Book Talk: South Africa’s Beukes revisits America in ‘Broken Monsters’

2014-09-10 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s Lauren Beukes returns to urban America and the hunt for a serial killer in her new novel Broken Monsters.

Her previous best-seller, The Shining Girls, followed a time-travelling drifter from the Depression era who stalked women in Chicago.

In Broken Monsters, a killer with a macabre sense of “art” who puts together part-human, part-animal bodies, terrorises Detroit.

Beukes spoke to Reuters by phone from her Cape Town base.

It is still relatively rare for a novelist from Africa to set his or her work outside the continent, but, of course, many non-Africans have used this region as their backdrop. Do you think you are part of a new trend of African writers?

Yes, I think there are other writers, such as Sarah Lotz, who are doing this.

I don’t see why African writers should be restricted.

I think the world is ours to play with.

Why the specific settings of Detroit and Chicago?

Because it’s my sneaky way of writing about Johannesburg. They are stand-ins for Johannesburg.

How so?

Well, Chicago is a shining city that has terrible corruption and crime rates. So a shining city with segregation and crime and corruption, and all the political themes that I’m interested in, but on a much broader canvas.

And then Detroit is my way of writing about Hillbrow again, which, of course, is the setting for my novel Zoo City. It’s a place that people look at from the outside and judge as a ruined blight upon our society and a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with this country, and a warning of where we might be heading.

America has a never-ending fascination with serial killers. But you seem to have breathed new literary life into the genre. Do you have more serial killers up your sleeve?

I might be done with serial killers. I’m probably not done with murder. But I’ve spent a lot of time trying to write very real serial killers who are not glamorous or cool but loathsome and violent and awful, the way serial killers really are. And writing from that perspective is fairly hideous.

So I don’t know if I would readily go back there. I am pitching a horror comic, but that is just going to be like high camp. But also scary. — Reuters.

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