I first conceived the idea for a debut novel while travelling through South Africa in 2003/2004. I undertook an overland trip from Cape Town known as the Southern Explorer which was a 6 week tenting trip through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland. It gave me first hand experience of the scale of the continent as well as its inherent beauty.
I did indeed write several thousand words that if my memory serves me correctly focused on a Robin Hood relationship - robbing the rich to give to the poor. The thought came at a time when land redistribution was a major political topic in post Apartheid South Africa. Inequality pervaded and indeed still does pervade many aspects of society and I felt compelled to write about how that might be improved in the form of a story.
I left my ideas for several months, occasionally revisiting them and extending my writing over the years. Eventually my thoughts went stale and creativity drained for over a decade. The story was always there and I always intended to revisit. The rise of cybercrime and the pandemic acted as a catalyst and my thoughts were rejuvenated. I rewrote what was probably less than 10,000 words in the midst of lockdown in 2020. Once again I left it on the table for several months to deal with the passing of my father which had a profound effect on me.
It wasn’t until late 2020 that I twigged that much more serious diseases could impact mankind, particularly those stored in supposed level 5 bio-secure facilities. From here the kernel of the story was reborn and combined with a hero figure who knew how to use technology not for the benefit of all, but for the benefit of the poor.
The beauty of Africa as a continent is undeniable and its impact on me substantial. A piece of my heart will always be in Cintsa in the Eastern Cape. Here is a delightful lagoon, a small population of 2,000 or so who live an enviable beach life surrounded by incredible nature. I will never forget being on a cliff walk and watching whales migrate beneath me. Horse riding along the beach at sunset. Fishing at dawn for copperhead and catching Steenbras. One day I even found a dead penguin washed ashore and perched him up and took a photo. The gasps when I returned to my hotel and introduced the photo of my new found friend to other guests will live with me forever. Little did they know about my white lie.
My affinity was so great I even bought land in the town, thinking that one day I would return and build a future there. That now seems improbable but I do hope to return one day. I remember conjuring up an idea for a game farm, a golf course and several other random business ideas that went through different levels of iteration - all as my excuse to stay. I am pleased that after almost two decades this narrative has finally made it to a point where it can be shared and I hope be enjoyed by others. It has changed unrecognizably from my first efforts but to write about a continent so special for my debut book fills me with pride and restores wonderful memories of stunning landscapes and firm friendships formed.
I truly hope that if you haven’t already you get to explore the Mother City and enjoy all that Africa has to offer. The people are resourceful, proud, sport obsessed and the food and wine are outstanding. They use a word - Ubuntu - it best describes the peoples and their customs and their common purpose. Indeed that was the original word for the manuscript. Indulge yourself in 2032 and I hope you find something special as I did.