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Deon Meyer


interviewed by Hilary Williamson, November 2011


Deon Meyer was born in Paarl, South Africa in 1958, and grew up in Klerksdorp. After military duty and university, he worked as a reporter, press liaison, advertising copywriter, creative director, web manager, Internet strategist, and brand consultant. He started publishing short stories in South African magazines in his early thirties, and published his first Afrikaans novel in 1994.

All his later novels have been translated into 25 languages, including English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Russian, Finnish, Czech, Romanian, Slovakian and Bulgarian. Deon lives in Melkbosstrand on the South African West Coast with his wife Anita, and they have four children.

His latest thriller, Trackers, was the No.1 bestselling novel in South Africa for eight weeks running. It interweaves several different stories including the smuggling of rare black rhinos; a missing persons case; government agents tracking a terrorist plot; and an abused housewife and mother rediscovering herself amidst danger and romance.

Q: I never know what to expect when I pick up a new Deon Meyer thriller, in plot or character, as they are all so very different, yet well developed. What comes first for you as a writer, plot outline or key characters?

A: For me, story comes first, and determines everything else.

Q: Though I have thoroughly enjoyed all your novels, my favorite is still Heart of the Hunter, starring Thobela Mpayipheli, who was hunted by ambitious Janina Mentz of the Presidential Intelligence Agency. I was glad to see Janina reappear in Trackers. Will the spooks be involved in more of your plots?

A: Although I have nothing definite planned at the moment, you never know

Q: I like the way in which you and Michael Robotham use connected characters as successive protagonists, rather than always focusing on one lead as many mystery authors do. Was this a deliberate choice from the beginning for you or did it just evolve that way?

A: Never planned it. It just happened.

Q: Your characters are particularly flawed and real - with problems of alcoholism, anger management, dark pasts - but all ultimately sympathetic. Do you extrapolate them from people you know or are they simply based on 'what if' imagining?

A: Creating characters is too much fun to extrapolate them from people I know. (And the people I know are mostly solid citizens ) So it's all imagination.

Q: After Heart of the Hunter, I found Thirteen Hours one of your most compelling stories, impossible to put down. And I loved female Inspector Mbali Kaleni - will she get her own story any time soon?

A: Mbali is back in the novel I've just finished. The Afrikaans title is Seven Days.

Q: Mat Joubert, who's appeared in several of your stories, branches out on his own as a PI at the end of Trackers - does that mean he'll continue to show up regularly in further plots?

A: If a story demands his presence, Id love to have him back.

Q: Flea van Jaarsveld, who has a key role in Trackers, is one of your most intriguing characters, and one readers would like to know more of. Will we meet her in your novels again any time soon?

A: Same thing. If there is a story that fits

Q: I've always wanted to visit South Africa and appreciate the social commentary, and the love of the country, that shines through your stories. What should foreign tourists expect when they come to your country?

A: Breathtaking landscapes, abundance of wildlife, warm, friendly and hospitable people, lots of sunshine (no snow), incredible food, and, with an extremely favorable exchange rate, probably the most affordable holiday on the planet. (And just to set the record straight: A very safe holiday too. Crime against tourists is a myth. The statistics show you have a bigger chance of being the victim of a crime in Wales or Ireland )

Q: Can you tell us anything about your next book?

A: "I'll shoot one policeman every day, until you arrest the murderer of Hanneke Sloet," says the e-mail to the South African Police Services. And then the threat becomes reality.

Bennie Griessel has to reopen the Sloet dossier. The case is 40 days old, the trail has gone cold. No motive, no leads, just a set of nude photographs, a very complicated business transaction, and immense pressure from the brass, the media, and the relentless, unfathomable sniper.

And through it all, Griessel has to keep his love interest, the alcoholic, former singing sensation Alexa Barnard, sober for her comeback concert, cope with his daughter's Neanderthal boyfriend, his son's shenanigans, and his new partner's idiosyncrasies and try to tame his own all-consuming lust for the soothing powers of the bottle.

Seven days of hell.

Find out more about Deon Meyer and his books (including contextual photo galleries for each thriller) at DeonMeyer.com.
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