Thrillers and poetry

2009-03-25 00:00

ON Saturday morning at Exclusive Books in the Liberty Midlands Mall, there will be a book signing by local author Graham Vivian Lancaster. As well as his latest thriller, Strength of Ten, Lancaster will have nine of his books there, including poetry collections Gravel Roads and Fledgling, and his teen adventure series Wild and Dangerous.

Lancaster was born in East London, and grew up in the then Rhodesia, training as a metallurgist and serving in the Rhodesian territorial army. He is now a full-time writer and also a publisher of poetry.

Margaret von Klemperer spoke to him.

Tell us something about Strength of Ten.

It’s a thriller, set mainly in Pietermaritzburg. The chief executive of African Consolidated gets arrested and thrown in jail, and his investigative team sets out to prove his innocence. And then the story deals with what he does to get his revenge. The idea came originally from the days when I worked for a similar company in Cato Ridge. All kinds of things happened — smelting is a dangerous business. So I took what were pure accidents — in a furnace and with crane ropes — and turned them into something deliberate. The hero is also a rally driver, and I checked with a real rally driver and turned an accident there into sabotage as well.

It is a very visual story, with lots of action. You say the company, Imaginites, who published it in Australia, are planning to turn it into a film. Did you write it with that in mind? And what is the news of the filming?

That’s the way I write. A lot of authors have problems with action scenes — you need to get the details right. I’ve done plenty of the things I write about.

Authors have to give up a lot when their work is filmed — they are never completely satisfied — 100 000 words can’t be put into an hour and a half of film. It’s a different way of thinking. I have been asked if I would consult on the film, which would probably be shot in South Africa. But film companies are facing major problems at the moment, so we’ll have to see. The book has done well in Australia, with over 3 000 copies sold, and about 1 000 here.

You write both fiction and poetry. How easy is it to move from the kind of writing needed in a thriller like Strength of Ten to poetry?

I always have a few things on the go at the same time — poetry, fiction, humour. They are different disciplines, but they help each other. Moving from one to the other helps to get the mind together — and I just enjoy writing. Though last year I gave up novels to concentrate on poetry, as a writer and publisher.

You tell me you have some psychic powers. Can you explain?

My mother, sister and daughter have psychic powers — they seem to run in the female side of the family. I can’t tell fortunes, but once or twice I’ve seen an aura. And when I’m writing, I’ll find I’ve written something I have no idea where it comes from, particularly with poetry. But later on, it makes sense to me.

As a writer what do you like to read? And what is on your bedside table at the moment?

I love Kahlil Gibran, Guy de Maupassant, Norman Mailer. And Irish writer Marian Keyes. I enjoyed Greogry Roberts’s Shantaram. At the moment I am reading Native American writer Oriah Mountain Dreamer, and stuff on China.

• Meet Graham Lancaster at 10 am on Saturday at Exclusive Books where he will be signing his books and talking to readers. Strength of Ten is published by Australian-based company Imaginites and won the South African Writers’ Circle top Quill Award for Professional Writer of the Year.

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