction manual about how money works. We never have to pass a test to get our Money License before we can take a new credit card for a drive. Most of what we learn about money comes from advertising or from other people who know as little as we do.

No wonder we make such basic mistakes. No wonder we feel disempowered and scared. No wonder so many of us just decide to stick our heads in the damn sand and just never deal with it.

I wrote this book, because so many of the people I spoke to told me that they wished someone would.

In this clear and engaging basic guide to managing your finances, Sam Beckbessinger covers topics from compound interest and inflation to “Your brain on money”, negotiating a raise, and particularly local South African phenomena like “black tax”.

The book includes exercises and “how-to’s”, doesn’t shy away from the psychology of money, and is empowering, humorous and helpful. The book you wish you’d had at 25, but is never too late to read.

Sam Beckbessinger is a writer, user-experience designer and entrepreneur who is on a quest to help the emerging middle class understand how to take charge of their finances. She is the cofounder of Phantom Design, a company that has helped to build bitcoin wallets, cryptocurrency exchanges, smart credit cards and more. She also lectures extensively on online culture, marketing and behavioural economics. Sam holds a BA Honours Degree from the University of Cape Town, studied Strategy Design at the Gordon Institute of Business Science and was a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow at Yale University.

Q&A with author Sam Beckbessinger

 
What’s your financial background, and how did you get into the field?

I don’t have a background in finance; I have a background in talking to people and trying to make stuff easier for them. I’ve been working in user experience, research and design for about 10 years, and a lot of what I worked on focused on financial apps and tools. Over the years, I’ve done work for most of the banks, and local money management app 22Seven, which is part of Old Mutual. I co-founded Phantom Design, a fintech product design studio because I wanted to shake up this industry. I’m obsessed with making money management simpler, because finance bros like to make it all sound a lot more complicated than it is. Not having a background in finance helps, because my approach is a lot more human-centred. I don’t have any patience for the nonsense jargon or questionable money-making tactics that infect so much of the industry.
 

What made you particularly interested in personal finance and how people spend?

Money is about a lot more than money. It’s about your choices, and what kind of life you want to live. Being in control of your money means being an active steward of your own life.

In my early twenties, I had so many self-limiting narratives about money. I chose jobs I hated because I was terrified of being broke, and then I went and overspent and got into debt, to try to fill the hole of how miserable those jobs were making me, and so somehow I ended up poorer than I started when I took those supposedly lucrative jobs! Past-me was a dumbass.

Think about how much money you’re actually going to earn over the course of your lifetime. Really picture it. If you earn just R10 000 a month from age 25 to 65, getting just a 6% raise every year, that’s nearly R20-million. There’s a lot of big, audacious dreams you can turn into reality for R20-million. You have a lot more choices than you realise.

I want to help people take control of their spending, and put their money into the things they really care about, the things that matter to them. I want more people to live the lives they truly, fiercely want to live.

What prompted you to write How to manage your money?

I’ve spent a lot of the past decade talking to people about money, and so many of them told me that they wished a book like this existed: a no-nonsense, no-jargon, no-bullshit guide to the basic principles of money management for people in their twenties. No-one else seemed to be writing this book, so I did.

Also, I did it for the fame and riches.

What interests you most about the field?

Human brains are weird, yo. We like to think that we’re these rational creatures that make logical decisions all the time, but really we’re all just primates with pants on. Getting better with money is hard, just like quitting smoking or taking up exercise or any other kind of behaviour change. It’s not enough to understand what you should be doing. Actually figuring out how to trick your primate brain into doing that smart stuff is the tough part. I’m fascinated by behavioural science and helping to shape healthier cultural narratives around money and choices.

What’s the one thing that people across the board just can’t seem to get right when it comes to managing their money?

We delay saving, because it seems hard and we think now’s a bad time and we can’t really afford it and there will be plenty of time later and it will be easier when we’re older and earning more and and, and, and…we have a million excuses. But the thing about compound interest is that what matters most is time, so starting early is so important. Compare someone who saves for their retirement for just five years between age 25 and 30, with someone who starts saving at age 30 and saves all the way until they’re 65. Who ends up with more money? The person who started younger. You don’t have any time to waste.

Also, we’re not scared enough of debt, in this country. Debt will almost always grow faster than your investments, so while you’ve got debt, the smartest thing you can do is to get rid of it as fast as humanly possible.

What are your top five tips for getting your financial act together?

1. Automate everything, because human brains are no good at willpower. Just set up an automatic payment on payday to move money to your financial goals (whether it’s saving or debt repayments). That way, you don’t save what’s left after spending, you spend what’s left after saving (that’s a tip from Warren Buffet, and that guy is SMART). Aim to save 30% – it’s easier than you think.

2. Know what you really care about, and don’t piss money away on stuff that you don’t. I find it helpful to have one really chunky, audacious goal in mind that has a real price-tag attached to it. This helps when you’re trying to remind yourself why you’re NOT going to buy that new gizmo you don’t actually need, even though it’s shiny and on sale.

3. Put your day-to-day spending money in a separate bank account (I call it my fuckaround fund). Top it up once a week, and never spend more than you have in that account.

4. Free up money from the boring shit, not from the stuff you love. Don’t fret over every piece of avocado toast you order – rather find cheaper car insurance, or move to a lower-fee investment fund. Be frugal with the big stuff like housing and transport costs, not the small stuff that makes you happy.

5. Don’t waste money on cars unless you actually really love cars.

Book details

 
Also available as an eBook.

“I still do not know how we managed to escape serious harm – or even death – that day.” Read an excerpt from Blood Money

Blood MoneyJohan Raath and a security team were escorting American engineers to a power plant south of Baghdad when they were ambushed. He had first arrived in Iraq only two weeks before. This was a small taste of what was to come over the next 13 years he worked there as a private military contractor (PMC).

His mission? Not to wage war but to protect lives. Raath acted as a bodyguard for VIPs and, more often, engineers who were involved in construction projects to rebuild the country after the 2003 war. His physical and mental endurance was tested to the limit in his efforts to safeguard construction sites that were regularly subjected to mortar and suicide attacks. Key to his survival was his training as a Special Forces operator, or Recce.

Working in places called the Triangle of Death and driving on the ‘Hell Run’, Raath had numerous hair-raising experiences. As a trained combat medic he also helped to save people’s lives after two suicide bomb attacks on sites he then worked at:

Two weeks after I arrived in Iraq, I was due to lead a team on a reconnaissance mission to the Musayyib Power Plant, about 120 km south-west of Bagdad. Our mission was to set up a base to receive and secure the first engineers and other workers from Southeast Texas Industries Inc., the engineering firm building the plant on a contract from the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity. We were a six-man configuration – three local nationals and three expatriate security contractors.

The route there and the area that we were to reconnoitre were in the so-called Triangle of Death (not to be confused with the Sunni Death Triangle, which is north-west of the city). The Triangle of Death got its name from the heavy combat activity and sectarian violence in the area between 2003 and 2007.

Our team members were all armed with assault rifles – we had five AK-47s and one M4 between us. We all also carried 9-mm pistols. When we set off that day, we weren’t initially wearing our body armour, as the idea was to blend in, low-profile, with the locals. But, after a while, I got a bad feeling about the area and asked the team to put on their vests. (Later, wearing body armour would become standard operating procedure and it was mandatory for all team members to wear body armour vests with ballistic plates in the front and back carrier pouches.)

We were travelling in two unarmoured (known as soft-skin) vehicles. Two of the Iraqis were in the front in a Pajero SUV and the rest of us followed in a BMW 740. The customary procedure was that the local guys would drive in front, so they could speak in Arabic to the Iraqi security forces, who manned most of the checkpoints. At many of the major checkpoints, the US forces had a greater presence, in which case the vehicle with the expat contractors would approach the checkpoint first to liaise in English and to present our US Department of Defense cards (commonly called DoD cards) or Common Access Cards. The DoD or CaC card proved that you were security vetted and cleared to work on US government contracts. As a private military contractor, you couldn’t move anywhere in Iraq without one.

We headed south on National Route 6 (known in Coalition Force jargon as ‘route Bismarck’). At around 10:30, shortly after we had turned onto a secondary road, we approached a checkpoint where the men in our lead vehicle showed their paperwork to the security forces and we followed with our DoD cards.

Not long afterwards, I spotted an old black Opel that was occupied by a group of young men. The strange thing was that they were trying to overtake us on the right – Iraqis drive on the right-hand side of the road. They then pulled off the shoulder of the tarmac road and onto the dirt.

I thought it odd but just wrote it off to bad driving, which I’d heard was typical of young Iraqi men. By then we were driving at about 140 km/h, a standard practice for private security teams in those days – the idea being to drive faster than the normal traffic to prevent too many vehicles from passing your convoy and to thwart rolling ambushes from the rear. But despite our speed, the Opel eventually managed to pass us on the outside, kicking up a massive ball of dust in the desert. Seconds later, the vehicle started swerving left aggressively and was back onto the asphalt road, pushing in front of us. They were clearly trying to split up our convoy.

As they overtook, the Opel driver glanced at me fleetingly and I can still vividly recall the look in his eyes. He was just a few metres away when they passed us. His pupils were dilated and he had an intense look of hatred and anger in his eyes. For a moment, I thought he might be under the influence of narcotics, but later I realised I was staring into the eyes of a mujahideen fighter who was drunk not on any substances, just emotions of hate welling up from his religious and sociopolitical convictions.

The next moment, I saw two men lean out of the front right and rear left windows armed with AK-47s. They opened fire on our lead vehicle. Bullets smashed the rear windscreen of the Pajero.

‘Contact front!’ I yelled immediately.

One of our team members in the back of the BMW, Ali Tehrani, wasted no time. Positioning himself at the back window, he opened fire on the Opel with his M4. The attacking vehicle was in the line of his two o’clock. The attackers immediately turned their attention to us and fired back at our vehicle before they slowed down and veered off the road.

I remember the cracking sound of the AK-47 bullets as they tore through our windscreen. A friend’s Garmin GPS and my digital camera were on the dashboard – the bullets pierced both. A piece of a bullet struck my bulletproof vest in the chest area, and another piece broke off and lodged in my left forearm (which is still there to this day). That’s how close it was.

In the midst of all this, our Kurdish driver drew his pistol and started firing back at the attackers through the windscreen, now destroyed by bullets, while at the same time trying to control the speeding vehicle with his left hand. We were doing 160 km/h, taking incoming fire and some of us were trying to return fire – it felt like I was in a Hollywood action movie, but one with a potentially lethal real-life outcome.

Our driver got so carried away with firing his pistol that at one point I had to block his right arm when he pushed the gun in front of my face in an attempt to fire at the attackers sideways. I leaned over and grabbed the steering wheel of the BMW, which had swerved dangerously across the road and in the process I dislocated my left shoulder. At the time the adrenalin numbed the pain. (I had to get reconstructive surgery for this a couple of years later.)

I remember very clearly seeing how the attacker shooting at us from the rear window slung his AK-47 over his shoulder, pulled a pistol from his belt and started spraying lead our way again. In hindsight, this showed a level of training and proficiency because it is a tactical drill to sling your assault rifle when you are out of ammunition or have a jam, and to continue shooting with your handgun.

By this time the Opel had disappeared from sight – presumably Ali’s return fire had hit their vehicle, but then we heard shots being fired from our rear as another car with shooters pulled in behind. Our rear window shattered. Brian Smith, one of the expat team members and our project medic, was bleeding from his forehead but, thankfully, he was not seriously injured. He and Ali even managed to fire a couple of rounds at the second vehicle.

By now, our speeding convoy was fast approaching another checkpoint and the attackers disappeared into the desert on secondary roads. When we arrived at the checkpoint, we reported the ambush and realised that the driver of the front vehicle had been shot through both arms, close to the elbows. Brian stopped the bleeding. Fortunately, the bullets had not hit any bones or arteries, which meant the driver had managed to keep control of the Pajero.

After swapping drivers and trying to make comms with our people back at the hotel, we drove like hell for the rest of the way. We were soon at our destination at the Musayyib Power Plant. The US forces there had a forward operating base with a small medical bay, where we got help for the injured driver. Brian and I weren’t seriously injured, it turned out; the bleeding was caused by some grazes from flying glass and debris. Brian organised a medevac helicopter and our driver was airlifted to Baghdad for medical treatment . . .

I still do not know how we managed to escape serious harm – or even death – that day. After less than two weeks in Iraq I had had my first eyewitness experience of what it was going to be like. It was an eye-opener, a real baptism of ‘fire’. Welcome to the Sandbox, I thought to myself.

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Churchill’s confidant: Jan Smuts, enemy to lifelong friend

By Rony Campbell
*****

Who would have thought that two men from such dissimilar backgrounds could forge a friendship that would change the world’s history? Richard Steyn has painstakingly gathered letters, telegrams not just between Winston Churchill and Jan Smuts but others as well to show us just how deep their partnership was during both the First and Second World Wars.

Winston Churchill came from an aristocratic background, where he was used to all the finer things in life. Although used to getting his own way from an early age, his ambition was present from the very beginning and his superiors had very little chance of keeping him under their control. He decided very early on in his army career to supplement his income by becoming a war correspondent. It was as a war correspondent that took him to South Africa. He was captured by the Boers and after he managed to escape he returned to fight the war with his exclusive and upper-class cavalry regiment, the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars.

Jan Smuts was four years older the Churchill. He was born on a farm in the isolated area of Riebeek West. His parents were deeply Calvinist of Dutch origin. He was only sent to school at the age of twelve. He managed to not only catch up but to also surpass all his classmates. He graduated from Stellenbosch University and won the Ebden scholarship to attend Cambridge University where he studied law.

It was after the ill-fated Jameson Raid in December 1895 that Smuts lost his trust in Cecil Rhodes and decide to join the Boers in their fight against the English. President Paul Kruger very quickly realised that Jan Smuts would be his best representative in the negotiations with the “uitlanders” (men who came from all corners of the earth to seek their fortune in the Transvaal gold rush).

Jan Smuts was devastated by the British, under the leadership of Governor of the Cape, Alfred Milner, when they refused to negotiate with the Boer contingent when they met in Bloemfontein on 9 October 1899 and shortly after this, the Boers declared war of Britain.

Jan Smuts was twenty-nine when the war started. He “virtually singlehandedly” ran the administration of Paul Kruger’s government in Pretoria.

Smuts and Churchill first encountered each other after Churchill was captured. His escort took him to the tent of Commandant-General Joubert. Smuts happened to be visiting Joubert at the time. They were not introduced. However, Churchill made an impression of Smuts who described him thus, “Winston was a scrubby, squat figure of a man, unshaved. He was furious, venomous, just like a viper.”

They were to meet officially when Jan Smuts was in London for the British to grant permission to the South Africans for self-government. At the time, January 1906, Winston Churchill had “crossed the house” and had joined the Liberals. He represented the government as the Undersecretary for the Colonies. South Africa was one of Churchill’s primary responsibilities. Churchill had great respect for the Boer army. He wrote that “the individual Boer, mounted in suitable country, is worth three to five regular soldiers”.

Their friendship and the respect they had for each other started at this meeting and was to continue through both world wars and through their roles in the establishment of first, The League of Nations (after WW1) and then The United Nations (after WW2).

What is so very clear in this book is that the world was “given” two men with vision. Men who could work together and had complete understanding of each other. Smuts, much to the hatred of the Afrikaner opposition party, took South Africa into the First World War because he realised that unless there was a combined force to stop the Germans, the balance of the world would be overthrown. He took a similar stance to send troops to help the allies during the WW2.

I shudder to think how the the world would look today if Winston Churchill was not at the helm during those long years of fighting. I also hate to think what would have happened to Southern Africa if Jan Smuts had not brushed his critics aside and stopped the Afrikaner Broederbond (brotherhood) from allowing the Nazis to take hold of the entire area from East Africa to what is now Namibia.

What is also astonishing that Mohandas K Gandhi who played such a pivotal part in India had started his legal career in South Africa and was one of the first people to fight against the system of keeping the white race “pure.” Both Churchill and Smuts admired his initiative for peaceful protest but neither particularly liked the man.

This is a book that anyone interested in not only the Boer War, but the role that South Africans took in the two World Wars, thanks to their leader, Jan Smuts.

I wonder if we will ever truly appreciate just how much Winston Churchill did for the freedom of world from what could have been worldwide capture by the Nazis and their allies. But what this book has also given me is the insight into not just these two formidable men in Churchill and Smuts but at the same time a man like Gandhi.

Will we ever again see three men with so much foresight and intelligence prepared to do whatever was necessary to preserve justice and (relative) peace for the world as a whole?

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Giveaway! Win a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Little Book of Love

One of the world’s best-loved poets, Kahlil Gibran was never more profound than when he wrote about love. He believed it was the raison d’être of the universe.

With the same simplicity and lyrical beauty that made The Prophet a global treasure, his reflections on love and friendship are gathered together in one volume and illustrated with the poet’s own paintings.

Compiled by the world’s leading expert on Gibran, Suheil Bushrui, this beautiful collection is a timeless celebration of humanity’s most enduring force, and a perfect gift for those tired of clichéd romantic verse.

As February is the month of l’amour, we’re celebrating by offering five lucky readers the chance to win a copy of this enchanting book. To enter, simply answer the following question: who compiled this magical collection of Gibran’s poetry and paintings? Email your answer, contact details and physical address to the editor of BooksLive (Mila de Villiers): mila@book.co.za.

xoxo

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From Peter Carey’s latest novel to Rose McGowan’s memoir: here are eight international titles to look forward to in February

Brave
Rose McGowan

“My life, as you will read, has taken me from one cult to another. Brave is the story of how I fought my way out of these cults and reclaimed my life. I want to help you do the same.” – Rose McGowan

Rose McGowan was born in one cult and came of age in another, more visible cult: Hollywood.

In a strange world where she was continually on display, stardom soon became a personal nightmare of constant exposure and sexualization. Rose escaped into the world of her mind, something she had done as a child, and into high-profile relationships. Every detail of her personal life became public, and the realities of an inherently sexist industry emerged with every script, role, public appearance, and magazine cover. The Hollywood machine packaged her as a sexualized bombshell, hijacking her image and identity and marketing them for profit.

Hollywood expected Rose to be silent and cooperative and to stay the path. Instead, she rebelled and asserted her true identity and voice. She reemerged unscripted, courageous, victorious, angry, smart, fierce, unapologetic, controversial, and real as f*ck.

Brave is her raw, honest, and poignant memoir/manifesto – a no-holds-barred, pull-no-punches account of the rise of a millennial icon, fearless activist, and unstoppable force for change who is determined to expose the truth about the entertainment industry, dismantle the concept of fame, shine a light on a multibillion-dollar business built on systemic misogyny, and empower people everywhere to wake up and be BRAVE.

The Woman in the Window
A.J. Finn

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened.

But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

Critical Praise

“Astounding. Thrilling. Lovely and amazing….Finn has created a noir for the new millennium, packed with mesmerizing characters, stunning twists, beautiful writing and a narrator with whom I’d love to split a bottle of pinot. Maybe two bottles – I’ve got a lot of questions for her.” – #1 New York Times bestselling author Gillian Flynn

The Woman in the Window is one of those rare books that really is unputdownable. The writing is smooth and often remarkable. The way Finn plays off this totally original story against a background of film noir is both delightful and chilling.” – Stephen King

“Twisted to the power of max. Hitchcockian suspense with a 21st century twist.” – Bestselling author Val McDermid

Three Things About Elsie
Joanna Cannon

“There are three things you should know about Elsie. The first thing is that she’s my best friend. The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better. And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.”

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:

1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

This Idea Is Brilliant
Edited by John Brockman

What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?

That is the question John Brockman, publisher of the acclaimed science salon Edge.org (“The world’s smartest website” – The Guardian), presented to 205 of the world’s most influential thinkers from across the intellectual spectrum – award-winning physicists, economists, psychologists, philosophers, novelists, artists, and more.

From the origins of the universe to the order of everyday life, This Idea Is Brilliant takes readers on a tour of the bold, exciting, and underappreciated scientific concepts that will enrich every mind.

  • Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond on the lost brilliance of common sense
  • Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins on how The Genetic Book of the Dead could reconstruct ecological history
  • Philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein on how to extend our grasp of reality beyond what we can see and touch
  • Author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Carlo Rovelli on the interconnected fabric of information
  • Booker Prize–winning novelist Ian McEwan on the Navier-Stokes equations, which govern everything from weather prediction to aircraft design and blood flow
  • Cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss on the hidden blessings of uncertainty
  • Psychologist Steven Pinker on the fight against entropy
  • Nobel Prize–winning economist Richard Thaler on the visionary power of the “premortem”
  • Grammy Award–winning musician Brian Eno on confirmation bias in the Internet age
  • Advertising guru Rory Sutherland on the world-changing power of sex appeal
  • Harvard physicist Lisa Randall on the power of the obvious

And many, many others…

Anatomy of a Scandal
Sarah Vaughan

You want to believe your husband. She wants to destroy him.

‘The best courtroom drama since Apple Tree Yard … sensational.’ - Clare Mackintosh

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime.

Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming.

A scandal that will rock Westminster.

And the women caught at the  heart of it.

The Wanted
Robert Crais

The extraordinary now, can’t/won’t/don’t-put-it-down thriller by Robert Crais, author of the classic LA noir crime novels The Watcher and The Monkey’s Raincoat.

Seventeen-year-old Tyson is a normal teenaged boy – he’s socially awkward, obsessed with video games, and always hungry. But his mother is worried that her sweet, nerdy son has started to change… and she’s just found a $40,000 Rolex watch under his bed.

Suddenly very frightened that Tyson has gotten involved in something illegal, his mother gets in touch with a private investigator named Elvis Cole and asks him to do some digging. Cole uncovers a connection between Tyson and eighteen unsolved burglaries in LA’s ritziest neighbourhood. Tyson spooks and runs.

And then the bodies start turning up…

Robert Crais’ books have been published in a staggering 62 countries and are bestsellers around the world. He began his career writing for classic crime and police shows like Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Miami Vice and LA Law. He is a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America.

A Long Way From Home
Peter Carey

Irene Bobs loves fast driving. Her husband is the best car salesman in rural south eastern Australia. Together with Willie, their lanky navigator, they embark upon the Redex Trial, a brutal race around the continent, over roads no car will ever quite survive.

A Long Way From Home is Peter Carey’s late style masterpiece; a thrilling high speed story that starts in one way, then takes you to another place altogether.

Set in the 1950s in the embers of the British Empire, painting a picture of Queen and subject, black, white and those in-between, this brilliantly vivid novel illustrates how the possession of an ancient culture spirals through history – and the love made and hurt caused along the way.

Lullaby
Leïla Slimani

The number-one bestseller and winner of the Prix Goncourt – a compulsive, riveting and bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity and motherhood.

The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.
 
 
When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.

The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…

 
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Five local non-fiction eBooks to read in January

Heartbreaker: Christiaan Barnard and the first heart transplant
James-Brent Styan

In this new biography of Chris Barnard we not only learn about the life of South Africa’s most famous surgeon, from his Beaufort West childhood through his studies locally and abroad to his prominent marriages – and divorces – but James Styan also examines the impact of the historic heart transplant on Barnard’s personal life and South African society at large, where apartheid legislation often made the difficulties of medicine even more convoluted.

The role of black medical staff like Hamilton Naki is explored, as is the intense rivalry that arose between other famous heart surgeons and Barnard. How did Barnard manage to beat them all in this race of life and death? How much did his famous charisma have to do with it all?

And in the light of his later years, his subsequent successes and considerable failures, what is Barnard’s legacy today? Styan covers it all in this fascinating new account of a real heartbreaker.

Hartebreker – Christiaan Barnard en die eerste hartoorplanting
James-Brent Styan

Dié nuwe biografie oor Suid-Afrika se beroemdste hartsjirurg vertel nie net van Barnard se kinderjare in Beaufort-Wes, sy prominente huwelike (en egskeidings) en flambojante lewe nie. James Styan ondersoek ook die impak van die historiese eerste hartoorplanting op Barnard se persoonlik lewe en op die Suid-Afrikaanse gemeenskap in die algemeen, waar apartheidswetgewing dikwels die probleme van geneeskunde nog ingewikkelder gemaak het.

Die rol van swart mediese personeel soos Hamilton Naki word bespreek, sowel as die intense wedywering wat tussen ander beroemde hartsjirurge en Barnard ontstaan het.

Hoe het Barnard dit reggekry om hulle almal in dié resies om lewe en dood te wen? Hoeveel het sy welbekende sjarme daarmee te doen gehad? En wat is Barnard se nalatenskap vandag, in die lig van sy latere suksesse en aansienlike mislukkings? Styan dek dit alles in dié fassinerende nuwe blik op Chris Barnard wat uitgegee is om saam te val met die 50ste herdenking van die eerste hartoorplanting.

In the Heart of the Whore: The Story of Apartheid’s Death Squads
Jacques Pauw

The ongoing assassinations of anti-apartheid activists led to rumours that some kind of third force must be responsible. The South African government flatly denied any involvement. All investigations of the matter were met with stony silence.

The first crack in the wall came with the publication by the Vrye Weekblad newspaper of the extraordinary story of Dirk Coetzee, former Security Branch Captain. His tale of murder, kidnapping, bombing and poisoning provided corroboration of the shocking confessions made by Almond Nofemela on death row. Slowly the dark secret started unravelling under the probing of determined journalists.

In the Heart of the Whore introduces the reader to the secret underworld of the death squads. It explains when and why they were created, who ran them, what methods they employed, who the victims and perpetrators were.

Jacques Pauw was more closely involved with the subject than any other person outside the police and armed forces. In this groundbreaking work he looks at the devastating effect of the secret war on the opponents of apartheid as well as the corrosive effects on the people who committed these crimes.

Into the Heart of Darkness: Confessions of Apartheid’s Assassins
Jacques Pauw

Jacques Pauw has been an investigative journalist for more than three decades. Before the phenomenal success of The President’s Keepers, he spent years tracking down apartheid death squads. Into the Heart of Darkness, first released in 1997, was the result of this work.

Despite official denials and cover-ups, the rumours of apartheid’s death squads have now been proved to be all too real. Hundreds of anti-apartheid activists were killed and thousands tortured by a group of bizarre assassins, the foot soldiers of apartheid’s secret war.

Jacques Pauw has been more closely involved with apartheid’s killers than any other journalist. For more than seven years, he has hunted them down and become a witness to their secret and forbidden world.

Into the Heart of Darkness will take you on a journey into the minds and lives of the men who went out to kill and kill again. What caused these souls to become so dark and guided them to so much evil?

A Short History of Mozambique
Malyn Newitt

This comprehensive history traces the evolution of modern Mozambique, from its early modern origins in the Indian Ocean trading system and the Portuguese maritime empire to the fifteen-year civil war that followed independence and its continued after effects.

Though peace was achieved in 1992 through international mediation, Mozambique’s remarkable recovery has shown signs of stalling. Malyn Newitt explores the historical roots of Mozambican disunity and hampered development, beginning with the divisive effects of the slave trade, the drawing of colonial frontiers in the 1890s and the lasting particularities of the provinces.

Following the nationalist guerrillas’ victory against the Portuguese in 1975, these regional divisions resurfaced in a civil war pitting the south against the north and centre. The settlement of the early 1990s is now under threat from a revived insurgency, and the ghosts of the past remain.

This book seeks to distil this complex history, and to understand why, twenty-five years after the Peace Accord, Mozambicans still remain among the poorest people in the world.

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