Excerpt from Glenn Agliotti: A Biography (Plus: Q&A with Peter Piegl and Sean Newman)
We are pleased to bring you an excerpt from Glenn Agliotti by Peter Piegl and Sean Newman, as well as a Q&A with the authors as they discuss how they split the work and address issues of objectivity and what they found most surprising about the project.
Read the Q&A and the excerpt below:
Q&A with Peter Piegl & Sean Newman
After writing Lolly Jackson: When Fantasy Becomes Reality, what made you decide to turn your attention to the infamous Glenn Agliotti as the subject for your next book?
Glenn has been an interesting character for us, as we vividly remember watching his court appearances on TV as they were unfolding. Like Lolly Jackson, he’s a person who polarises opinion – and there’s no shortage of conjecture when it comes to him. Glenn has crossed the line in terms of the legality (or lack thereof) of some of his business dealings. The question we need to ask though is: does this fact alone exclude him from fair treatment by government and the legal system? Surely the law should be applied to everyone equally, irrespective of previous convictions or indictments. Our job as authors is to bring across these contentious issues and try to promulgate fairness. And the same can be applied to Glenn’s indiscretions: we don’t whitewash his actions or try to condone them. We report facts for which there’s a public appetite.
What were your respective roles in the process and why did you split the workload this way?
Peter: I conducted the one-on-one interviews with Glenn while Sean had the daunting job of wading through reams of court transcripts, documents and judgements.
Sean: The reason why we split the responsibilities up in this manner is because Peter has a degree in psychology and enjoys the personal aspect and delving into people’s personalities. I, on the other hand, have a strong knowledge of South African politics and news, and prefer being analytical.
Was Glenn on board with this project from the beginning?
Yes, he was. Having said that though, it’s a process involving winning a subject’s trust. We had to revisit certain topics on more than one occasion to get Glenn to open up and give us the full extent of detail we were after.
Some may be concerned that this book will focus on Glenn’s perspective, rather than giving the whole story. What would be your response to this?
While this book is a biographical piece, we’ve gone to great lengths to remain objective. We’ve compared Glenn’s version of events with what was reported in the press, in order to offer the public a holistic view. Glenn was also informed from the outset that there would be information in the book that wouldn’t place him in a glowing light. He accepts that he’s done wrong and has made poor decisions in the past, but embraces this and is happy to have our book reflect all aspects.
Following on to the last question, what do you hope that readers will get out of this book?
We would like readers to come to an informed opinion on Glenn and the cases in which he was involved. We’re not attempting to change people’s assessment of him. During our research, we found that there were factual inaccuracies reported by the media, and would like this work to be the definitive work on the matter. Also, our book offers another perspective on highly publicised matters such as the Brett Kebble case, which dovetails into existing literature but offers unique insight from someone who was intimately involved, but who to date, hasn’t been interviewed on the matter.
What were some of the most enjoyable and some of the most difficult parts of researching and writing this book?
The most enjoyable aspect was unravelling the myth surrounding Glenn and the cases he was a part of. It’s given us a better understanding and highlighted some of the indiscretions of the judicial system, which can have a massive, debilitating effect on those caught in the sights of people with hidden agendas. The toughest element was rifling through the sheer volume of information and deciding what was worth including. It was also a challenge to present these facts in a format that’s easily consumable and clear, while maintaining a narrative that will keep readers intrigued.
Please could you each share one thing that you found out about Glenn Agliotti during the writing of this book that surprised you?
Peter: For me, I think realising that a lot of Glenn’s motivation comes from a deep-seated need to please and impress people was somewhat surprising.
Sean: I think the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that he is so personable and charming yet you know deep down it is all for show. At our very first meeting about the book he posed for photos with a gentleman that had actually played Brett in an upcoming movie, he seemed to thrive on the attention. Even with my own family it was amazing to watch him interact and gain confidence purely by laying on the charm. You truly begin to understand how he got himself into the situations that led to him being fingered as a far bigger role player than in fact he really was.
We are contracted in to our wonderful publishers, Penguin, for another book. This will be our focus going forward and the goal is to produce accurate, engaging work that’s constantly improving and distinctively different. We’re also very excited with the exposure we’ve had to international authors and are hopeful that this will open up other avenues for us. Glenn’s book has the unique distinction of receiving a blurb from world-renowned author Jeffrey Deaver. To our knowledge, no South African work in this genre has had this before and we’re honoured that Mr. Deaver has enjoyed our work to the degree that he’s willing to endorse it.
From Glenn Agliotti: A Biography:
The cell reeked of piss. Like the hard light they never turned off, there was no escape from the smell. The crude graffiti on the walls was a reminder of those who had been there before. He wondered what had happened to them. All that was left were their defiant scrawls.
From one of the cells a voice shouted. ‘Hey policeman. You come here you fucking little bitch. I want my BlackBerry you fucking bitch. I want it now!’ The answer came back. ‘Suka wena! Shut up you fucking whore.’
‘Hey little bitch, I make more money in one night than you do in your whole fucking wages. I want my BlackBerry now!’
There was no way he would get any sleep. Not that the odds were that good to begin with. He was lying on a stack of inch-thick blue mats. The only luxury was the sheet he had brought from home and his pillow. The smell of its familiarity clashed with the noxious odour of the place.
A dull ache throbbed in his gall bladder, and he turned restlessly. ‘How did he let it get to this?’ he thought. ‘What happened? I’m a hustler. A survivor.’
He had everything going for him. A lucrative career and connections with some of the most powerful men in the country. Yet now he faced the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.
The Nigerian prostitute in the other cell, the one shouting for her BlackBerry, stopped baying. He fell into a fitful sleep.
The next day she got bail. He watched her saunter down the concrete corridor with exaggerated confidence.
He sat there wondering about bail. Would he get it? When would he get it? He watched the police bring in a teenage girl. They shoved her into the opposite cell. She looked devastated. She sat on the floor with her legs drawn to her chest. Her arms about her quivering limbs. She reminded him of his daughter, Chiara. They were about the same age.
A mewling escaped from the girl and then the sobbing started.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked her.
She looked up.
‘Are you okay?’
She told him she had been at Sandton City shopping mall with some friends and they had dared her to shoplift an item. She’d been caught.
‘Let that be a lesson,’ he said to her. ‘Don’t always be dared or try to impress your buddy. Look where you are and look where they are.’
But she wasn’t worried about her friends. What worried her was that her father would find out. He rolled his bottle of mineral water across the corridor to her. Tried to comfort her. Shouted for the cops to give her some of his food, and tissues. They talked all through the afternoon, the man and the girl. He told her to be honest with her father.
The next day someone came to fetch her. As she left she turned to him. ‘God bless you,’ she said. ‘You’re a wonderful man.’ He considered that. If he was so wonderful why was he in jail on a murder charge? He pondered too whether her father had left her in jail overnight to scare her. Some fathers would do that.
He was in that cell for twenty-eight days waiting for his bail application. Each day he went through a routine. Get up. Fix the bed. Do his ablutions. Before, in the outside world, he’d never had much time for reading, but now he read two books by the cyclist Lance Armstrong. When he wasn’t reading, he thought of his prospects. He sighed.
The man’s name: Glenn Agliotti.