Thriller set in KZN snowstorm

2008-08-27 00:00

“I GOT the idea from The Witness. About six years ago there was a story about a bus that broke down in a snowstorm on the Boston road, beyond Mpophomeni, and the passengers had to survive the night with a broken door and an overflowing toilet. So I threw in a couple of killers and a reluctant hero.”

So says Sue Rabie, whose novel, Boston Snowstorm, has just been published by Human and Rousseau. Rabie is the senior school librarian at St Charles College and has written for many years, although this is her first novel to be published. She has tried her hand at fantasy and at a World War 2 story but has been told by her publisher that there is a market for South African thrillers — so thrillers it is.

The Witness story may have been her jumping off point but Rabie has embellished it into a pacy novel where the hero is hiding a dark and tragic secret — not everyone he rescues from the snowstorm is quite what they seem and the two bad guys are evil and will stop at nothing, not even mass killing, to get what they want. And the weather is almost a character itself.

Rabie knows Boston, the small rural community on the way to

Bulwer, well and uses it as her background. The country club is still standing, even though in Rabie’s hands it comes close to being blown up, sustaining plenty of damage. But that is just poetic licence. “You can still have Sunday lunch there,” she says. And, while Boston has seen some pretty severe weather over the years, Rabie admits that her snowstorm is probably worse than any they have really had. Just as she uses real places, she says she observes people she knows to create her characters — although she hastens to add that the killers, who are a partcularly nasty pair, are invented.

A real page-turner — it is no surprise that Rabie says Dick Francis thrillers have always been among her favourites. She says the plots are the easy part for her — she is planning a book set in the gold mines, and has written a draft of one concerned with the sailing community around Durban harbour, and another where the setting is the Dalton sugar industry. “There is so much in South Africa that can be written about,” she says. And write she does. “I don’t sleep much at night,” she says. “And I can multi-task — keep an eye on the television, listen to music and type into my computer at the same time.”

Rabie did a degree in fine art at the local university campus, although except for a brief spell as a substitute art teacher, she has never used her degree. But you never know — maybe she is plotting murder and mayhem in an artist’s studio.

• Boston Snowplough by Sue Rabie is published by Human and Rousseau. It is now available in bookshops.

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