the story behind the book

I felt it was important to bring a different story about apartheid-South Africa to the world. Not the well-known story told from a point of view of a black person suffering under apartheid, but from that of a young, privileged white reporter with a strong social conscience, who hates what the policy is doing to his country and its people.

This book has been "on the boil" for the past 12 years:  The spark to write it arose from a personal tragedy some years earlier, in which two members of my family were killed in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. While the story is not specifically about that event, it does highlight the protagonist's personal conflict regarding his life-long opposition to the death penalty, one of the corner-stones of apartheid government power. There were - and still are - calls by many people in Israel to impose the death penalty on those planning and supporting acts of terrorism. One of the motivating factors for the protagonist to move to Israel was because it has no death penalty.

I believe that, with the value of hindsight and viewed from another country, I can bring a different perspective to the fight against apartheid, tyranny and hatred. I would like readers to understand that the good fight anywhere in the world is predominantly fought by ordinary people who decide at some stage that enough is enough.


Most of the events described in this novel actually happened, although not necessarily in the order, time or place in which they are depicted here. Many of the characters in this story are also actual individuals who did all or some of the things ascribed to them, but their names and identities have been changed to protect the innocent and to consign the guilty to oblivion. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead is entirely intentional.

Strange things happen when researching material: I found this copy of the front page of The Daily News (Durban, October 29, 1971) carrying two stories, adjacent to each other, referring directly to the real-life events of two main characters in my novel:

the death of Ahmed Timol (on whom my character Mohammed Timil is based) who allegedly "jumped" from the 10th floor of Johannesburg police headquarters, and the imminent execution of Frederick Vontsteen (my character Hannes van Staden), who was sentenced to death for murder.

I had not recollected that both these events, which play a significant part in the early story development, had actually occurred within exactly the same time frame.

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