2011 Citizen Book Prize Longlist
Pan Macmillan South Africa is pleased to unveil the 2011 Citizen Book Prize longlist. The Citizen Book Prize is the only South African literary award voted for by the people. The winner gets R 10 000 from the Citizen and, either publication by Pan Macmillan SA or a spot on a top SA creative writing course.
We’ve been through the longlist for the prize with a fine-toothed comb. We carefully evaluated each entry’s synopsis as well as accompanying chapters. Based on our criteria, and due to the high standard that we believe the Citizen Book Prize should maintain, it has been decided only to shortlist 10 synopses. This is to ensure that the winning entry, which could be published by Pan Macmillan in either digital or print form, is on a par with the quality of all Pan Macmillan’s titles.
Vote for your favourite synopsis using the poll below. Voting ends 31 August at midnight, and the results will be announced shortly thereafter. Please only vote once. Getting your granny, all your cousins and anyone who’ll accept a bribe to log on will not ultimately make a difference – the judges’ choice is final. Helping them accurately gauge the response to each title is far more valuable.
Without further ado, here are the synopses:
The Nocturnal Life Of Mrs Smith by Mbonisi P Ncube
SENIOR detective Miles Ncube and his rookie partner, Morrison, have a mind boggling case on their hands.
A serial killer stalks the dark streets of Bulawayo at night.
He has killed three women, all prostitutes, and his modus operandi is bizarre – the killer ritually stuffs his victims with odd numbered pages from books he leaves lying on their bodies after killing them. He leaves no other clues at his crime scenes.
Morrison and Ncube begin a tedious investigation, searching for the murderer, code-named the Page Killer.
They know that it is not a case of if someone will get killed, but rather when the killer will pounce on his next victim. But the Page Killer is always a step ahead of them.
Cunning, efficient and intelligent, and driven by revenge, the killer will not stop until his hunger to kill is sated, and until the ultimate number of his victims is reached.
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Deadline by James-Brent Styan
JOSHUA Botha is a journalist at one of the biggest daily newspapers in Joburg.
While researching an article on a major energy consortium in South Africa, he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens to derail the fragile democracy that is post-apartheid South Africa.
The job is complicated and dangerous, but Botha follows the trail as it leads him from the underbelly of the city’s criminal world to the glamorous Sandton headquarters of the powerful corporations that sit behind the thugs Botha uncovers along the way.
A deadly assault under the streets of the City of Gold and a massive ambush on the mine dumps that line its horizon leads to a final climax in the streets of Africa’s most dynamic city.
Along the way, Botha learns that trust is not to be given or received cheaply.
His decisions may well cost his life or those of the ones he loves.
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Open Roads, Hidden Stories by Vivienne Fouché
AS young adults embark on personal quests for pastures greener, so the cities of the world become their melting pots, and their nomadic tales unfold. In Open Roads, Hidden Stories, the heroine is presented as being young and responsible. She has been working and saving money, but in the process she has – young as she is – lost sight of her original dreams and her sense of self.
With the relative freedom that a small nest egg can bring, her personal odyssey takes her on a whim from Joburg to London, joining two friends who are about to embark on an overseas work-and-travel adventure before they settle down to the business of being adults. Having joined them, however, she realises that she needs to walk her own path to come to grips with some issues lurking in her subconscious. Her journey alone takes her to Scotland, Rome, Greece, a few other places – and eventually back again. Love steps in, as love will do. And then it steps back out. The question is: who is she when it retreats and what lessons have been learned? Having returned to Joburg and a life of new responsibilities, she has just about resigned herself to having her travelling days done and dusted, when she decides – on another whim – to take some leave and head off to Cape Town for a short break. It’s to be a journey that is much shorter than her previous trip, but even more significant emotionally and spiritually, as she finally comes to grips with the last few issues she’s been wrestling with and closes the circles of self-discovery.
Written for a young-at-heart reader, this book targets those who have travelled, those who want to travel and those who are happy to stay on their couch and share the emotional journeys of others.
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The Great Agony And Pure Laughter Of The Gods by Jamala Safari
IT seemed that just yesterday Bukavu was paradise, with its splendid natural beauty and streets with happy smiling faces. But everything changed in the Congolese civil war in 1994. Death became a daily reality.
Ristos, 15, and Néné, 13, were abducted by a foreign militia operating in the villages around Bukavu in South Kivu, DR Congo.
Néné became a sex slave of a militia soldier, while Ristos hardened his heart in order to stay alive. He had to kill in cold blood; it was the rule of the forest, imposed by militia and reinforced by a need for survival. After an almost fatal beating, Ristos found himself back in the streets of Bukavu. His dark past haunted him. His only option was to leave the country. In an epic odyssey, he left the Congo for Tanzania and then travelled from Tanzania to Mozambique. Ristos proved to be a courageous soul, a man of change. But the dream of becoming a farmer was cut short by an United Nations interview, which questioned his right to refugee status. Ristos returned to the Congo, half dead, lost in the hallucinatory world of cerebral malaria. But the last reason for his return was an ancestral inheritance that glued hearts with an everlasting love, and which had been left in his hand by the shy girl Néné, who had been unable to speak the language of her heart.
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The Ice Queen by Norman Acton
WITH the death of his wife two years ago and his daughter leaving home shortly after, Peter’s life is fraught with unhappiness.
Then, when his brother Karl is murdered, Peter is drawn into the world of crime and intrigue. Peter follows clue after clue to find his brother’s killer. A reference to a Cape dresser (a piece of furniture) leads Peter to attend an auction where he meets another of Karl’s associates, Winston-Smith, an upper- class gentleman. But there’s something not quite right about the bidding on the Cape dresser, as it attracts more attention than it deserves. Peter accepts an invitation to Winston-Smith’s house where he meets the man who purchased the piece.
Why does he seem frightened when he learns that Peter is Karl Hogan’s brother?
Peter begins to unravel a series of events all pointing to a gang operating from South Africa, who are searching for a missing diamond called “the Ice Queen”. And in the background, watching Peter’s every move, is the dogged Inspector Murray. Peter, together with his daughter, travels to South Africa and stay at the farm of an old family friend. There, he learns that Karl had visited the farm twice previously, the last visit ending in tragedy for the family. Then the prophecy of a witch doctor comes true when Peter is tricked into returning to the shop and is trapped in the burning building. But it is not Peter who dies in the fire, but one of the leaders of the smuggling ring. Another member of the gang escapes and is hell-bent on revenge.
The English arm of the smuggling ring is still intent on finding the “Ice Queen”. And now Peter has the clue to its whereabouts. In their attempt to retrieve the diamond, the gang drug Peter and kidnap his daughter.
Peter has to use all his skills to thwart the gang’s plans to kill him.
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The Jewelled Cross by Norman Acton
TIMOTHY White befriends a new boy at school who is teased about the stories he tells about a “magic train” that he says takes him to strange lands and places.
During the school holidays, Timothy stays with his friend and together they travel on the train to one of these lands, meeting odd creatures and animals during their journey.
But Timothy does not conform to the rules set out for travellers on the train and his unconventional behaviour takes them to a land far stranger than they could ever have imagined; a land with no sun and no night.
It’s a land at the centre of the universe, where the forces of good and evil have been finely balanced since the beginning of time.
Timothy seeks help from the guardian of the Great Book of Prophesies, who takes him to the pinnacle of the world and shows him how his actions have upset the balance of power between the forces of good and evil.
Timothy is then given the task of restoring a strange cross to the Divide – the place where the forces meet – to fulfil a prophesy. But before the cross can be returned, Timothy has to find four precious stones missing from each end of the cross. And his only clue to their whereabouts are the words “They can be found everywhere and nowhere”.
Armed only with a stone sword and a magic cloak, Timothy sets off on a journey that takes him across strange lands where he must use all the resources at his disposal to defeat the creatures sent by the Evil One to stop him. And the closer he gets to the Darkness, the weaker his stone sword and the cloak become. Time is not on Timothy’s side, because the Darkness of the Evil One is spreading quickly over the planet. Yet Timothy knows he must not fail, as the fate of a million and more other planets scattered throughout the universe is in his hands.
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The Munhumutapa Candidate by Mbonisi P Ncube
WHEN an undercover detective is found murdered in his office at night, the only clues that could possibly lead to the killer are found written on the tiled floor next to him – in his own blood. With this message from the other side of the grave, the two detectives arriving at the scene of the crime must try and figure out who the killer is, before he pounces again. But they are not alone…
Another group of rogue agents from the notorious Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) also seem intent on getting their hands on the killer, before the police detectives do.
Who is the killer? And what information did the dead man pass on to him? Racing against time, a cat-and-mouse game ensues, and the detectives must use wit and experience to stay on top of their game, and to try and unravel the trail of clues left by the dead man and his assassin. At the same time, they must stay ahead of the omnipresent CIO agents, who will stop at nothing to lay their hands on the fugitive and silence him , before he goes public with a state secret that has been kept hidden from everyone. This information could implicate the President, and suck him into a huge scandal, shaking the political foundations of the country.
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No Perfect People Allowed by Pamela Moeng
NANDI Mhkize is a junior lecturer in the English department at Wits University in Joburg, South Africa’s largest city.
Her life is turned upside down with the unsolved murder of her taxi owner father, which happens just after her lover takes off for Rwanda and a post at the Kigali Institute. As if the sorrow at losing both her father and lover is not enough, Nandi discovers that she is pregnant. She struggles to accept her pregnancy and is afraid to tell her widowed mother and brothers about the baby’s father – a foreign lecturer at the university who happens to be white.
Raised in Joburg’s southern suburbs, Nandi is typical of South Africa’s current crop of 20-somethings who must find a way to realise their professional ambitions, remain true to their cultural heritage and yet find personal fulfillment in a modern changing world.
Somehow, Nandi must deal with the heartache of her father’s untimely death and the birth of her baby in a society where race still matters.
How she deals with her loss and her unplanned pregnancy is the centre of No Perfect People Allowed.
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The Real Lindsay Stanton by Joanne Garland
LINDSAY Stanton is a 30-year-old South African substitute English teacher living in London. Her life is unraveling and she is unable to stop it. She has just lost her job and is about to find out that her long-time boyfriend, Josh Blake, is leaving her for no apparent reason. Hylton Heather is Lindsay’s closest friend. He, however, also has his own issues to deal with: he hates his job as a publicist, and his boyfriend Paul is off his rocker, becoming controlling and abusive.
Good-looking Alex Jordin has just immigrated to London from South Africa.
He is slick, a bit too smooth, and on the lookout for vulnerable women. Wanting to help Lindsay through her difficult time, Hylton moves in with her temporarily. They are soon joined by Chelsy Harris, a chef extraordinaire and friend from New York. Together, the trio try to get to the bottom of what has gone wrong in Lindsay’s life.
Desperate and unhappy, Lindsay tries to save her relationship and job. She suffers from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Misinterpreting her closeness to Hylton, Lindsay decides she must be love with him. This development puts pressure on their friendship, and he moves back home.
She is desperate and looking for love, and bumps into Alex, who is, incidentally, an ex-boyfriend from SA. Chelsy warns Lindsay against seeing him again.
Alex and Lindsay go out for dinner and a dark and terrifying memory comes to the surface. Alex drugged and raped her six years ago in South Africa. Lindsay realises that she has been blocking out a terrible memory all this time. She leaves the restaurant unnoticed. Despite being worried about their safety, Chelsy and Lindsay decide it’s best not to call the police. What would they tell them? How could they prove it? At least he doesn’t know where they live.
They research date rape drugs and realise why Alex is so confident and unconcerned.
Understanding how much Josh must have struggled to be with her, Lindsay misses him even more. Her recent issues and behaviour are starting to make sense. Lindsay isn’t sure what to do about Alex – should she report him? She calls Hylton and apologises.
Deciding to find Josh, she hopes it’s not too late to save their relationship. He is the only man she has ever loved. He is in Cape Town, and Lindsay returns home.
She finds a job as a news reporter. She goes for therapy to deal with the rape. Through her work, Lindsay discovers that she was not Alex’s only victim. He is wanted by the South African police. He is arrested in London after a tip-off from Lindsay.
This book touches on sensitive topics and shows how abuse can affect a woman’s life in more ways than immediately come to mind.
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Centre Pivot by Jon Busser
CRACK soldier JJ and National Intelligence Agency head, Colonel Smith, lead a team of South African National Intelligence field operatives. They learn through intelligence obtained from the CIA that an international crime syndicate plans to use a private game lodge in the Kruger National Park as regional headquarters. They launch an undercover operation to infiltrate the lodge.
JJ and Themba are installed as game rangers. At the Reserve’s Head Office, their contacts are Ryan, the team’s IT expert and Michelle, their operational controller.
Their mission objective is to determine what the crime syndicate is doing in Southern Africa. Months of covert information gathering yields very little tangible intelligence. The surprising breakthrough finally comes when a group of syndicate members visit the lodge and discover the existence of a large commercial farming concession in northern Mozambique. Communication intercepted and analysed with the help of the CIA confirms that the syndicate orchestrate much of the regional criminal underworld and drug trade from the lodge. The data also confirms the Mozambique farm as central to the syndicate’s regional activities.
Once the operatives are safely extracted from the lodge, they plot a reconnaissance mission to northern Mozambique. During their preparations, JJ and Michelle’s relationship deepens. They negotiate with various government officials and obtain permission to launch their next clandestine operation.
JJ, Themba, Michelle and two other field operatives travel to Mozambique to investigate the crime syndicate’s activities. This time, they pretend to be tourists on a scuba diving holiday. They learn that the syndicate extorts refugees and uses them as slave labour to tend crops and work in factories.
They also ascertain that the farm yields a variety of narcotics including cannabis and opium which the syndicate refine in their processing factory. The drugs are packaged and dispatched to neighbouring African countries or shipped internationally. Their clandestine mission is, however, exposed and Michelle and her support team are apprehended. The captured members are interrogated and an elaborate man-hunt ensues in which JJ and Themba are tracked through the wilderness. A rescue mission is launched. JJ forms part of the operation. They forcefully capture most of the syndicate members.
Their success is bittersweet, though, as two of JJ’s team are killed, Themba is seriously hurt and Michelle sexually assaulted. Blinded by anger, JJ tracks down the remaining syndicate kingpin and takes his revenge. After the operation, the remaining team members split and JJ is devastated when he learns from Colonel Smith that Michelle has resigned and emigrated. She leaves clear instructions that she does not wish to see JJ again.
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2011 Citizen Book Prize Voting Station