I don’t want to end up in jail on the day I launch a book of prison stories. That would be dumb, even for me


It’s Friday morning. Far too early. I don’t know where I am. There’s this buzzing. It’s my phone. At least it’s not the doorbell of that taxi owner and charismatic preacher’s front door.

The body I trip over isn’t his wife. I’m in a hotel room. I’m not trapped on their fifth-floor balcony. There’s also no stench of amyl nitrate and strawberry lubricant. Nobody’s chewed a hole in my left nipple.

That doesn’t mean I’m even half-human. There’s a dead goat in my mouth. Stale whiskey and sweat ooze out of me. I curse my greed for liquor. I drag myself towards the phone. I take the call. It’s another hangover from last night’s book launch.

It’s one of the Boss Ladies. She rattles off new orders. Get coherent for a 7am radio slot. I think I’d fallen into bed way after 2am. Great.

I piece together the night before. This is the Champion’s League final of book launches. No box wine and sweaty cheese in a bookshop.

Makana Investments, the cats picking up the tab, don’t mess around. It’s Constitution Hill and Gaddafiesque heated tents.

There’s an arsenal of Glenfiddich 15. There’s video clips on the making of the book. There’s moneymen and moneywomen in business suits. There’s former Robben Islanders doing oral stories.

There’s publishing types. There’s a small orchestra and a band. There’s honeys everywhere. There’s a City Press solidarity crew.

My mob turn up. The Jedi, JahNoDead, Nangamso, Special K and Small James. Bad bastards. They can’t resist the lure of the free drink.

Or the chance to grease me for being a published author type. There’s no Ghengiz, Bronson, Thor, Mr Grumpy or Pooja Uncle. That lot are playing in this Thursday’s home fixture.

I have to do this on stage raconteur thing. I’m shitting myself. The Boss Ladies lay down the law. Keep your snout out of the whiskey and Milk Stout until after your slot. You blow it, we maim you.

Those two are way scarier than any audience. They’ll gut me in a heartbeat if I screw up. For a second, I’m gagging for a cigarette.

On I go. Mntungwa’s on a video link from Cape Town. The Sandman’s moderating. He’s murderously good. I stoner-rap my way through. Nobody heckles. Nobody throws a beer bottle.

My mob are right at the back. I can hardly see JahNoDead snarling or Small James giving me the finger. Then it’s over.

The Boss Ladies give me the go ahead. I hit the bar like a man with five arms. I still have to sign books. The more I drink the worse my scrawl gets.

We end up at Carlo Mombeli’s gig at Zoo Lake. Some off-his-face roid-ranger’s motor-mouthing about Carlo in the parking lot. Small James and JahNoDead are volatile drunks. They dig Carlo. They hate jocks.

They circle musclekop. They can smell blood. Small James is sharpening the rim of his launch-issue metal jail plate on the tar.

I don’t want to end up in jail on the day I launch a book of prison stories. That would be dumb, even for me. I hustle them inside.

We hit the bar. Carlo, Marcus Wyatt, Jonathan Crossley and Justin Badenhorst are tearing things up. If this is the world of books, Harper’s all for it.

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