I come from a family of storytellers. Our family farm was on the banks of the Makgalakwena River in Limpopo, South Africa. Steenbokskloof is now part of a game reserve. The nearest town with running water and electricity was Potgietersrus, some 140 kilometres away. We rose at dawn and went to bed shortly after sunset, after dinner and a short time around the dinner table listening to the stories my uncles and aunts loved to tell. There were some really inventive fibbers among them, and the heroes and villains came across as real people. The African workers on the farm told stories around the fire in the evening: In their stories the animals and the bush around us were the main characters. Sometimes the stories around the dinner table and the fire converged, like when the adults spoke of Izak Buys.
Izak was a crafty criminal who stole goats from white and black alike and always managed to escape from the police, and in doing so, was rather inventive. He could walk for miles on the fences separating farms, and thus thwarted the bloodhounds the cops had put on his spoor. He tied his shoes on backwards, so that the cops were walking towards where he had been, rather than towards where he was going when they followed his tracks.
But I digress.
I was born in Rustenburg and went to various primary schools in the then Transvaal before I matriculated from the high school at Potgietersrus. I spent a year in the navy in Simonstown, including a stint on the ill-fated SAS President Kruger, and then went to university. I eventually completed 4 law degrees, including a PhD in marine insurance law.
I am an advocate by profession and have been doing this for forty years. I started as a prosecutor and walked the long walk from there to magistrate, attorney and junior advocate, to end my career as Senior Counsel and sometimes judge. It paid the bills, but my real passion is for teaching young lawyers practical legal skills. I wrote Litigation Skills for South African Lawyers while teaching in New Zealand and it is now a prescribed work for law students, candidate attorneys and novice advocates.
My mother had taught me to read and write before I started school in Grade A. From the time I could read, I have been unable to resist picking up a book and reading it. As an advocate, much of my work consisted of writing other people’s real life stories in legal English. I started writing fiction in 2003 and my first effort, Shepherds & Butchers, was published in 2008.
I have, as Zorba put it, the whole catastrophe, a loving wife, two obedient (most of the time) sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law and two adoring grandchildren. I have their permission to retire and to write full time.