It’s a race that fits the Blade Runner playbook: five authors working on three “definitive accounts” all hurtling towards one deadline.
The subject of this research-and-write-up contest is Oscar Pistorius. And that deadline is as soon after the conclusion of his murder trial as possible.
First out of the starting block were radio journalists Mandy Wiener and Barry Bateman, who contracted with Pan Macmillan to write Behind the Door: The Oscar and Reeva Story.
Pan Macmillan South Africa has world rights to the book, which, it says, “will follow the background to the case, the events of the trial itself, and [take] a broader look at violence and criminal justice in South Africa”.
Next out were Jacques Steenkamp and Gavin Prins, with No More Heroes: Oscar Pistorius’s Fall from Grace. According to their publishers, Zebra Press, an imprint of Random House Struik, “this is the definitive account of the murder case that will define this decade and, perhaps, the society we live in”.
Inevitably, however, much of the approach resembles that of Wiener and Bateman: “With first-hand information and on-the-scene reportage, No More Heroes … will cover the events leading up to the killing of model Reeva Steenkamp, the trial and its outcome.” It “will also investigate broader social concerns: the high level of violent crime in South Africa, particularly against women and children; the controversial matter of gun control; and the fallen-hero syndrome”.
But, trying to bolster its claim to being definitive, Zebra presses on: “Based on in-depth interviews with eyewitnesses, police officers, blood-spatter analysts and forensic experts who were involved at the scene of the crime, as well as family and friends of Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius, this book will uncover the actual events that led to Reeva’s death. It will expose the startling allegations of bribery and corruption that permeated the case just hours after the shooting, as well as Oscar’s alleged drug use.”
The marketing department at Zebra Press will undoubtedly be pleased with these unique selling points, as will Transworld Publishers, another Random House company, which has the book’s United Kingdom and Commonwealth rights.
The third runner is Penguin Books South Africa, which “is delighted to announce that John Carlin … is to write The Oscar Pistorius Story. The book will detail the rise and fall of Oscar Pistorius, with publication shortly after the trial ends.”
There is no doubting the public’s interest in this tawdry tale of murder or publishers’ interest in boosting their revenues. None of that can disguise, however, the race to the bottom that is this reverse Pirandello-like exercise of five authors in search of a character.
Less controversially, perhaps, William Boyd announced on April 15, the opening day of the London Book Fair, that his James Bond novel will be titled Solo.
Boyd said: “Sometimes less is more. For me as a novelist the simple beauty of Solo as the title of the next James Bond novel is that this short four-letter word is particularly and strikingly apt for the novel I have written. In my novel, events conspire to make Bond go off on a self-appointed mission of his own, unannounced and without any authorisation — and he’s fully prepared to take the consequences of his audacity.
“The journey Bond goes on takes in three continents — with the main focus homing in on Africa. It’s what happens to Bond in Africa that generates his urge to ‘go solo’ and take matters into his own hands in the United States.”