Shrien Dewali denied any wrong-doing, and in the context of the media and police enthusiasm in South Africa, fought an extradition order which was nevertheless finally granted at the end of last year and is now on appeal. The resolution of what happened is still months or perhaps years away.
Last year Mike did something very different and very intriguing. He wrote a true crime book on the Dewani murder by compiling the newspaper, blog, website, Facebook and Twitter reports of what had happened. The story itself, and the tensions it generated between the UK and South Africa, makes fascinating reading. Almost inevitably, the book is called Monkey Business. I asked Mike about writing the book and where he thought the case was heading:
You chose to structure the book as a set of quotes about the case from newspapers and internet reports and comments. What made you choose that format?
Two things, really. The first consideration was journalistic. I wanted to see if one could build a non-fiction narrative out of snippets of news from a variety of sources. When I was thinking about this book, I kept coming back to the point that the narrative already existed on the internet but in such widely dispersed places: websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter. If I could collate material from all these sources could a narrative be constructed? After a bit of experimentation it seemed that it could and on the basis of the first 10000 words Umuzi decided to commission the book. The other constraints were money and time. The deadlines were tight: two months. And there was no money for original research. So I decided that this book had to be written entirely from secondary sources and I had to be able to do it from my laptop. And that is a long explanation for the structure. A combination of necessity and curiosity.
However, that said, I did try to structure the story as I would have written it had it been a normal tale of a murder. Start with what happened, go on to describe those involved, dig deeper, record the consequences.
'Set of quotes' makes it sound very dry. Actually, the book flows well and is hard to put down. What issues did you face in order to achieve that?
The issues were really about finding the best quotes. I couldn't just accept the first one that came to hand, I had to search further in case there was something better. So a time issue really. Inevitably, in all research I suppose, one afterwards comes across something that you missed but fortunately there were few of these. Or at least I think there were. Your comment about the flow is interesting as the construction of the narrative depends on the reader. You, the reader, have to fill in the linkages and the thing is that readers do. Says something about how we all construct stories even when they are not written out for us. It comes back to the power of the reader's imagination - which is a point I tend to go on about in creative writing classes.
The book reveals as much about the different perspectives in the UK and South Africa as it does about the case itself. Was that a deliberate theme or did it just evolve as you compiled the material?