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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

The Letter That Changes Everything: An Excerpt from The Last Road Trip by Gareth Crocker

The Last Road TripIn The Last Road Trip, Gareth Crocker tells the story of four friends in a retirement estate who decide to take the road trip of their lives despite – or maybe because of – their age.

In the excerpt below, which is shared on Penguin Books’ website, Jack, one of the quartet, reads a letter at a funeral. It is the funeral of a man that he does not know very well, but which turns out to affect him deeply nonetheless.

The letter is the impetus for a life-changing journey of discovery.

Read the excerpt:

‘My name is Paul James Edwards. Like most of us here, I was fortunate enough to live a life in which I managed to accumulate a certain amount of wealth. Enough, at least, to allow me the privilege of living in a place like this. There’s no question that in almost every respect, Stone Well Estate is an Eden for people who have worked hard and now wish to live out the remainder of their lives in peace and comfort. If not downright luxury. For those of you who don’t know, I came out here many years ago following the death of my wife. The truth is her passing hit me harder than seemed possible. So hard, in fact, that I was convinced I would follow after her in no time at all. The way I saw it, there was simply no way I could carry on without her. Writing these words now, I realise how feeble that makes me sound. Like an old and sentimental fool. But it’s still the truth. And I figure it’s too late in the day to start lying now.

‘And so I waited to die. But the days soon blurred into weeks. And the weeks came and went like autumn leaves being swept away by the wind. One Christmas became another. And then another. For eighteen long years I waited.

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Four Elderly Friends and a Funeral: An Excerpt from The Last Road Trip by Gareth Crocker

The Last Road TripThe Last Road Trip by Gareth Crocker is a novel about adventure, rediscovery and friendship.

It is the story of four elderly friends who decide to take a final road trip from one side of South Africa to the other. Along the way, they discover that it’s never too late to start living.

The excerpt below introduces Jack, Sam, Rosie and Elizabeth – the four friends about to embark on a journey of epic proportions – and their impetus for the trip.

Read the excerpt:

* * * * * * *



Within hours of the funeral, Jack was back in the water. As usual, he had lost count of how many laps he had done. Given how long he had been in the pool, he knew it had to be a reasonable number. At the age of seventy-one, it surprised him that he was still capable of swimming prodigious distances – more so than he ever imagined possible at this stage of his life. Not that feats of endurance mattered much to him these days.

However, intrigued to see just what he was capable of, he had recently decided to test himself and had embarked on a swim with no end goal in mind. When boredom, rather than muscle fatigue, had brought a premature end to the experiment, he was astounded to learn from his friend, Sam – who was sitting poolside and counting diligently – that he had managed a rather remarkable 238 lengths. The equivalent, almost, of six kilometres. Still, it meant little to him. He was no longer obsessed with fitness the way he once was. The competitive urge that used to gush through his veins – that drove him to swim internationally for a time – had long since left him. He swam now because it was a form of escape and he still savoured the sensation of cutting through the crisp blue water, the comforting rhythm and solitude of it all. It was also the one place where he allowed himself to think about those things that, outside of the water, he knew were better left alone. More than anything, swimming was his way of connecting back to Grace.

He had met her a little over ten years ago. In a public swimming pool of all places. He was stepping into the water just as she was climbing out. Without thinking – and he still had no idea what had made him do it – he offered her his hand. To his surprise she accepted it and, as she ascended the last few steps, favoured him with a smile, which, as it proved, irrevocably changed his life. Able to think of little else, he returned to the pool twice a day for the next three weeks in the hope of seeing her again. When he eventually spotted her swimming on the far side of the pool late one Sunday afternoon, he waited patiently for her to finish. And, when she finally emerged from the water, he was once again standing there with his hand outstretched.

Within a week they were dining together. Within three months he had proposed. Ahead of a honeymoon in Cape Town six weeks later, they had married beside an old stone bench on Robben Island. With no family left to call on, their only guest had been the young minister who presided over the service. Etched against a deep-blue sky and the backdrop of Table Mountain, it had been a cool and windless day. A day beyond a postcard. A day of dreams.

In the years that followed, they continued to swim together. The pools changed with the seasons, but their routine seldom wavered. After almost eight years of a gentle and cherished marriage, they had even spent some time in the hotel pool the day before Grace’s operation. It was, as it turned out, their last swim together. Some days Jack wondered what hurt the most: that Grace had been taken so soon from him or that they had met so late in life. After all, eight years wasn’t a life together. It was a glimpse of one. And some days that weighed more heavily than anything else. She had been gone for almost two years already, but sometimes when he swam it felt as though she were still in the pool with him. On those days he could stay in the water for hours.

‘What lap’s he on?’ Rosie called out from across the pool.

Samuel Lightfoot sat back in his chair and cupped his hands around his mouth.

‘Thirty-seven at my count.’

As Rosie laboured around the top of the pool, she shrugged and shot him an unimpressed look. ‘Thirty-seven? Why bother even getting in the water?’

Sam felt a wry smile tug at his mouth. Rosie Banks traded in sarcasm and irony the same way that lungs traded in air – almost constantly and with little respite. Standing five foot five and weighing north of 260 pounds, Rosie waddled from place to place with all the elegance of someone whose legs had been denied the benefit of knees. She was often rendered breathless by the slightest exertion and it seemed a wonder to everyone – Sam included – that her heart continued to serve her. While some of the others on the estate badgered her about her weight, Sam let her be. He was very fond of her just the way she was. Besides, he knew that Rosie had long since given up on her battle with obesity. It had triumphed over her years ago and, knowing she had been well and truly beaten, she had done the only thing that made sense to her: she had turned it into the running joke of her life.

Rosie lowered her considerable frame onto a deckchair and took a moment to catch her breath. ‘Actually, have I ever told you my view on exercise?’

‘Not that I can recall,’ Sam replied.

‘Well, it’s like this. I figure our hearts are a lot like engines. Car engines. With me so far?’

‘I think I’m keeping up.’

‘OK, so we all know that there are only so many miles to be squeezed out of any one engine. Right?’

Sam cocked an eyebrow, but played along. ‘Right.’

‘So why the hell would anyone want to force their heart to burn through so many extra beats? Nobody ever extended the life of their truck by driving it 3 000 miles a day.’

Sam smiled and shook his head.

‘If you ask me, the best way to look after your heart is to keep perfectly still and do as little as possible. One could argue, in fact, that I did a certain amount of damage to my heart just walking here. We’ve got money, Sam. Maybe we can pay poor people to carry us around. Their hearts aren’t as important as ours. Their blood is like cheap wine to our Chardonnay.’

That, as it proved, was as much as Sam could take, and he began to laugh. Which, in their never-ending verbal joust, meant that Rosie had won the point. Again.

‘Damn it,’ he muttered. ‘Car engine? Really?’

‘It’s like competing against a child who has suffered some unfortunate brain trauma,’ she said, leaning over and kissing him on his forehead.

‘Hello, Rosie,’ he said, cupping a hand around her arm.

‘Hey, Sam.’

They chatted for a while, mostly small talk, until Jack climbed out the pool to join them.

‘Nice going,’ Sam said, tossing his friend a towel. ‘Close on fifty laps at least.’

‘He’s being kind. You were dragging arse out there,’ Rosie interjected. ‘It was embarrassing to watch, if I’m honest.’

‘My apologies, Rosie. I’ll put in more effort next time,’ Jack replied, running a towel over his head.

‘You know, Jack, with your hair all wet like that you bear a striking resemblance to an older George Clooney.’

‘Is that right?’

‘It is. Of course I’m not talking about the actor, but rather the homeless drunk who used to pound on my gate back in the day looking for free food and a good time.’

Jack smirked, but resisted any attempts at a witty comeback. Instead, he reached for his shirt and slipped it on. He then leaned over the cooler box and, without having to take any orders, handed a wine spritzer to Rosie and a lemonade to Sam – always a lemonade. He took a beer for himself. ‘So where’s Queen Elizabeth?’

‘Probably polishing her cheekbones,’ Rosie suggested.

At seventy-four, Elizabeth Shaw was the oldest of the four of them. But only on paper. Physically, she was something of an enigma. Her long brown hair seemed to be largely unaffected by the passage of time and shimmered with a vitality that belied her years. Her smooth skin and clear blue eyes suggested she was, at most, in her late fifties. And, if she was not already fortunate enough, she possessed the sort of facial structure and slim body that marked her as a classic beauty. It helped, of course, that she had spent most of her adult life in London – far away from the ravages of the African sun – where, after a brief career as a model, she’d spent the better part of forty years heading up an international fashion house.

‘There,’ Sam said, spotting her leaving the clubhouse.

As Elizabeth made her way towards them, Jack noticed that she was wearing a silk scarf despite the oppressive heat. It made her look like an old-school air hostess.

‘It’s unlike you to be late, Lizzie,’ Sam said, as she joined them.

Elizabeth went around the circle, kissing each of them. ‘Sorry. I was reading and lost track of time. How are you all? Good swim, Jack?’

‘According to Rosie, not good enough,’ he replied. ‘What were you reading?’

‘Just some novel. Never Let Go, I think it’s called. Nothing important. I just wanted to see how it ended.’

As she sat down beside Rosie and they launched into a discussion about one of their common friends, Jack turned to Sam and frowned. Sam nodded and then shrugged. He had also seen it. Something was troubling Elizabeth. Of all her many talents, being able to disguise her emotions was not one of them.

As Jack poured her favourite drink, lime and soda, Elizabeth turned to look at him. ‘You were wonderful this morning, Jack.’

‘I think wonderful is a strong word.’

‘Don’t be so modest. Paul was right to ask you. It was a remarkable letter. You did it justice.’

‘You did,’ Sam agreed. ‘Everyone’s been talking about it.’

‘You really didn’t read it beforehand?’ Rosie asked.

Jack shook his head. ‘It didn’t seem right.’

Sam took a sip from his drink. ‘I think his message really touched people. Struck more than a few nerves. It’s a pity we never really got the chance to know him.’

Jack watched as Elizabeth nodded. Her eyes were wide and intense. Holding his beer aloft, he regarded each of his friends with a warm smile and then rose to his feet. ‘To Paul. Quite possibly one hell of a guy.’

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Woordfees 2015: Marguerite Poland gesels met Daniel Hugo oor die vertaling van Die bewaker

Daniel Hugo en Marguerite Poland

Die bewakerThe KeeperMarguerite Poland en Daniel Hugo het op Woensdag, 11 Maart gesels oor die kuns van vertaling.

Hugo het Poland se jongste roman, The Keeper, na Afrikaans vertaal as Die bewaker, en die skrywer het gesê dat die vertaling die boek in ’n ander wêreld geplaas het.

Hugo het vertel dat hy die boek nie woord-vir-woord vertaal het nie, maar eerder gevoel-vir-gevoel en atmosfeer-vir-atmosfeer.

Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp) het regstreeks vanaf die praatjie met #Woordfees2015 getwiet:



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Join Gareth Crocker and John Hunt for Dinner with Jenny Crwys-Williams at The Local Grill in Parktown

Dinner with Gareth Crocker and John Hunt

The Last Road TripThe Space Between the Space BetweenPenguin Random House and Jenny and Co would like to invite you to dinner with Gareth Crocker and John Hunt.

Come and break bread with the authors of The Last Road Trip (Crocker) and The Space Between the Space Between (Hunt) at The Local Grill on Wednesday, 18 March, at 7 for 7:30 PM.

Tickets are R380 per person and include a delicious dinner and conversation.

Parking is available at the Parktown Quarter Car Park. Phone 011 880 1946 for directions if needed.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 18 March 2015
  • Time: 7 for 7:30 PM
  • Venue: The Local Grill
    40 7th Avenue
    Parktown North
    Johannesburg | Map
  • Refreshments: Catered supper
  • Cover charge: R380
  • RSVP: Jade,, 076 780 6383

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Watch the Trailer for Weeping Waters by Karin Brynard (Video)

Weeping WatersIn the book trailer for Weeping Waters Karin Brynard describes her novel as a “classic tale of murder and mystery”.

In the video, Brynard describes how the murder in her novel dredges up old hurts and turns normal society upside down. She says that the story includes the racial and social issues that typify ordinary life in South Africa.

Watch the trailer:

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Gareth Crocker’s Latest Novel, The Last Road Trip, Out in March

Gareth Crocker

The Last Road TripPenguin Books South Africa is proud to present the latest novel from Gareth Crocker, The Last Road Trip:

Following the death of a man they barely knew, four elderly friends decide to make the most of their remaining time on earth. Abandoning the humdrum routine of life at their retirement estate, they embark on a thousand-mile road trip that will take them from the furthest corners of the Kruger National Park to the blazing stars of Sutherland.

The journey becomes the biggest adventure of their lives and one last hurrah together! Along the way, they rediscover things about themselves that they thought had long since been lost. And, above all, they discover that it’s never too late to start living.

The latest novel from acclaimed author Gareth Crocker is for the young at heart – for those willing to take one last adventure and conquer the regret of missed opportunities.

About the author

Gareth Crocker is a former journalist, editor, PR director and spokesperson for a large multinational corporation. He is the author of four novels: Finding Jack, Journey from Darkness, Never Let Go and King. He lives in Johannesburg with his wife and two young daughters. He writes only at night, unless Manchester United is playing.

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Fiona Leonard Shares 10 Things She Has Learned About Editing: “Procrastination is Not Your Friend”

The Chicken ThiefFiona Leonard, author of The Chicken Thief , has shared 10 things she has learned about editing, listing them instead of editing – as she is supposed to be doing – and thus giving in to what she describes as one of the biggest enemies of editing (and writing for that matter): procrastination.

The first thing the author learned was that you cannot edit if you haven’t written anything. She says: “You cannot edit a blank page. Hence, it is easier not to write anything than have to do the work to make it better. Procrastination will save you from heartache.” However, she has also learned that procrastination is not the friendliest activity. “Procrastination is not your friend. Procrastination will buy you drinks, get you drunk and then post the photographs on Facebook,” Leonard writes.

Read and learn from Leonard’s revelations about editing:

1. You cannot edit a blank page. Hence, it is easier not to write anything than have to do the work to make it better. Procrastination will save you from heartache.

2. Procrastination is not your friend. Procrastination will buy you drinks, get you drunk and then post the photographs on Facebook.

3. Editing is sad. It involves looking at something you loved and realising that it doesn’t make sense/is clumsy/needs to be thrown out/rewritten. Chances are that around this time you will tell someone that you have to “kill your babies” (because that’s what gritty writers say) except the person you tell won’t know the first thing about gritty writers and they’ll just think you’re creepy and your kid should be taken away from you, and then they’ll realise you don’t currently have any babies and they’ll start to worry even more.

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Save R1 000 on a Creative Writing Short Course with Mike Nicol

 Random House Struik Creative Writing short course

Mike Nicol, prominent author, journalist and editor, will be presenting the Random House Struik Creative Writing short course. The course, which is starting 2 March, is part-time, online and is coordinated in conjunction with GetSmarter.

Penguin Random House is offering a special discount for the course. For a discount of R1 000, all you have to do is quote the promocode “PENGUINRH15CW”, and register before Saturday, 28 February.

The course will guide prospective writers through the principles of crafting good stories, both fiction and non-fiction. It also incorporates advice on how to handle the writing process and how to present work to publishers and agents. At the end of the course, participants will recieve a certificate and may submit a manuscript to for consideration to be published under Random House Struik’s eKhaya imprint.

In this video promoting the course, Nicol explains how the course works, and previous students discuss their experience of it. Maria Phalime, whose memoir Postmortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away won the City Press Nonfiction Award, says that owes her writing career to the course.

Watch the video:

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Presenting Hunger Eats a Man by Nkosinathi Sithole: A Poetic, Funny and Highly Relevant Debut

Hunger Eats a ManPenguin Books presents Hunger Eats a Man by Nkosinathi Sithole – out now:

When Father Gumede, known as Priest, loses his job as a farmhand, he realises he can’t afford to love his neighbour as he does himself. Despondent and enraged, Priest cuts off all ties to the church and politics, determined to make a living – at whatever cost.

It will take a strange story written by his son Sandile – a comical, terrifying and prophetic tale in which the downtrodden rise up to march on the wealth of a neighbouring suburb – to show Priest the hope and humanity inherent in the human spirit.

Beautifully poetic, funny and highly relevant, Sithole’s debut novel highlights the ongoing plight of many rural South Africans and the power of a community working together to bring about change.

About the author

Nkosinathi Sithole grew up in Hlathikhulu near Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal. He studied at Wits University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he obtained a PhD in English Studies. In 2012 he held a post-doctoral fellowship from the UKZN, and received an African Humanities Programme post-doctoral fellowship in 2013. He teaches English at the University of Zululand.

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Karin Brynard: Crime, and the Fear of Crime, Makes it Easy to Write Stories (Podcast)

Weeping WatersKarin Brynard joined Nancy Richards in the SAfm studio to discuss Weeping Waters, Maya Fowler and Isobel Dixon‘s English translation of her best-selling Afrikaans novel Plaasmoorde.

Brynard, a political journalist turned novelist, shares how she came to writing this novel, her debut, about a brutal murder on a farm and the investigation that follows. Brynard says that she set out wanting to write a crime story or murder mystery as it was the genre she was most familiar with. Originally published in 2009, the story was driven by the spirit of the time as the topic of farm murders was hot on everyone’s lips then.

Crime, and the fear of crime, makes it easy for writers to come up with stories, says the author. Weeping Waters takes a look at what happens when violent crime seeps into a small, rural community in such an intrusive way and how it affects the different people living there. Brynard did extensive research on the topic in order to write this novel.

Listen to the podcast to find out more about the translation process, the setting of the novel and its characters and Brynard’s path as an author:



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