Wessel Ebersohn's Blog, page 2
September 20, 2012
If you have got this far with my rules of thriller writing, it has probably occurred to you that there are no absolute rules of thriller writing, or of novel writing generally. There is always room for originality. The real genius is never going to obey the rules. For the rest of us they provide a useful platform from which to begin.
September 13, 2012
The story of The Top Prisoner in C-Max is certainly a singular one. Ebersohn is right in that I was against Oliver Hall’s release from the beginning. I believe some killers are born with a singular propensity for violence. Others are shaped by the circumstances of their lives. Hall is a born killer.
Paroling him was always going to be a recipe for disaster. It should never have happened. The only reason that he was granted parole was a short spell in which, during apartheid days, he was a member of the Umkhonto we Sizwe. But for Hall that was simply an opportunity to kill without being held responsible. He was never a freedom fighter.
It seems there were people in high places who believed he should be given another chance. No matter what I said they were going to let him go.
September 6, 2012
There is only one prison in the country where security is tighter than at C-Max. That is in Kokstad, but the extreme severity of conditions there mean that there is very little interaction of any kind between prisoners. Battles for dominance simply don’t exist because the prisoners see so little of each other. You aren’t going to fight for the top spot if conditions are such that there can be no top spot. One expert visitor from the US said that exercise in C-Max was just a gesture towards keeping the prisoners on the right side of sanity.
August 29, 2012
Whatever you do to avoid conflict inside a prison, nothing works every time. Battles break out for every imaginable cause. Jealousy, money, revenge, suspicion: all can be causes of intense battles within prison walls. But the big one is always dominance. The most desperate battles and the greatest violence are always to decide who is going to be the top prisoner in the place.
Of all our prisons, the battles for dominance that are most violent are in C-Max. The reason for that is that C-Max is a high security prison, the inmates of which are almost all violent offenders. Apart from a few highly skilled fraud artists they are the sort of people you don’t want to meet – not ever. Those who rise to the top are the prisoners who are able to exert dominance over men of this sort.
August 22, 2012
Ebersohn’s new book about Abigail and me is called The Top Prisoner in C-Max. I understand the publisher didn’t like his original title. So much for professionalism. Hah.
I have to admit that he’s onto something though. The battles for the top place among the inmates of any prison can be more than intense. Levels of violence rise and killings are not unusual. The authorities in the prison sometimes never really understand the cause of a war inside their prison. They question inmates, get told lies and write reports based on those lies. The Oliver Hall case that Ebersohn has been writing about is one of the most striking and Hall one of the most dangerous prisoners I’ve ever had dealings with.
August 15, 2012
If you want to set a thriller inside a prison you need to have been inside. You cannot write a decent novel set in this strangest of all places unless you have been close enough to smell it, and that means inside the walls. Having watched some prison movies or seen some TV programmes on prison life is just not enough.
August 8, 2012
Rosa tells me that Ebersohn is working on a new book about me and Abigail. It’s about the Oliver Hall matter. It is a case that I am not terribly proud of. It took me a long time before I realized what was happening. Hall is one of the worst criminals I’ve ever dealt with and no fool either. Thank God for Abigail, she was an important ally. But then she always is.
I asked Rosa to ask him what title he’s chosen. He said, “The Killing of…”
“What the hell kind of title is that?” I wanted to know.
“It means he hasn’t yet thought of the name for the character.”
“Let him use the real name,” I said.
“I’ll suggest it,” Rosa said.
July 31, 2012
Writing a good thriller that extends over more than one generation of law officers is possible, but this is the biggest challenge of all. If you do not have a single strong lead character, you do have special problems. It needs to be a super story.
July 24, 2012
Wessel came to prison the other day. I knew nothing about it. He was there under the pretext of teaching the inmates to be entrepreneurs. I sat in. He’s not much of a teacher, I’ll say that for him. Fortunately he brought Miriam along and the inmates had the benefit of her wisdom. So the session was not a complete loss. I cannot imagine what an intelligent woman like Miriam sees in that scribbler. It beats me.
July 17, 2012
I was talking about prison life some time ago. There are a few inmates who prefer to be in prison. They are usually older men who have been in prison for much of their lives. They have settled into the prison routine and feel safer inside than out on the street.
Leaving prison is not easy in any society, but in ours in which a third of all adults are unemployed, it is even worse. The former prison inmate comes last in the job stakes.