“Crime is like hair in Joburg — big and bling,” Orford said. In Joburg it takes 25 men with machine guns to rob the Spar; in Cape Town it takes one guy with a knife.” She described Cape Town as South Africa’s intellectual centre, and Joburg as its money capital.
So what turned Orford to crime? “I am properly educated and went through the JM Coetzee school.” [That would be the University of Cape Town, an institution that can truly claim its status as SA’s literary factory after having produced dozens of award-winning writers]. She then studied in the US returning to South Africa in 2001.
“I took it personally that everyone was trying to kill me. I had to find a way to deal with South Africa where crime is the urban reality.”
She made an interesting point about South Africans having expected the police to implement the rainbow nation. “Ideal but unlikely heroes,” and as it stands, built perfectly for fiction. Cops and journalists are her vehicles for telling stories, the “only people who can navigate the psycho-geography of Apartheid”, who can move comfortably between Constantia and Khayelitsha.
But my favourite line of the night had to be about why crime fiction is the ultimate in fantasy and why there is such satisfaction to be derived as a crime writer. “If they are slightly bad you get to kill them in a sub-clause.”
A flock or is it a clutch of writers turned up to drink the cheap wine and be entertained by the inimitable Ms. Orford – including Mandla Langa, Zukiswa Wanner and Kevin Bloom – who reassuringly told the gathering that “Unless South Africans are trying to kill you they really are the nicest people.” Seconded.
* Daddy’s Girl is published by Jonathan Ball. Orford’s first novel was Like Clockwork, her second Blood Rose. Her books have been translated into 12 languages and are sold in nine countries.