Thursday, May 25, 2017


Michael - Thursday

If you really have to spend your time with great authors, entertaining panels, and interesting books, Franschhoek isn't a terrible choice of place to do it.

In 1688, 176 protestant Huguenot refugees settled in what was then called the Olifantshoek valley (Elephant’s corner). It soon became le Coin Français (the French corner), and later Franschhoek (the same thing in Dutch). The French settlers found themselves in the middle of excellent grape growing country and rapidly set to work, adding some expertise to the Dutch enthusiasm. Their arrival marked the true beginning of the South African wine industry.

The Franschhoek Literary Festival had to wait until 2007 to kick off, but in ten years it’s become the premier book event in the country. Franschhoek is an easy drive from Cape Town so the writers and readers from that part of the world pop over for the day, while the people from up north are only too delighted to spend a few days enjoying the quaint village life, excellent wine, and first class food. A marriage made in heaven.

The view from Haute Cabriere wine estate
With the new Detective Kubu mystery launched this month in South Africa, we were delighted to receive an invitation to participate, but there was a problem. Crimefest in Bristol was exactly the same weekend, and the great team from Orenda Books would make that a highlight of the UK crime fiction year. We had no choice but to use our duality to head for one festival a piece. As I stood with a glass of sparkling wine in hand looking out to the sun setting behind the mountains from Haute Cabriere, several people asked me which of us drew the short straw. I just smiled.

Paige with Mike, Francois, and Martin
I attended half a dozen excellent panels. Paige Nick quizzed Mike Nicol, Francois Bloemhof, and Martin Steyn about Finding the Plot. Mike, who claims he battles to get 250 worthwhile words on the page each day, nearly fell over when Francois airily announced that he usually writes about ten pages! And he has some eighty novels to his name to prove it. And it was great to meet Martin who has just published his debut (in English) thriller, Dark Traces.

Joanne with Karin, Irna, and Sally
To balance the three gents on Finding the Plot, Joanne Hichens found out about Killer Women from Irna van Zyl, Karin Brynard, and Sally Andrew. Some interesting issues about men writing women and women writing men came up.

Diane and Alex
My panels weren’t mystery focused. It was a great pleasure to meet Diane Awerbuck and Alex Latimer who write together as Frank Owen on One Voice, Two Authors. Their writing system is a bit different from ours – Alex does a draft and then Diane does the second, or as she put it: “I fix it.” Their first book South is very different from Detective Kubu, too. More of that later; I’ve persuaded them to do a guest blog for us one of these days.
Helen Moffett kindly stepped in at the last minute when our scheduled moderator had to pull out, and her perspective as one of a writing trio (Helena S. Paige) made the panel triply interesting.

Ekow, Michael, Joanne, and moderator, Ann Donald
My final event was a real treat sharing a panel with Ekow Duker, who is making an impact on the South African literary fiction scene, and Joanne Harris of Chocolat fame, who came out from the UK especially for the festival. Joanne is incredibly versatile, writing her French village stories, a series of crime fiction set in a fictional grammar school in England, and a series of fantasy novels based on Norse mythology. She’s also a delightful person, and we all had great fun together on the panel. The title - The Author as Chemist - seemed a bit daunting, but wasn’t.

Everything at the festival ran smoothly and seamlessly thanks to the backstage efforts of Sheila Foster and her team. I really hope the two events don’t clash again next year…

Murder Is Everywhere
Author Recognitions and Events


Thursday May 25, 6PM
Orinda Books
Orinda, California.

Wednesday May 31
Janet Rudolph Literary Salon:
"The History of Hot Places: Clashes between Colonialism and Local Cultures”
Joint appearance with Michael Cooper

June 11
Books NJ Festival
Grounds of the Paramus Public Library
Paramus, New Jersey

June 16-18
Deadly Ink Conference
Hilton Garden Inn
Rockaway, New Jersey


Murder in Saint Germain, Aimée Leduc’s next investigation, comes out June 6, 2017.

           The Assassination in SUNSHINE NOIR longlisted for the CWA Dagger for best short            story of 2016.

           Ovidia Yu's story in SUNSHINE NOIR - Snake Skin - also on the list!


Dying to Live (Kubu #6) to be released in May in UK & South Africa and in October in USA

Tuesday June 13, 6PM
South African launch of Dying to Live 
Love Books, Melville, Johannesburg


  1. Michael, I am in California wine country, talking books too on the other side of the globe. Thank you for this peek at a place I visited and loved. I hope I get back to Franschhoek.

  2. No matter where you guys ended up, an obviously extraordinarily time was had by all--and about as far from a frankly schlock experience as I could imagine. :)