Edgy KZN thriller

2010-03-24 00:00

SUE Rabie, whose latest KwaZulu-Natal-based thriller, Blood at Bay, has just been published, has drawn on her own experiences for the book, although happily more for locations than action, which involves some very nasty situations indeed. Part of the novel is set among the ocean-going yachts in Durban, and part at a sugar mill in the Dalton area.

“My mother remarried recently, and she and her husband are about to set off on a three-year, round-the- world voyage. Their yacht arrived in Durban from Richard’s Bay in a terrible state, and that gave me the idea for the boat section,” says Rabie. “While they were getting the boat ready we would go down every weekend and witness the painfully slow process. And I had lived in ­Dalton for three years while I was growing up, so I knew the workings of the sugar mill and the plantations. My father was a bank manager, and he would come home with stories of accidents in the sugar industry.” ­Although most of them were not quite as dramatic as the ones Rabie has created for her thriller.

Rabie’s central character, David Roth, is a man with a tragic past. Convicted for the mercy killing of his terminally ill daughter, he has been struck off the roll as a doctor, but, worse than that, he has to live with his guilt, the collapse of his marriage and his memories of prison. Is he based on anyone Rabie knows?

“I’m a hopeless romantic,” she says. “He’s the ideal hero in my mind — and I’m still waiting for him to come riding up to me on his white horse. Many of my friends believe he’s based on them, but he’s completely fictional.” Rabie’s publishers obviously share her liking for him as she has been asked to submit a third novel with him as the central character. And, unlike some authors who complain that having created a character who runs through a number of novels they become very tired of him or her, Rabie is very happy to give Roth another outing.

Rabie is the senior school librarian at St Charles College, and I asked her how the boys react to their librarian being an author, with her books in their library. “I have to caution them on the language,” she laughs. “And I have to keep the sex scenes suggested rather than actual: behind the bedroom door. But they do appeal to the teen market, and the boys are very relaxed about it all. The staff throw suggestions my way — and want to be characters in the next book. They all want to be the villain.”

Maybe they will be lucky. There are real characters in Blood at Bay, including sailors Mark Haawksworth, who Rabie sailed with when she was a student, and Olympic yachtsman Ian Ainsley. And ­although they get knocked about a bit — Rabie’s world is a dangerous one — they have not complained.

Rabie grew up in the province she writes about, living in Pietermaritzburg, the midlands and at the coast. Most of her education was in Howick, although she matriculated at Empangeni High and then studied fine art at the then University of ­Natal. Her first job was as a temporary art teacher at St Charles when the head of department was on ­sabbatical, but she was later asked if she would like to join the library staff.

“It’s the best job in the world,” she says. “Surrounded by books and paid to go shopping.” And she also gets to do what she describes as the fun things that happen at school: the white water rafting, hiking and abseiling. It’s all good material for the life on the edge that her characters live.


• Sue Rabie will be at Exclusive Books in the Liberty Midlands Mall from 10 am until noon on Saturday for a launch of Blood at Bay. Rabie will be signing copies of both Blood at Bay and Boston Snowplough, and talking to her readers. For more information, contact Exclusive Books at 033 342 2074 or e-mail midlands@exclusivebooks.co.za

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