Amanda Coetzee interviews Mike Nicol
Mike Nicol Can’t we start with an easy question. Like what’s my favourite colour?
Amanda Coetzee Stop misbehaving. Let me sum it up for you but don’t moan if I get critical points wrong…
Mike Nicol I’m much better at correcting the mistakes of others. Gives me a sense of superiority.
Amanda Coetzee There speaks the creative writing teacher. Ok. It’s based on historical crime
(sort of) that impacts on the present in a violently but entertaining read.
Mike Nicol And it features a stunning beautiful duo – the surfer boy (who is modeled on me, of course) and his amazing girlfriend who predictably won’t move in with him as she has a gambling habit and a nice flat in the city and she’s a lawyer. What more could you ask for?
Amanda Coetzee Err, who is the beautiful girl modelled on? Your long suffering wife? Where did the detail for the gambling addiction come from?
Mike Nicol Oh, that’s all made up the gambling part. The beautiful girl part? Well that would be to reveal secrets. Have to add in something about my setting right now. I’m in Langebaan in a cafe looking out on a street. The lagoon is down the road but I can see it if I stand on a chair.
Amanda Coetzee A comment on its distance not your height of course. Have you ever had a ‘baby-shit yellow Ford Granada’ in the interests of researching an unforgettable phrase? Mike Nicol No. But my father owned one in the 1970s. Or at least he had the Granada part. The yellow part came because g-daughter Kate had just been born and so there was a lot of that colour stuff around.
Amanda Coetzee A serious question for anyone still listening. Why the decision to base the plot, loosely, around historical events?
Mike Nicol I suppose because history has always been present – no clever word play there of course – in my fiction. But apart from that I have long been fascinated by the hit squads that the apartheid forces let go on the country. I wanted to reference their doings and then a sense of poetic justice as they came to confront their actions in the new country.
Amanda Coetzee Do you feel a sense of responsibility as a social commentator as a crime writer based in South Africa or is this poetic justice a personal response?
Mike Nicol Ah the question that lies at the root of so much… I guess because I grew up at a certain time and started writing in the 1970s when everything you wrote was political, writers couldn’t help but by social commentators. As a crime writer – well, as any writer really – I think one has to carry on the tradition of commenting on the country.
Especially as we have a lot to comment on right now. Also the poetic justice is probably also a personal response, but mostly that novel is about telling a story and mixing some fact into the fiction.
Amanda Coetzee Talking about the mix of fact and fiction, your character Jacob Mkezi of the crocodile shoes is a complex man who clearly sees himself as beyond the petty rules of society. Sadly so many of our politicians do – was your choice to include his relationship with a white woman and a liking for young male prostitutes as part of this character trait?…
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