The tragedy that divides the world

Kathryn Kimberley

SOUTH Africa has once again provided the plot for a worldwide best-selling writer. UK author John Carlin, who visited Port Elizabeth last year, is now penning a book about the tragic tale that was Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp.

Carlin’s last book for which South Africa provided the backdrop – Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation – was the basis for the 2009 Hollywood film Invictus.

In it, award-winning Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon played Nelson Mandela and former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar.

Carlin, a journalist for more than 33 years, was The Independent newspaper’s South African bureau chief between 1989 and 1993. The Herald spoke to him in London this week.

Q: When can we expect your book to be released?

A: Soon after the trial. I hope to get it to the publishers by June.

Q: There are several books being written on the Oscar-Reeva saga. What makes your book unique?

A: I haven’t actually read the other books but I don’t think there is necessarily anything different or unique about mine.

I may be delusional, but I am going my own sweet way on this one.

Q: Did you manage to interview the Steenkamps during your visit to Port Elizabeth last year?

A: No.

Q: Why not?

A: It was a question of money. They wanted money for an interview and we don’t see eye to eye on that.

I still hope to get an interview but I have never ever paid for an interview in my very long journalistic life.

Look, I am not going to judge and if it was a modest amount they were asking, I might have been open to it, but I have heard what the international media paid. [Carlin would not say how much.]

Q: Have you thought of a title for your book?

A: A title is a very difficult thing. It is probably the last thing I will decide on.

Q: This is not the first time South Africa has provided the plot for your writing. What is your fascination?

A: It is my favourite country in the world. I happened to be a foreign correspondent at a very important time in South African politics. I am enthralled by it. I even married a woman from Johannesburg and we have a half-South African child.

Q: Should we expect another movie deal?

A: Lightning struck with Invictus and lightning does not strike twice. I doubt my book will be made into a movie. There will be documentaries and movies on Oscar, but I doubt it will be based on my book.

Q: Can you give us a sneak peak?

A: I will tell you this … I initially wanted to play detective and get to the bottom of what happened between Oscar and Reeva, but then I realised I would be competing with an experienced team of experts.

Besides, my book will come out after the trial and by then we will hopefully know what happened. I have decided to focus on Oscar’s life instead.

I’ve been to many countries since the shooting and the residents there all have a remarkable fascination with Oscar and Reeva.

People who didn’t have a clue who they were have now taken sides. Some are convinced it was a tragic accident, while others believe Oscar is a murderer and should be burnt at the stake. It is a global phenomenon.

Q: So, what’s next?

A: This business of writing books was not a good idea. I hope I find something else to do in my next life.

  • Carlin will visit Port Elizabeth before attending the trial, set down for March 3.


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