Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side

Jassy MacKenzie
This week I have the pleasure of introducing Jassy MacKenzie, who lives in Johannesburg, the city in which I was born and grew up.  Jassy is a terrific writer who has published three novels.  The first, My Brother's Keeper was published in South Africa by Umuzi.  Her second novel, Random Violence, featuring the remarkable Jade de Jong, is published in South Africa by Umuzi and in the USA by Soho Crime. Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times Book Review wrote in a review of Random Violence: "Even as Mackenzie captures Johannesburg’s “crazy boomtown energy,” she doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff. None of which, it should be said, is quite rough enough to scare this remarkable new sleuth, whose future exploits should be worth watching."  Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, said "A triumphant debut... The plot has more than its fair share of nice twists, and Mackenzie does a superb job of making the reader care for her gutsy lead. . . Readers will wish Jade a long fictional career."

The second Jade de Jong mystery, Stolen Lives, was released in South Africa in August 2010 by Random House Struik.  It will be released in the USA in hardcover by Soho Crime in April this year.  The latest Library Journal in a starred review said: "This second Jade de Jong book is just as violent as the author’s acclaimed debut. However, Mackenzie offers insight into postapartheid South Africa, an area of the world unfamiliar to most U.S. mystery buffs. For those readers who like Sara Paretsky and Lynda La Plante and fans of international crime fiction."

It has been a pleasure getting to know Jassy.  I hope we will enjoy her fine writing for many years to come.  You can visit her website by clicking here.

Stan - Thursday


When I moved house a few years ago to a rural suburb of Johannesburg, I promised myself I wouldn’t set foot out of the gate. If I needed to go anywhere, I would drive there, safely locked in my car. Walking alone and unprotected, on these narrow and lonely streets, would surely be too dangerous.

This happened outside Jassy's home
Jo’burg is, after all, the murder capital of the world. Our crime, like the city itself, like its cars and houses and lifestyles, is big and brash. Robberies are done by large gangs, often ten people or more, all armed with the latest, state-of-the-art, semi-automatic weapons. Our criminals laugh at knives. So, in fact, do their victims.

 Walking anywhere in Johannesburg is fraught with risk. First, there’s the traffic. If you’re not mowed down by a new-rich yuppie behind the wheel of a Hummer, you’re likely to be taken out by an overloaded minibus taxi swerving over the yellow line to jump a traffic light. And thanks to our decades of apartheid, the needs of pedestrians – the poor people – were basically ignored by town planners. In many suburbs, there are no places to walk. If you go out, you go on the road, and I promised myself I was not going to do that.

Rich Johannesburg
And yet, as time passes, the frightening slowly turns into the familiar – even in a city with a well-earned reputation for danger. I started seeing other people out and about on the roads. The lady in the red top who goes for a run every single day without fail. If you drive past her in a car, she won’t acknowledge you – but if you are walking, she’ll smile and wave. The grooms who knock off after work and walk up to the big stable yard nearby for soccer practice. Dressed in ragged shirts and old shoes, they are talking and laughing, bouncing a football as they go.
Poor Johannesburg

I started to walk. Short distances at first, then longer ones. Sometimes I’d get up early, and at five-thirty a.m., I’d be the only person out on the road. Just myself, the birds, the sunrise. Other times I’d brave the eight o’clock traffic, waving a greeting to the workers who walked past me, glancing at the frozen faces of the drivers who swept by in their cars, their world narrowed down to the road in front of them and the jabberings of the radio deejay.

Now, when I walk, I feel safe. Safer, in fact, than I do in a car. I feel privileged to see my part of Jo’burg close up – its sights, sounds and smells, its trees and grasses, the changing moods of the wind and sky. I’ve come to understand that I’m not in danger when I walk, because the criminals target the people driving in their cars, or huddling behind the security gates in their houses. Inside those barred doors, I’m a prisoner. Walking Jo’burg’s streets, I am free.


  1. Jassy, I read RANDOM VIOLENCE and I am eagerly awaiting STOLEN LIVES.

    RANDOM VIOLENCE opens with a scene such as those you mention in the first two paragraphs of this entry.

    The villain of the book has few his equal.

    I posted a review of the book August 15 on my blog,

    Stan, I am glad you have introduced Jassy to to the readers of Murder Is Everywhere. The book deserves a wide readership.

    I like the new picture.


  2. Beth, thank you so much for your comment here, and for your positive review of Random Violence - and I am very honoured that the book made it onto your Top Twelve list! I hope you enjoy Stolen Lives.

  3. Welcome Jassy and thanks for guesting with us. Thrilled that I got to read an arc of STOLEN LIVES and loved it! RECOMMENDED everyone.

    See you at Bouchercon, Jassy