Rusty Bell is a beautiful story about love. It’s a story about a very successful and powerful lawyer, Michael aka Sir Marvin — because of his resembles to singer Marvin Gaye — who’s married to Rusty and they have a son, Michael Jnr. They have almost everything that money can buy but underneath the surface their lives are damaged. They are distressed. Junior is constantly in trouble and is an alcoholic like his now reformed dad. Despite the accomplishments, Sir Marvin is depressed, frustrated and suicidal. He also has an addiction to half-naked strip dancers that he is not willing to give up. His misbehavior has put strain on his marriage and his family. Hence the betrayed wife feels empty and vulnerable. In spite of all this, love seems to conquer everything.
I first met Nthikeng Mohlele in 2013 when I was assigned to photograph him at the time of the release of his book Small Things. He came across as a very well-mannered and polite person who willingly did everything that I asked him to do during the photo shoot. Since then I vowed that I would collect as many books of his as I could. He has published five thus far and I’ve heard from the grapevine that another is coming soon. Anyway, I’m now the proud owner of three books stacked neatly on my bookshelf and I’m hoping that, some day when I find an opportunity, I will read them. To my surprise that time came sooner than I thought. Mohlele’s novel Michael K, which came out this year, draws a new picture of JM Coetzee’s protagonist in his famous, Booker-winning Life and Times of Michael K. The success of that novel in 2018 has led to the republication of Mohlele’s other work, of which Rusty Bell is one.
Mohlele’s book Pleasure won the University of Johannesburg Main Prize for South African Writing in English, as well as the 2017 K Sello Duiker Memorial Prize.