Deon Meyer on Covid brain fog and what it's like to be a French knight

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It's been a busy year for Deon Meyer. The SA author has released a new novel in English, welcomed a grandson and been honoured with a French knighthood. (PHOTO: Supplied)
It's been a busy year for Deon Meyer. The SA author has released a new novel in English, welcomed a grandson and been honoured with a French knighthood. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Many authors found that lockdown gave them more time to focus on their writing but for Deon Meyer it was a real struggle because he was battling the after-effects of Covid. We caught up with the bestselling SA author to find out about his new Benny Griessel novel, how he coped with lockdown life and whether being a French knight comes with any special privileges. 

How has life changed for Benny since we saw him last? Is he in a good space?

Well, on the upside, he’s sober, and he’s engaged to be married. But he and Vaughn [Cupido, his colleague] have been demoted, and expelled from the Hawks. Which means he’s earning less, but still have to pay his son’s sky-high films school fees. So, it’s complicated. 

How do you feel about this book when you look at it in the context of the other Benny Griessel novels?

It’s impossible to be objective about your own work, and I tend to be over-critical about it. But if I’m absolutely honest, I’m really proud of this one. 

And what was it like writing it? Did lockdown make it easier for you to stay focused? 

Marianne [Vorster-Meyer, his wife] and I had Covid and one of the lasting symptoms it had on me was a real struggle to concentrate for more than half an hour – a brain fog that only lifted recently. So, although I had a lot of time on my hands, it was tough going. 

I see you still managed to do some travelling. You were making fans green with envy with your Instagram postings from Italy. Can you tell us a bit about your time there?

We were in Italy for the birth of my grandson Matteo, and a few months later went back to spend time with him and our children. We did a lot of cycling and a lot of Italian cooking. Sheer delight. 

And what was it like to be made a French knight? Should we now be referring to you as Sir Deon Meyer? And does your knighthood allow you any special privileges when visiting France?

It was just a huge, incredible honour, and an unforgettable ceremony. I’ve been pestering our kids to henceforth call me "sir", or at least "monsieur chevalier". but no luck. Alas, no privileges when visiting France. But just being there is privilege enough for me.

You also have other projects on the go in addition to fiction writing. Can you tell us a bit about them?

The project I enjoy most is the concerts I do with the legendary Coenie de Villiers – our love letter to the Karoo. I wrote the lyrics, he wrote the music, and it’s just pure pleasure.

 And are there any movie or TV adaptations of your works in the pipeline?

I’m not permitted to officially announce anything yet, but there are three TV series based on my books in development. I’m executive producer on two of them, as well as fourth project, a very exciting movie. Covid has had a major influence on the projects, but we’re getting there.

What can readers expect next?

A new Afrikaans Benny and Vaughn novel should be in bookshops by November next year.

Someone shot warrant-officer Milo April at the Cape Town Waterfront. In cold blood. In broad daylight. And maybe a senior officer of the South African Police Services ordered the execution. And maybe it’s connected to the mysterious letters warrant-officers Benny Griessel and Vaughn Cupido have been receiving. With hints of State Capture shenanigans.

But to their great frustration, they have to waste their precious time searching for a missing student, probably just another kid on a crazy weekend bender.

And mega-rich Jasper Boonstra, the notorious corporate swindler, asks Sandra Steenberg to sell Donkerdrif, the very, very expensive wine estate, on the quiet. Sandra, mother of two, wife to author Josef, needs the money badly. She is drowning in debt, stuck in a web of deceit. But the transaction goes awry fast, and now Griessel and Cupido are investigating her too.

As they slowly make progress, the detectives realize that the cases are connected by the darkest passion of all: Greed.

I can hope only fans will enjoy I as much as I loved writing it.


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