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Sarah Lotz

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Snapshots from the Bookex CrimeWrite weekend

(Warning, this article contains scenes of gratuitous name-dropping)

 Most intimidating moment: Discussing how to write courtroom scenes with ace advocate and prize-winning author Chris Marnewick, and having to explain myself.

 Most embarrassing moment: There are hundreds. Top of the heap is gushing like a mentally deranged fan girl at Peter Harris. Pathetic. Mike Nicol looked at me in disgust as if I was letting the side down. Crime writers should have dignity and poise, like Margie Orford and Wessel Ebersohn.

 Most inspiring moment: The panel with Peter Harris, Chris Marnewick, Martin Welz and Antony Altbeker on non-fiction. Was riveted from the first word.

 Most disappointing moment: That more Joburgians didn’t take the opportunity to come to the panel discussions.

 Most expensive moment: Buying books left right and centre, including EU literary award winner James Clelland’s novel Deeper than Colour.

 Most humorous moment: There were loads. Jassy Mackenzie has to be one of the funniest crime writers out there – the queen of the bon mot. Margie Orford and Mike Nicol are also always wittier than a skip full of Irish comedians.

 Most musical moment: Mike Nicol and Jo Ratcliffe’s drive-by panel on Killer Country music, which was complemented by a killer soundtrack.

 Most satisfyingly bone-chilling moment: Apart from being chauffeured around Jo’burg’s mean streets by Louis Greenberg, the horror and sci-fi panel, hosted by Dave Brendon, ace reviewer, book-seller and writer. Also met terrific SA horror author Joan De La Haye and writer and fellow mannequin admirer Lood du Plessis. (Why is it that crime and horror/sf writers are all so cool and supportive? You’d think they’d be blood-thirsty weirdoes but they’re not).

 Most potentially incarcerating moment: Louis and I slipping through the gates of Jo’burg’s most outrageously bad taste mansion and snooping around it (for research purposes of course).

 Most delicious moment: The crime writers’ dinner on Saturday night hosted by Helen Holyoake. The lamb was to die for (sorry, vegetarians).

 Most like-minded moment: Connecting with Sifiso Mzobe, fellow petrol head and soccer fan. His novel, Young Blood is one of my reads of the year and I loved our panel on fast cars, although my hung-over brain ran out of fuel halfway through it. Sifiso, I forgive you for taking the piss out of my accent and the fact that I support Wolves.

 Most stylish moment: Margie Orford’s wardrobe. She has an inexhaustible supply of vintage chic designer outfits that made me sick with envy. And after meeting the stunning Kopano Matlwa, Lauren and I immediately coveted her beautiful gold dress.

 Most heart-warming moment: hanging out with Sam, Louis’s brilliant and funny son and playing pirates-who-like-to-do-the-washing-up-and-vacuum-the-lounge, and meeting Adam, his youngest son for the first time. Louis and his wife Bronwyn hosted me and Lauren for the weekend and they’re so cool, laid-back and generous I could happily move in with them.

 Most sobering moments: Not many, unfortunately, thanks to Leopards Leap wine and too many margaritas (that Lauren forced me to drink).

 Most humbling moment: Hearing Edyth Bulbring saying how much she enjoyed reading Tooth and Nailed on the crime readers’ panel. Edyth, I will vacuum your house dressed as a pirate any day.

 Most nauseating moment: Eating the zombie brain-flavoured mints Louis Greenberg gave me for my birthday. Stanley Trollip ate one just before our panel on serial characters. A brave man.

 Most tattooed moment: Two words: Dave Chislett. A diamond geezer who oozes charisma.

 Most blast-from-the-past moments: Hanging out with fellow horror-fanatic Richard Kunzmann again and meeting up with Gemma, Exhibit A’s terrific editor.

 Most regretful moments: Missing the Skype convos with Roger Smith and Deon Meyer, and not being able to attend the panels that clashed with the crimewrite events.

 Most name-dropping moment: Over-hearing Richard Kunzmann casually mentioning going to one of Neil Gaiman’s book launch parties. And all of the above, of course.

Most delayed moment: The flight on the way home. Thankfully I had Helen Moffett to buy me black coffee and regale me with anecdotes about her nightmare flight to Jo’burg where she sat next to a businessman having a major hypoglycemic attack. The flight crew happily left ‘Dr Moffett’ in charge of him.

Most grateful moments: All the hard work that Helen Holyoake and Mike Nicol put into organising the event – they never flagged once and were absolutely brilliant. To Louis and Bronwyn for putting up with me all weekend, Penguin for forking out the cash to fly me up to Joburg, and to my fellow panellists who made the whole experience memorable and a complete blast.

On being star-struck and possibly getting clawed

At the launch of Tooth and Nailed at Kalk Bay Books last Friday night there was something slightly surreal about looking in the audience and seeing celebrity crime writers Deon Meyer, Joanne Hichens, Michael Stanley (aka Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) and Chris Marnewick staring back at me. As I said on the night, it was like being an amateur actor putting on a performance and spotting Robert de Niro and Quentin Tarantino sitting in the stalls.

This was all thanks to ace interrogator Mike Nicol. As well as generously agreeing to question me on the night (and he did a stellar job, leaving no plot-hole unturned), Mike organised a krimi feast at the Annex restaurant afterwards. It was a wonderful night, filled with delicious food, great conversation and much hilarity. Thanks a million to Mike, Ann, all at the Annex and Kalk Bay Books and everyone who came to the launch.

Tomorrow night (Thursday, August 5) there will be another launch at the fabulous Book Lounge. Mervyn Sloman says he’s forgiven me for the cameo appearance he makes in the novel, and I’ll be joined by Quinton Martins, who started and heads up the Cape Leopard Trust. Probably you’re wondering what the hell a famous conservationist is doing hanging out with a star-struck krimi writer, but all will be revealed. One of the plot strands in the novel was inspired by a close and terrifying encounter my family, Quinton and I had with a pride of lions during a camping trip in Botswana, and as one of the characters in the novel may or may not be based on Quinton himself, the claws will definitely be out.

To find out more about the vital work Quinton and his wife Liz are doing to save these beautiful animals, check out:

Hope to see you at the Book Lounge!

A Love Poem to a Zombie

You can blame Karina, Alex and Helen for making me post this. It was read out in a very silly drunken voice at the Lounge of Horror event on Friday. (My apologies).

Till Death Do Us Part (An Anti-Twilight Love Poem to a Zombie)



You know I hate flowers, so you always bring brains,

Your skin gets all mouldy whenever it rains,

I’ll never forget when I first caught your eye,

And I’ve still got it here, though it’s withered and dry.

Remember our first date, when we lurched through the mall,

And you showed me the hole in your abdominal wall?

How romantic that was! How I laughed till I sobbed,

How I looked on with awe as you fought off that mob.

And our first kiss was magic, a true serenade,

(I’m sure that in time all the bite marks will fade)

I thought at the time ‘how refreshing to find,

A man so intent to get inside my mind…’

My dearest, I tell you, I’ve made it my mission,

To try and look past all your decomposition,

So what if you dance like a reject from Thriller?

No one can deny you’re a real lady killer.

You may not say much, mostly ugh-hhh and braaaaaiiinnnnns,

And it can get quite tiring cleaning up all the stains,

But there’s no one alive who can beat you at Twister,

(And I know that you’re sorry for eating my sister)

You’re always so eager to lend me a hand,

Or an ear, or a leg – and once – a lymph gland,

I can’t meet your parents (they’re quite strict at the morgue),

But I’m sure that I’d like them, and wouldn’t get gnawed.

And don’t take to heart all those things my dad said,

And the cruel joke he made about Dawn of the Dead,

That chainsaw was just a small misunderstanding,

And so were the shotguns he keeps on the landing.

You’re my Don Juan, my Romeo – if they were undead,

And left maggots and brain bits in Juliet’s bed.

So to death us do part, or till decapitation,

(I’m learning to deal with my sexual frustration)

You’re the best – you’re my soul mate – a fabulous feller,

And that’s why I keep you, chained up, in my cellar.



The kindness of strangers and the Book Lounge

As Lauren has already pointed out on one of the threads, (thanks, Lauren!), The Book Lounge will be kindly donating 10% of all sales of Exhibit A at the launch of the novel tonight to The Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS), which is an incredibly generous gesture. TEARS does amazing work, and has a non-euthanize policy.

There will also be an outlet at the Book Lounge where cans of dog and cat food, blankets, dog biscuits, toys etc will be collected for needy and unwanted animals (I know, I know, guilt trip), and any donations however small, will be most appreciated.

I’ll be conversation with Andrew Brown, brilliant author of Coldsleep Lullaby and Street Blues. Exhibit A stars two disreputable lawyers who find themselves enmeshed in small town police corruption, and as Andrew is a police reservist and an advocate, he’s in the perfect position to give me a hard time about the novel. Clearly the discussion will be terrifying for me and hence fascinating for everyone else.

And I heard yesterday that eTV will be filming the launch (?!), so if you can make it, here’s the perfect opportunity to wear a nice Cape Town hat.


The launch takes place tonight at 5.30 for 6pm at the Book Lounge, Roeland Street.

Launch time, Helen, alcohol and profanity

So tomorrow Exhibit A will be launched at the Book Fair at the Penguin stand. It’s at 5.30 for so please hang around and grab a glass of wine. After only a mild amount of bribery and corruption Helen Moffett has kindly agreed to speak at the launch, and will no doubt be her usual entertaining and erudite self. I’ll try not to be too embarrassing or inappropriate (but neither can be guaranteed).  

Please be assured that I’ll do my best to sign books without my usual dollop of profanity.

Very much looking forward to seeing you there!

The Geek Strikes Back

This lightweight story was inspired by my one time co-scriptwriter, Greig Cameron. Among his many attributes, Greig’s a first-rate, witty and original scriptwriter, an aficionado of all things zombie and he lets me bully him into making coffee. But he also has an undying, obsessive love affair with the first three Star Wars movies. Greig was born in the eighties, so he wasn’t around when the original movie was released in the seventies (I’m old enough to have seen it in the cinema when it was first released). In fact, Greig is such a fanboy that he has a tattoo of the Death Star on one of his legs (I’d post a pic but don’t know how).
So I’ve posted this for Greig and for all the original Star Wars fans – those who long for the days before Jar Jar Binks and CGI overload, who have fond memories of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher hamming it up and somehow making George Lucas’s dire dialogue sound cool. Those of us who fought imaginary light-sabre battles in the playground and still insist on doing bad impressions of Yoda when we’re drunk. Those of us who were able to forgive Lucas for the Ewoks, but needed trauma counselling after sitting through the shitfest that was The Phantom Menace.
(Also, I thought it would be wise to post this before Helen gets back on line and tells me off for bad grammar, misplaced commas etc).

The Geek Strikes Back (A love story)

Luke fell in love for the second time in his life one rainy Cape Town Tuesday. He wasn’t expecting to fall in love; in fact seconds before this life-changing event he’d been wearily trawling Facebook, which, along with smoking dope in the ladies’, was an instant firing offence. Fortunately he spotted sour-faced Rhoda, the office manager, stalking towards his desk in time to click back to his work. There was a dark-haired girl trailing in Rhoda’s wake, but Luke barely glanced at her. Staff turnover was high in Luke’s IT firm, and barely a day went by without a new techno-nerd slithering into a nearby work station.
“So this is the programmers’ section,” Rhoda said, blasting Luke with stale coffee breath. “Guys? One of you wanna give Leia the spiel?” » read more

Countdown to Pompidou launch…

Nails bitten down to the quick, vast quantities of sherry consumed, I’m nervously counting down the days to the launch of Pompidou Posse, which takes place this Saturday, June 14th at the book fair, at 5.30 (after it’s closed, so please linger).

Those who downloaded the Book Fair programme may have noticed that Pompidou Posse has been erroneously billed as ‘Poseidon Posse’. Don’t worry – I haven’t written a novel about a bunch of cowboys who have to escape from their overturned ocean liner. But maybe I should consider it? The Western/aquatic disaster genre is seriously neglected. No, Pompidou Posse is set in the Paris underworld, and has absolutely no cowboys or water in it at all.
» read more

The Embarrassment of Dead Grandmothers

This short story won the 2007 SAfm “Express Yourself” competition.

Oh God. I’m almost sure she’s not breathing. It’s hard to tell, though, with that racket on stage. The Phantom of the bloody Opera. Her choice, not mine. Well, at least if she is dead I can blame Andrew Lloyd Webber.

She really is being unusually quiet. Especially considering she was snoring ten minutes ago. Plus, she’s normally one of those noisy breathers – on a good day her chest sounds like a Volkswagon beetle with a cracked carburettor. And if she’s not wheezing and rattling, she’s making ghastly smacking sounds as she adjusts her ill-fitting dentures. These less than pleasant sound effects normally drive me up the wall, but right now I’d give my left arm for a snort, a cough, or even a fart. Any sign of life will do, in fact.
» read more