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Pan Macmillan

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Mandy Wiener’s Killing Kebble Launched at The Book Lounge

Mandy Wiener

Killing KebbleTake two of the country’s finest radio journalists, trained in the rendering of articulate, dramatic and nuanced reporting of current events, add the latest publishing sensation – a book that sells out in a matter of days – and a crowd of well-informed readers, listeners and public thinkers. Toss in the quintessential crime of the decade as the topic of discussion and you get the most exciting book event of the year! The launch of Mandy Wiener’s first book, Killing Kebble: An Underworld Exposed, had The Book Lounge filled to capacity and Leopard’s Leap wines flowing accordingly.

Welcoming the author to his shop, Mervyn Sloman said she’d unwittingly joined a small group of elite South African writers, including John Van de Ruit and that “well-known local scribe, Herschelle Gibbs”, who had broken various kinds of publishing records. “The four days in question [before Killing Kebble sold out] must be pretty close to a new record,” he said, continuing, “this is a book where the quantity of the sales is a true reflection of the quality of the read.”

Cape Talk’s Aden Thomas interviewed Wiener, who described the book as a “the world’s most complicated story, especially for a radio journalist trying to set it all in context in 4-second sound bytes and aiming at conducting five-minute Q&As.” She said the story behind Brett Kebble’s 2005 murder was a tapestry of interwoven tales, pulling a host of parallel but interlinking narratives together, each influencing the other.

“The story told itself. It’s not just about Brett Kebble’s murder. It’s about how State agencies were abused and the acrimonious relationship between the Police and the Scorpions; it’s about the relationships around Mikey Schultz and Clinton Nassif, about pinpointing the underbelly of the underworld.”

Wiener said, “Brett Kebble’s murder was one weak point in the organised crime syndicate’s operations. If it wasn’t for that, we’d never have known about the relationship between Jackie Selebi and Glenn Agliotti, we’d never have known about what was going on, where guys were defying the law and getting away with heinous crimes.”

Mandy Wiener & Aden Thomas

Thomas remembered interviewing Weiner the day after Kebble’s murder and the mind-boggling stories that began to emerge. She and her colleague, Regan Thaw, who was present in the audience, were trying to figure out exactly what was going on.

“At the time we thought it was a political hit or a hijacking, but then Moneyweb ran a story about the people who were sleeping in park nearby and saw what happened. Then the Mail & Guardian started digging deeper. For a long time, dinner time conversation around the country was all about ‘who killed Brett Kebble’. We heard about Russian assassins, about an Angolan diamond deal that went wrong.”

Wiener said that for a while they didn’t have a clue. “But five years down the road, everybody got acquitted. All those pieces came together, all the dominoes started to fall. Who would have thought a possible ‘assisted suicide’ of all things? Or that all these different crimes were related? That so much would be levered against Jackie Selebi?”

(Wiener will be in conversation with the journalist who wrote up Jackie Selebi’s downfall, Adriaan Basson, in Johannesburg on 14 April.)

Khalil Goga Jaco le Roux Mervyn Sloman
Theo Esau Adrian Lakay Thomas Brennan
Cathy Lund

The author offered a fascinating account of the process of interviewing the characters in the book and securing their trust, of teaching Glenn Agliotti to use Twitter, of writing the book that felt like studying for exams, of preparing a wedding in the midst of going to print, and of whether she actually sleeps at night.

She took questions from intrigued members of the audience, including Cathy Lund, Thomas Brennan, Adrian Lakay, Theo Esau, Khalil Goga, Jaco le Roux and many more.

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