Respite from Cape Town’s weather, huddled in bed with Benny Griessel

2013-08-28 16:57

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It’s freezing in Cape Town, with talk of snow on Table Mountain in the next couple of days.

It’s stay-at-home kind of weather. Baby-making weather. But babies are expensive (and noisy) so let’s just settle for shunning the world in favour of a good-read kind of weather.

I’m on page two hundred and something of Deon Meyer’s Thirteen Hours, a novel that’s been shrouded in hype since its inception in 2008.

Meyer has been labelled “the king of South African crime writing”, with books translated into more languages than my upper and lower digits combined.

Despite initial contrarian reluctance, I have to concede that Thirteen Hours is eminently readable.

The local nuances resonate strongly: affirmative action gripes and Eskom power cuts.

The story’s lead character is a disillusioned mid-forties Afrikaans cop named Benny Griessel, a recovering drunk who feels left out when his colleagues trade quips in Cape Flats colloquial.

A pair of forensic experts discuss Amor Vittone’s breasts while dissecting a murder scene. Another oversized officer constantly smells of KFC.

What struck me is how the fast-moving plot lingers over familiar locations in Cape Town.

It is fun recognising the settings: the pathways up Lions Head and Table Mountain. Carlucci’s Deli on the corner of Montrose and Upper Orange Street in Oranjezicht.

I lived in a flatlet at the back of that very deli five years ago. My bedroom window overlooked the same alley mentioned in the novel; it was noisy and smelled of fresh pastries in the mornings.

Across the road, do-gooders have now turned a defunct bowling alley into an urban vegetable patch (known as the Oranjezicht City Farm) where hipsters gather to plant cabbages next to a sign that reads “Give Peas a Chance” on Saturday mornings.

Other locations include the Cat and Moose Backpackers Lodge in Longstreet and the police station in Buitenkant Street, ironically situated across the road from Mavericks strip club.

Enrique Iglesias visited the club while touring South Africa some years ago. At the time, a stripper told me that the singer had acted like a true gentleman at the premises.

Oh, and Brownlow Road. Flanked by old Victorian homes in Tamboerskloof, the street is home to the wonderful Daily Deli, purveyor of vegetarian dishes and the city’s most iconic loo, an old blue and white delft porcelain bowl set in a wooden bathroom down rickety stairs, with windows overlooking rambling bougainvillea.

A film version of Thirteen Hours is in the pipeline. Movie rights were bought by British producers Malcolm Kohll and Robert Fig in 2009.

It’s been a tardy process and somewhat hushed, with rumours that English actor Sean Bean (who portrayed Boromir in Lord of the Rings and Lord Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones) might slip into Benny Griessel’s rugged SA Police Service boots.

In the meantime, while we wait for the film, read the novel if you haven’t done so yet.

Especially if you live in Cape Town. See what associations the pages trigger for you.

Besides, if weather reports are to be believed, downpours lashing the city are not about to abate any time soon.

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