Monday, September 20, 2010

“I Like Being Woken Up at 3 a.m. by One of My Characters Telling Me What Fresh Hell to Concoct During My Next Session at the Keyboard”

The South African “Internet newspaper,” Crime Beat, has posted a fine interview with Cape Town resident Roger Smith, the author most recently of a thriller called Wake Up Dead (Henry Holt). I found this to be one of the Q&A’s more interesting parts:
Crime Beat: Your city is also a closely imagined one, not only in detail, but in its fictional space. The distance that physically separates the mountain suburbs from the Cape Flats is collapsed in Wake Up Dead to an even greater extent than in Mixed Blood. In many respects this increases the tension within the novel: there is no escape. But I suspect you are also making a critical point here about our society. And about our city. And about crime fiction?

Roger Smith: Cape Town is a city divided by race (still) and by wealth. No newsflash there. The way the media reports crime is partial, white and privileged lives still seem to be more valuable.

We do statistics really well in South Africa: 1,500 children murdered last year, one in three women will be raped in her lifetime blah blah. What crime fiction should do is give those statistics a face, make the reader live with those people for hours or days. Weirdly, sometimes crime fiction almost seems more real than the newspapers, doesn’t it?

Crime Beat: Yes it does. And sometimes I’ve heard readers say that’s why they don’t want to read it. It’s too close to home.

Roger Smith: And I have great sympathy with that position. I’m always very grateful when South Africans buy my books. Hell, the daily reality of crime is all too depressing, so reading Wake Up Dead is way less escapist for a South African than reading a crime novel set in Miami, or Paris or Bangkok.
You’ll find the whole exchange here.

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