Book Review - The Face On The Cutting-Room Floor

Who Is Cameron McCabe? by Cameron McCabe (Picador Classic) ISBN 9781509829811


1933. London. Cameron McCabe is editing a film involving a love triangle. The director has instructed him to edit out an aspiring actress, Estella Lamare. She becomes the face on the cutting room floor. Then Estella is found dead in the very film studio, exactly where her image was lying in pieces of celluloid on the floor. 

Is McCabe a suspect, victim, joker or storyteller? Who is Cameron McCabe? This is an unusual detective mystery. There is emphasis on its literary value, and the social and philosophical nature of the time. The novel was first published in 1937 but the true identity of the author was a mystery until 1974.

The epilogue invites you to go back and analyse the novel. It is as though you have eaten the main course and now face a large and varied dessert. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
2.5/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - Shepherds And Butchers

by Chris Marnewick (Umuzi) ISBN: 9781415209011 


'On the tenth of December 1987 at about 18:00 hours on a deserted road near Magazine Hill Reservoir the accused forced the minibus in which the deceased were travelling from the road. He then shot each one of the deceased at least once with a pistol.' 

The accused is Leon Albert Labuschagne, 19-years-old. Lawyers For Human Rights appoints a pro bono advocate to defend him. Before the crimes, Leon was deployed at maximum security on death row as an escort to the prisoners. He was reaching breaking point and grappling with the perplexing question: How can you be a shepherd and then a butcher? 

The story is a mixture of fact and fiction and it is riveting throughout. Gruesome details are revealed concerning murderous criminals, including their abhorrent behaviours and twisted psyches. Yet equally horrifying is the process of implementing the death penalty. Is hanging a deterrent? Are we not as brutal as the criminals? Does violence beget violence? 

This story implies that those who are trained to kill can become automatons and will act on the slightest provocation. 

Shepherds And Butchers is definitely worth reading. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
4/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - The Street

by Paul McNally (Macmillan) ISBN: 9781770104563 


The street is Ontdekkers Road in Sophiatown and Paul McNally is a journalist writing a book. He is the founding member of The Citizen Justice Network. He produces feature articles and narrative radio documentaries for Wits Journalism on criminal justice, health and science.

This story begins at a charge office in Sophiatown. Raymond is having an outburst at the police. Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Khaba becomes interested in Raymond as he has his own axe to grind from a previous case. Lerato, who is a cop, is married to Obi, a Nigerian drug dealer and they work hand-in-hand much to the chagrin of many. How will these people interact and what will the outcome be?

McNally points out the difficulties of all the parties involved. There is temptation for the law-abiding citizens, criminals and police. The story captures the feelings and dilemmas that each face. Who is the bad guy?

Two years ago McNally thought he was writing about a man who failed to conquer corruption. Now he sees reality in the power of adaptation and the capacity to survive.

I found this non-fiction story insightful and interesting. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
3.5/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - Here I Am

by Jonathan Safran Foer (Hamish Hamilton) ISBN 9780241146187 


The Blochs are an upper middle-class American family consisting of Jacob, the father: always questioning himself, ambivalent, neurotic; Julia, the mother: artistic, unfulfilled, controlling, argumentative, neurotic; Sam, the eldest son: intelligent, rebellious, aloof; Max, the middle son: hungry for facts which he is always collecting; and Benji, the youngest son: bright child, observant, impressionable. 

Sam, who is is studying for his Bar mitzvah, might be expelled from school. Jacob believes his son is innocent; Julia does not. This friction escalates towards a marriage breakdown. Meanwhile, their cousins from Israel arrive for a family reunion and while they are there a catastrophic earthquake causes a crisis in the Middle East. With their own personal crisis and the one in the Middle East, they are forced to do some soul searching. 

Safran Foer wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. In this novel, he often puts too much on the plate. He tries to shock his readers which often does not add to the story but rather confuses the issue.  The characters are searching for meaning in their lives but often go round in circles. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
3/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - Under Devil's Peak

by Gavin Cooper (Mercury) ISBN: 9781928230366

 
Born in 1926, Wilfred Edward Cooper came from humble beginnings. After attending Wynberg Boys High School where he excelled in sport and academics, he studied Law at Stellenbosch University. HF Verwoerd and JB Vorster were both studying there at the same time. He developed a style that would earn him the nickname 'Tiger' when he came to the bar to examine witnesses. 

Wilfred always treated people as equals regardless of their stature. In the '60s he was involved in numerous political affairs including defending Demitrio Tsafendas, Verwoerd's assassin. He also defended Marthinus Rossouw in the scandalous murder of Baron van Schauroth. Wilfred defended the SWAKO 6, as well as Steve Biko and other political activists, some of whom died in their cells by hanging. He also defended the scissors murderess Marlene Leihberg. 

Wilfred and Gertrude, his gregarious wife, enjoyed a wonderful social life in their Newlands home. They chose to live under Devil's Peak that was relocated under the Group Areas Act. Wilfred chose to defend the underdog who had very little chance under apartheid rule, often not earning as much as he could have. He wrote books and lectured. He eventually became a highly respected judge after having a distinguished legal career. 

Gavin Cooper, who is Wildred's son, has written a warm, interesting and enlightening account in this biography. It is informative and worthwhile reading. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
3.5/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - The Apartment

by SL Grey (Macmillan) ISBN: 9781447266556
 

After experiencing an armed robbery in their home, Stephanie and Mark are struggling to come to terms with their trauma. They decide to arrange a house-swap with the Petits from France. 

When they arrive in Paris, they are met with a rude awakening. The apartment is old, dusty and full of mildew. The building appears to be empty. They look around and find only one other occupant, Mirreille who is an artist. They try to contact the Petits, but to no avail. The apartment is oppressive and downright spooky. Mark goes to the bank to activate his credit card, only to discover this should have been done before they left. This seriously limits their finances. 

After sight-seeing in Paris they decide to cook dinner in the apartment. Mirreille invites herself to join them and the night is a disaster. Totally unsettled, they make arrangements to return home earlier. Home does not offer the comfort they need. Mark is seeing visions and becoming increasingly unbalanced. 

Is this real or is his mind playing tricks on him or is it something more terrifying? The story is a page turner and compulsive reading. It is like a nightmare with no end in sight. When the conclusion is finally reached, it is unforeseen. 

If you like a psychological thriller that is macabre, subtle and effective, this is for you. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
4/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - Negroland - A Memoir

by Margo Jefferson (Granta) ISBN 9781783783021 

'I was taught to avoid showing off. I was taught to distinguish myself through presentation, not declaration, to excel through deeds and manners, not showing off. But isn't all memoir a form of showing off?' 

This denotes the theme of the memoir. Negroes or black people need to prove themselves beyond their white counterparts in all ways possible. They need to extend themselves to prove they are worthy. In America (as a minority) this comes at a price. There is a constant awareness of race, of self-criticism, particularly appearance. The author judges her looks as inferior, unattractive, especially when she wears her thick glasses. Her hair is too frizzy. Her body shape not good enough. She attends a private school where the majority of students are white. She comes from a privileged family. She is a good student who participates in school activities, striving to be accepted. 

Margo Jefferson is the daughter of a successful paediatrician. Her mother is a socialite. They are part of Chicago's black elite. The author calls it Negroland. This small group would be the example to other black people and raise their standards. Then into the mix comes feminism. Her we have two discriminations - being female and black. There is also the human rights movement bringing attention to the fallacy of non-racialism in America. 

Jefferson's writing is brutally honest, exposing her innermost thoughts, feelings and contradictions. She reveals the complexity of her life as a black woman: Where does she belong? All she asks is to be accepted for who she is. 

How many people are experiencing racial discrimination and its effects on their being? This memoir bites to the very core of racism and it is an essential book for greater understanding of discrimination which has persisted for many centuries. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
3/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - The One Man

by Andrew Gross (Macmillan) ISBN 9781509822812


Why would a man risk his life for someone he has never met? That is precisely what Nathan Blum has agreed to do. He is a young intelligence lieutenant in Washington D.C. Three years ago he was in Jewish ghetto in Krakow, from where he managed to escape. 

He joined the army looking for a better future having lost his family who had been murdered by the Nazis. He decodes messages from Poland, which is occupied by the Nazis. The US government now asks him to go back to Europe to rescue one man from a concentration camp in Poland. This is a risky mission, if not impossible. 

Alfred Mendl is a man in his fifties spending his final days in a Nazi death camp in Poland. He has also lost his family to the Nazis. He is a renowned physicist whose life work has been burned and completely destroyed by the Nazis. He and only one other in the world have this knowledge. The other is working for the Nazi war machine. His life is totally hellish and miserable. The only occasional pleasure that he has is watching a game of chess. 

Although it is a work of fiction, the situation in the camps is based on fact. It is also fact that the US is seeking to counteract the Nazis with a weapon to end the war called the Manhattan Project 1944. Andrew Gross has written together with James Patterson as well as solo. This may lead you to believe this is just another thriller but this book goes beyond that. 

The story is believable and the characters draw you in. You can feel the ghastly atmosphere and utter ruthlessness of the guards and the despicable behaviour of their supervisors. Their hatred and cruelty is tangible. The contrasts in each chapter enrich the story and add to its power. The suspense is compelling and completely gripping right till the end. 

I felt shattered and shaken to the core by the end. It was a great read. I can imagine it being made into a fantastic film. Highly recommended. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
4/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - Holding My Breath

by Ace Moloi (Blackbird Books) ISBN 9781928337294 

Ace Moloi invites you into his life where he writes an intimate, sad letter to his single mother ten years after her death.
 
Even though Ace is the youngest child, he had to grow up almost immediately and automatically become head of the household when his aunt leaves home and his older brother struggles to come to terms with the death of their mother. Ace longs for his mom’s guidance. Even though his mother had died she still reminded him of the teachings of their culture. Born in Qwa-Qwa, Eastern Free State, Ace takes us on a journey as he goes through his rather grim childhood and all the challenges he faced with the racial division at university including the political challenges in South Africa.
 
During Ace’s quest to find answers he embarks on a journey to find his father only to be disappointed. Ace has written a truly heartfelt and inspiring memoir to his mom that has left me thinking that regardless of all the adversity you go through, you can always rise above it and choose to change the direction of your life.
 
Tracy-Ann Damons
www.writerswrite.co.za
5/5

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Holding My Breath is an apt title as Ace Moloi is always awaiting the next calamity. This memoir is presented as a letter to his deceased mother who passes away when he is thirteen. Ace and his older brother are raised in a single-parent home, so losing their mother means losing their anchor. Ace feels he has to break the family pattern of dire poverty and decides to drive himself towards this vision in thought and action. 

His memoir describes the earlier years spent in his great-grandmother's house. There are others in this house but they feel like outsiders. Then the two brothers and their mother move to a single room shack. Life is very difficult, but Ace does well in school even as he struggles with asthma. 

Their mother's step-father dies and leaves them his house. His mother earns R700 per month and works under appalling conditions. Ace goes to Phiri Intermediate School in Qwa Qwa, Free State, where he excels. He wants to be a footballer but realises as a village boy there is no chance he will be successful. 

His mother dies just before he passes Grade 9 and a monster arrives at the house - his aunt's boyfriend. It is a terrifying situation having no parent to turn to, and when his aunt leaves, they are left destitute. With all his trials and tribulations, Ace still becomes the village role model as he passes matric with a good academic record. 

Ace visits his father but realises he has lost nothing. Perhaps his absence was a blessing in disguise. Now Ace has to make it on his own. He has been given a bursary to University of the Free State and graduates with a degree in corporate and marketing communications. He gains a leadership position in his residence and is involved with campus media. In December 2014 he becomes an intern for Johannesburg Roads Agency. 

Holding My Breath is a heart-rending account of an underprivileged boy who pushes through extremely difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, he is not alone. To move ahead under these appalling conditions takes the ultimate courage and tenacity. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
4.5/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - Papwa - Golf's Lost Legend

by Maxine Case (Kwela Books) ISBN 9780795707117 


The boy with the short skinny stature lines up the golf ball, and bends his knees into the shot. He checks his hold on his makeshift club, sniffs the air, and deftly takes the shot. 'Look Pa, a hole in one!' as the ball lands in the buried tin can in the yard. Now it's time for a longer shot. 

In the early '30s poverty is rife, not only in Riverside, Natal. Pa values his job as a grass cutter for the Durban Corporation. He supplements his meagre pay by fishing. 

The boy is Sewaunker 'Papwa' Sewgolum. He lives near Beachwood Golf Course and is fascinated by golf. One day he finds a five-iron and he is able to practise with a 'real' club! He is eleven-years-old when his father dies and he decides to become a caddy and contribute to his family. The caddy master recognises his extraordinary talent and he is allowed to practice on the golf course before 9am. 

At 16, he enters the Natal Amateurs and wins. Graham Wulf who plays at Beachwood and discovers how talented Papwa is decides to assist him. He takes him to compete in Europe where he meets Gary Player. Papwa wins the Natal open and beats Gary Player. He wins the Dutch Open three times. At the height of his career, the apartheid government withdraws his passport. 

Papwa is self-taught -an exceptional player who, in spite of adversity, still plays to world standards. Imagine if he had competed with all other world champions, he would have made a fortune instead of remaining in poverty. The story is heart-breaking when is Natal Open trophy was given to him outside in the rain as the club was for whites only. He had to use the caddy's change rooms and was once given a caravan instead of normal facilities, which was abominable. 

Unlike the cricketer Basil D'Oliviera who went to Britain in 1960 and played for England, Papwa did not move, always hoping for better times. Apartheid's unjust laws are clearly demonstrated. 

The author tells a story of triumph and disappointments. She casts light on the lives of Indians in South Africa during Apartheid, and the life of Papwa, one of our greatest golfers. She also delves into the history of the sport's anti-Apartheid movement and the dismantling of some of the government's most draconian laws. 

Unfortunately when the change began to take place it was too late for Papwa. I could feel the utter frustration and sometimes hopelessness in Papwa's situation. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
3.5/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.