Introducing Detective DICE MODISE, Botswana CID.

As my character, Botswana policeman, Detective DICE MODISE began to take shape, mid-2014, I again approached Harry Bingham of The Writer’s Workshop (now Jericho to advise me. My chief problem was confusing my POVs (points of view). He also suggested that there should be more action; not gritty enough. Every bit of advice helps, and by this time I had learned to take Harry’s suggestions seriously. As a first move, I switched the murder to the opening chapter and followed it up with the introduction of my two main characters and their meeting with an irate hippo bull in the Okavango Delta.

The book I ordered from arrived; a copy of Caitlin Davies’s book ‘Place of Reeds’. She had been editor/owner of the Okavango Observer while I was in Maun. She had been attacked by a man with a screwdriver and assaulted. I was hoping that the account of her experience would help me put a little authenticity into my Dice novels. Place of Reeds was not only useful from that point of view, it was a moving, powerful account of her marriage to a Motswana and the tragedies that finally forced her to return to England. Caitlin Davies writes very well and portrayed the Batswana and their culture and way of life as they are. It was an excellent back-grounding for Dice.

On 7th December, I finished writing Dice!! At 351 pages, I was quite pleased with it, but now  the proof reading!! And deciding on a better title. Fergus Smith, friend and fellow author from the UK, whom I had met at Festival of Writers in York in 2010, read the draft and suggested Hunter’s Venom, and that fitted perfectly.

HV cover front finalIn between friends’ reviews and self-editing, the fun part was designing the cover. I settled on a rearing cobra. Later I improved it with the same image but part of a Delta sky scene which is an improvement.

Hunter's Venom soft AmazonIn January 2015, I sent a copy of Dice to a South African friend who had suffered the traumatic experience of being hijacked and raped as their vehicle had been taken on a Toll Road near Johannesburg a few years back. Bravely, she had shared her rape experience with me, so is in the acknowledgements. She complimented me on the account of rape in my story; one of the cases investigated by Dice and the CID, and their budding awareness off secondary trauma by insensitive officials. In the end I attributed the book to rape victims and the organisation in Maun called Women Against Rape (WAR).

I wanted to send a copy of Dice to Caitlin Davies, so I wrote to her via a photographer she is working with in London, as I did not have an address for her. There was a reply from Caitlin Davies; thanking me for the appreciation of Place of Reeds but declining the request to read my book. Her assault was still too real, despite the fact that she wrote about it in her book.

What I was unable to obtain was feedback from Bonti Botumele, a Motswana writer I had known in Maun, regarding my portrayal of Batswana culture and traditions, although she did help with some vocabulary. But a great helper was Police Assistant Commissioner, Maloti Pauline Gabositwe, for all things Botswana Police.

By March I was ready to submit the script to a few agents and publishers. One to Simon Trewin of United Agents. I had met him at the Festival of Writing, in York, last year.

One to Ampersand Agents. Two weeks was all it took for them to send me a rejection email.

Another to Legend Press and one to David Headley, Literary Agent.

MPO cover picNone of these panned out, but by June I was already into the second in the Sergeant Dice Modise Series, provisionally ‘Medicinal Purposes Only (which it remained).

I added it to the first completed chapter and sent it off to Lightship Publishing in the UK as an entry in their First Chapters competition. A winner would get guidance from a writer, an agent and a publisher to get it onto the market. The agent was Simon Trewin, to whom I had already sent the first Dice novel, Hunter’s Venom. Here was hoping the penny might drop.

No luck.


PJE Publishing Imprint

So, self-publication, of course. However, the weight of promo and distribution falls also on the author. A huge learning curve and frustratingly time consuming.


Publishing directly through Amazon – Kindle Direct Publishing – has eventually been the answer, but until my name is OUT THERE, sales are lean. Here is the new, and improved, I think, cover for Medicinal Purposes Only as you’ll find it on Amazon now.

Children Apart - soft coverAgain, marketing and promo is up to me, and friends who can be bothered. Unmet fellow writers understand, and are still the best source of encouragement. My hat off to them, and I try to reciprocate whenever I am able.


The series is rounded off with the third novel involving Dice investigating an orphanage where an Afro-pop singer searches for her son, and is murdered shortly thereafter.


Dice became so real for me, along with his fellow officers, that, when I passed the police station on occasional visits to Maun, I had to stop myself from dropping in to catch up with them…

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The Damned Dream

Having renovated my property that I dubbed The Twin Chimneys, I was approached by a Bellville, Cape Town, businessman to hire it as a place of entertainment. Envisaging the location on the main street as the perfect place for a restaurant/bar, I had put in a yellowwood bar-counter, a secure lock-up store, a scullery for washing glasses, a ladies and gents set of toilets, a substantial kitchen as well as an office-cum-bedroom for a manager, complete with shower and toilet.

Martin Ekard, the owner of a successful grass-mowing company, and mentor for a minor league Bellville soccer team, was married to a lady with Haarlem connections. He was keen to start a business in Haarlem due to having family there as well as providing work opportunities for a handful of local folk. His wife’s nephew, a budding DJ, Reagan, would manage it and set it up in the Twin Chimneys, the perfect place.

TC east view

Twin Chimneys, Haarlem, Western Cape.

Equally keen to provide local employment, and with a lot of enthusiasm, I agreed. I gave them six months at a reduced rental to obtain their licences. We signed an agreement to that effect, in 2011.

The place was painted out in bright colours, two big sports-bar wall TVs were installed, and a band-stand/DJ-booth with night club lighting was set up. Security lighting was erected outside. It all looked very promising.

Four-place tables with barstool seating were bought and an introductory lunch for the village “stalwarts” was arranged to explain the purpose of the venue. Cooldrinks and hot-dogs were served. A journalist/ photographer, the editor of The Outshoorn Courant, Hannes Visser, kindly agreed to attend and report on the project. The local ANC Councillor of the time, Martin Wildeman, declined his invitation, as, he later told me, he was dead against the establishment of a bar in the village, despite the fact that there were about ten illegal taverns there.

When it was explained that, as there was no legal pub in the village, party-goers were driving to Uniondale to the west, 25km away, or to Joubertina 50km to the east. The ensuing DUI resulted in several deadly traffic accidents over the years. The “stalwarts”, or village elders, applauded this obvious solution by having its own legal place of entertainment which would be subject to law and order.

Some time later, Councillor Wildeman, who was helping to block their pursuit of licences, came to my home in a fury to demand I do not allow the property to become a pub as he didn’t want a den of iniquity in Haarlem. We sat on my veranda and I got him to introduce himself.

“Ah, pleased to meet you at last, Mr. Wildeman. So you are the fellow who could have assisted our little village to get a licensed establishment rather than all these unlicensed shebeens?  You have probably done several Haarlemmers out of employment, too. Pity. You could have been a hero.”

After a chat where he calmed down, he left, admitting he had come in anger but was leaving with a lot to think about. The applications had no more resistance from him, but sadly, the damage had already been done. The DA Councillor who replaced him was no help at all, but the next Councillor, ANC’s Mike Daniels, was much more helpful.

The process of applying for licences began, with various so-called expert agents promising to sort it out. One by one they were found to be chancers as the months and years crawled by. At last, late in April 2013, Reagan and Martin to contact me for the meeting they want about rezoning the Twin Chimneys when an advocate from George, an ex-councillor, offered to deal with it. Relieved, Martin Ekard set up a meeting with him at my home. The advocate was Fareed Stemmet.

They finally got their act together at 16h00, bringing a so-called lawyer with them,

  1. They would deal with the application for a booze licence.
  2. I must apply for rezoning. (I had started this.)
  • They thanked me for not applying the increase in rent that the original contract indicated.
  1. Stemmet would send me the name of official in George Municipality to deal with new drawings. I would pass this on to a local draughtsman.
  2. Stemmet would send me a form template for neighbours’ objection waivers.
  3. Reagan would get these signed.
  • I would find out if the Heritage Commission need be involved in old building preservation.

Having a bad feeling about the glib-mouthed advocate, I did some research on Fareed Stemmet. Interesting! (I Googled Stemmet and found that he is ex-mayor [Acting] of Eden District Municipality and had been disbarred for three years, until 1 March 2015 as an Advocate, for dishonesty. He had taken on several clients from whom he had taken down-payments, but then done nothing to help them. The document states that the Judge, handing down sentence, declared that Stemmet was “economic with the truth”! I love that!)

Reagan held parties on Saturday nights at the Twin Chimneys to bring in a little income, with himself as DJ. His posters read: Bring your own XYZ. The volume was, stupidly, loud enough to attract objection, albeit from only one person. A white man living a block from the Pub, as it was coming to be known, became irate.

Early in September 2012, at 02h00 in the morning, Peter Brady phoned to complain about beat noise from the Twin Chimneys so I phoned Reagan to ask him to turn it down. After a sleepless hour, I pettily thought of phoning Brady to wake him up and ask if the music was quieter. Silly old fossil. Two weeks later, I was awoken by a phone call from Peter Brady at midnight but I didn’t bother to answer it as it was doubtless a complaint about noise from the Pub. I took to switching my phone off when I heard the beat start up.

Sometimes, when I turned it back on, there would be coarse vindictive messages from Brady. In December, with school holiday teenagers in party mode, Brady called the police which resulted in a written complaint which was forwarded to the Municipality to add to the application files, which retarded the process even more. The police paid me a visit to give me a copy of the notice to Reagan to not allow him to hold his discos.

TC kitchen


The rezoning application continued into mid-2014 and cost me R9000-00, after which I got a letter confirming that the plot was now zoned as Commercial. Reagan and Martin Ekard were given copies and continued trying to get licences for a Place of Entertainment. These continued to be blocked. Eventually it became apparent that the letter was not sufficient; we needed a Certificate for an extra R150-00. I was furious that the Certificate had not been issued with the letter. A trip to George by the new Harlem Councillor resulted in a Certificate being issued, but it turned out to be a Residential Zone certificate. When I went down personally, they said they had mislaid my files. Lost them! Finally, they reluctantly issued a Commercial Certificate based on the fact that that section of Haarlem had been designated for rezoning to Commercial anyway!

TC buildingsA drought in Cape Town almost put Ekard’s mowing company out of business. Unable to continue paying the rent, and never having increased it year by year as our contract agreed, in sympathy for his not getting the licences, we decided to call it a day. Calculating the difference between what I should have received in rent, and what I did in fact receive, I was out of pocket by R120,000-00.

Now, in 2019, the place sadly lies empty. I have put it on the Net for sale.

Last week a vandal broke 16 window panes…

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Branching out on the FAMILY TREE

Near the end September 2010, when I collected the post, there was a letter from SI, New Zealand, from a certain John Harper who was president of the Waipara County Historical Society. One of the members had been looking up ex-Great War servicemen from their district; specifically James Frederick LANCE and Charles Grenville LANCE. He asked if the two he mentioned are related to me. Being the two brothers of Dora Mary LANCE, my grandmother, they most certainly were. None of my family had any information about her family at all. My father (Anthony George Grenville Earle) only ever knew his mother’s name and that her mother’s maiden name had been TEMPLE with some connection to the Dukes of Buckingham.


Mallock Arms

Temple coat-of-arms

Temple Arms

I wrote back to tell John Harper that he was spot on and hoped to get all the information that he had. With a life-long interest in genealogy, I was bursting with excited curiosity. While in London in 1971, I had searched the archives for my grandmother’s death and found a Dora Mary Earle who had passed on sometime in 1966/7. My father’s childhood had not been a happy one. His mother’s desertion of him had left a lifelong bitterness towards her, understandably. But the information I was to receive slowly gave me more understanding of the circumstances and, had my father been in possession of the facts, he might well have been more forgiving.

John Harper replied with a most interesting letter about my dad’s mother’s family (the Lance family) in New Zealand, followed up by an email with more info. It seems that my dad’s grandfather, Frederick Lance, only died in 1955 when I was 9 years old and my dad was nearly forty! My father did not know of his existence. The following is about that grandfather’s mother.

Mary Anne Eliza Lance (nee Mallock) 1842 – 1923

mary-ann-eliza-lance-nee-mallockMary Anne Eliza Mallock was born at Ealing, London in 1842, daughter of Thomas Mallock, a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and his first wife Edith Styles Peterson Goddard. The Mallocks were an old Devon family and it was at Axminister in that county that Mary grew up. Her mother died when she was a young child, her father’s second wife Henrietta acted as a mother to her and her siblings. They lived at Hill Cottage in Lyme Road, Axminister, next door to the somewhat larger Hill House, then occupied by her grandfather Rawlin Mallock.

It appears that the Mallocks were on friendly terms with the Reverend John Edwin Lance and his family who lived about twenty miles north of Axminister at Buckland St Mary in Somerset. From there, the second son, James Dupre Lance went off to India with the East India Trading Company army. In 1856, he went to New Zealand on sick leave and stayed at Heathstock (near Canterbury) before being recalled when the Indian Mutiny broke out the following year.


James Dupre LANCE


He returned to Canterbury and purchased Four Peaks station but sold it about 1860 to Lancelot Walker who had been a part owner of Heathstock. Lance, together with his brother Henry, then went into partnership with John Willoughby Mallock and his brother George Arden Mallock in the Heathstock station to which was added Sidey’s Waitohi run, better known as Horsley Down. John and George Mallock were first cousins of Mary Mallock. In 1861 James Lance went home to England where he was engaged to Mary Mallock. According to Douglas Cresswell’s account, she was fired up by the young squatter’s stories of social life in aristocratic Canterbury, where the best bullockies swore in Greek and the climate was warmer than the Riviera. So they were married at Torquay early in 1862 and immediately returned to Canterbury where a large brick homestead was in the course of construction at Heathstock. Mary probably lived in Christchurch until its completion.

Heathstock - 1880s NZ

Heathstock homestead, +/- 1880

Mary and James had four children: Thomas Henry Lance(1863-1922); Frederick Lance (1864-1955); Herbert(1865-1866); Edith Marian(1868-1905), the sons being born at Ilam, near Christchurch and Edith in London.

The Lances lived at Heathstock until 1866, when after a buggy accident in which James dislocated his neck, the entire family travelled to England where he received treatment. They then leased a farm in France where they and their children remained for thirteen years. While travelling in France, Mary became seriously ill and was nursed back to health by the nuns. So impressed was she by their love and kindness she decided to become a Catholic, not an easy move in those days, especially for a woman whose father-in-law, Rev. John Edwin LANCE, was a Church of England parson and whose husband was an equally devout Anglican.

After their return to Canterbury in 1879, Mary became a leading figure in the local Catholic Church, teaching catechism at her house and becoming the first woman to serve on the parish lay committee. When, in 1889, the first resident priest moved into his cottage near the church in Hawarden, Mary Lance offered to furnish this for him. She also saw to it that he was provided with firewood and a cow. In her later years she more or less insisted on being a Godmother at many baptisms. It was also due to her that part of the cemetery at Horsley Down, which had been consecrated a Church of England burial ground in 1883, was transferred to the Catholic Church.

Horsley Down homestead

Horsley Down homestead

In 1889, the Heathstock homestead was destroyed by fire and a new homestead was built at Horsley Down. Mary Lance was a very hospitable person and one of Canterbury’s leading hostesses. The entertaining that had been such a feature of life at Heathstock not only continued but increased at Horsley Down, where, as the wife of a member of Parliament, Mary held receptions, dinners and house parties. These were enjoyed, not only by members of Canterbury families but also by visiting dignitaries including the Governor, Lord Onslow and Lady Onslow who made a vice-regal visit to Horsley Down in the early 1890s.

Her daughter Edith Lance’s marriage to James Northcote of Highfield in 1893 was an example of Horsley Down entertaining at its best and Mary would have been in her element. The wedding in the Oddfellows’ Hall at Waikari (there being no Anglican church at the time) was followed by a lavish wedding breakfast enjoyed by a large number of guests. In the evening, James and Mary gave a dance held in a large marquee for all the local people, about 300 attended.

Horsley Down was also a welcome retreat for the sisters of the Little Company of Mary, to whom Mary Lance donated a house in Bealey Avenue, Christchurch, adjacent to her own town house, these properties becoming Lewisham Hospital, now Southern Cross.


Mary Lance’s Obit. The last mentioned surviving “Mr Lance” is Frederick Lance d.1955.


After the death of James Lance in 1897, Mary went to stay for a time with her daughter and her family at Highfield but after Edith’s early death in 1905, she returned to live her life at Horsley Down with her son Harry and his family. Tragedy struck again the following year when her grandson Edwin Lance was drowned in the fountain at Horsley Down. She also lived to see the death of her elder son Harry in 1922. A widow for twenty years, she was helped by her devoted friend and companion Emily Laffin. Mary Lance died in Christchurch in 1923 at the age of 80.

Contributed by John Harper. (A huge thank you, John for this fascinating look at life in early New Zealand history.)

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Trip-karretjie 2010-1Late 2010: I heard that one of our “fellow” white residents, a cantankerous bachelor who lived 2 blocks from Sheila, had been going around swearing at random locals because of the break-in he suffered recently. This included even the folk who reported it to the police! Sheila was angry as it affects our (as whites) position here in this brown village as to how we would be treated in future if the locals assumed we whites were all  the same.

It is a natural tendency for humans to generalize and this is no less true for the New South Africa where the legacy of Apartheid’s racial focus will still be a bone of contention for the foreseeable future.

So it was not surprising when the reciprocal racism is still very evident in that whites were heard to mutter “typical” when the local branch of the supermarket, Saver’s Lane, was being closed recently for a few days of stock-taking as the manager had been arrested for pocketing R7000-00 and burying it in her back yard. She claimed she had been hi-jacked on Potjiesberg Pass!

Horse whisperer 2010

With Charlie & her kids.

It was typical of school holidays, with bored kids getting up to nonsense. We had to fetch my horse, Charlie, from a neighboring farm. Being such a tame old mare, children living on the farm would “borrow” her from the commonage to ride home on. They would abandon her wherever they felt like. It would be fortunate if she was reported to me as to where she was before she caused any damage in their orchards, or worse, allowed her to get onto the main road to be hit by a vehicle.

Constitution St, Haarlem 2010

Constitution Street, Haarlem, Western cape. 2010.

In mid-October 2010 my brother-in-law, Neil Maling, and I went to a farm sale some 40 km from Oudtshoorn on the Calitzdorp side. We both love farm sales; not for the sale of the farm itself but for all the myriad items available, collected over a lifetime, sometimes several generations. There were probably nearly three hundred people there. A lot of farmers, of course, but also speculators, antique dealers and people like us who simply love sales. Some will remember those bins in farm kitchens and storerooms made of bent galvanized iron sheets for keeping grain or sugar or mieliemeal in? Neil was delighted when he managed to close the bid on a 3 compartment meal bin for R50-00.

I had my eye on a pile of harnesses. There was a bit of competition from a man from Dysselsdorp, a place not far from Oudtshoorn, where, like Haarlem they use draft horses and donkeys. I managed to close the sale for R1600-00. When we loaded it all, the leather works filled the bed of Neil’s one-ton bakkie! We left early as there were a lot of implements on sale in which we were not interested, after a set of 4 harrows that Neil hoped to get for about R800-00 went for R2350-00.

The next few days were spent sorting and repairing the harnesses. Mostly they were broken but roughly there were about 12 bridles, 10 breast sets, 2 full cart sets, 20 harness-saddles, 12 riems, bundles of reins, loose bits, straps and a tin of horseshoe nails. An absolute bargain for the price I paid, because the full sets alone were worth roughly R2000-00 each.

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On GOD’s Wavelength.

Notice how some novels are swapping genres without changing their content? Where some stories were planted solidly in the Sci-Fi category ten or so years ago, they sit comfortably in the mystery or thriller bracket now, even with their content of psi, mediums, telepathy, etc. These below are not novels, but would certainly be references for a writer including these scientifically proven phenomena in their novels.

Entangled MindsAlso called Entanglement, according to Dr Dean Radin, or the A-Field, as Dr Erwin Laszlo has it, consider it to be an Internet which encompasses past and present, physical and ethereal with a connectivity that can be accessed to use the force there. So, more than a net; perhaps like a gel, or a jell-o that quivers throughout with recognition of even the tiniest of touches.

Science and the Akashic FieldSome call this force “God”. Those that do, do not say they call it God, they say they know that it is God. So, for them, it is. For me, for now, that will do well. Scientist, Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, finds no problem with reconciling science and faith, as he tells in his book The Language of God.

The Language of GodOthers accept its existence without being able to name it. Can we learn to develop our natural ability to access this force beyond the mere knowledge that it indeed exists? What would we use it for, if we did?

Access to what I think of as the InterGel: Considering the brain to be one’s transmitter/receiver is easy, but not necessarily accurate. If plants can also access the InterGel, where might one find the brain of a lily? There is no doubt, scientifically, that plants react to the InterGel.

For us, the Receiver examples, or downloads, are sight, gut-feeling, intuition. These are impossible to influence as received, only in interpretation. At a hundred metres, too far to see the eyeballs of the target person, one knows when one has been seen in return, even if one may pretend this is not the case. The signal of acknowledgement of having been seen is too strong to suppress and is sent simultaneously. Also the powerful feeling of being watched… a message on the InterGel. Dr Rupert Sheldrake has done a huge amount of interesting research in this regard.

Sender Access, or uploads: It seems that signals of query or intent need purity, or honesty. Not just moral honesty, but intention uncluttered by human deviousness. It would be nice to think that the power can only be used by good intentions and frightening to suppose there is no obvious reason why this might not be so. Prayer in desperation can be honest, but is often tainted by ego manipulation. I’ll be good, if you just grant me this one favour, Lord.

Some people are trained to purify their connectivity and can do so at will, e.g. some philosophers, religious persons, mediums. Some people in special segments of the autistic spectrum are incapable of distorting the output of their transmitters in an impure fashion, but presumably some are much more well-tuned than the broad majority who style themselves as ‘normal’. It would be of significant interest to observe the abilities of ‘autistic’ people in this regard. Or to test ‘mediums’ and the ‘fey’ with respect to their position in the autistic arc. Has much research been done? will introduce those interested in this paradigm quake to a whole new world.

One of Sheila’s cows fell ill with mastitis (Staphylococcus aureus), which should be easily treatable with penicillin, but it evolved into blue udder and gas gangrene, which the new vet, Gordon Strick, told us was more often than not a fatal disease. He did what he could. Sheila put a stretcher bed at the side of the suffering animal and slept there. The cow’s skin seemed to have air bubbles under it so that it sounded a bit like bubble-wrap when you passed your hand over it.

I placed my hands lightly on the cow and asked the Powers That Be for help. Gordon was amazed that the cow recovered.
Sheila was furious. It was not my hocus pocus but the vet’s attentions and her dedication that had healed the animal! (In years to come, when we had a sick animal, she would apply her nursing skills and modern medicine, then she would say: “Alright, now bring those healing hands!”

2006:  Kitten. At the Backpackers, while doing a stand-in stint without a manager, my Alsatian, Nigby, snapped at a kitten that came to take a mouthful of his supper. His canine pierced the kit’s skull and some brain appeared. The poor thing started shitting and spasming. I cried and held it in my hands, praying that it might  live. I laid it on old carpet under-felt on a tool box in the store room. The next day, when I went to check up on it, it had disappeared. Probably jerked itself off the box, I thought, and was lying in amongst the picks and shovels stacked in the corner of the room. I would look for the body later, before it started smelling, but forgot.

A week thereafter I saw it hunting the ducklings on the pond, living in the reeds along the fence. It was very wild, no longer the friendly kitten it had been, but definitely the same animal. It gave me thoughts of Stephen King‘s Pets Graveyard. The next manager managed to tame it enough to feed it, but it remained in the reeds…

2007:  Sat 9th June – Lunch with my son, Ryan & his wife Elaine; their elder son, Thomas, is growing in leaps and bounds, but baby Nick has some-or-other syndrome manifested by twisted feet. When nobody was looking, I held them and communed with The Power to get them sorted, tears running down my face. Can’t do any harm, I thought, although I’d never tried on humans before, only animals.

Ryan took my daughter and me to the airport to fly to the UK to attend my Uncle Claude Arkell’s funeral the next day. The exciting news from Ryan when he picked us up on Sunday, 17th was that Nick’s feet diagnosis had been changed to something he’d soon grow out of…

2015: I had never heard of Locked-in Syndrome, before my new dentist in George (City) told me that his wife suffered from it. For three years she had lain in a home unable to move anything except her eyes, and blinking. All the voluntary muscles except the eyes are paralysed. ( › wiki › Locked-in_syndrome.)

For weeks, I was tormented by the thought that prayer might help, and the laying on of hands, but I battled with the knowledge that hundreds of devout folk had undoubtedly prayed for her recovery for years, obviously without success. So why would The Power listen to my pleading; it seemed to be a totally arrogant assumption.

Nothing ventured, I eventually decided. I wrote to the Dentist to ask his permission to visit his wife, having told him a story about cows and cats and kids, insisting that it had nothing to do with me personally, but perhaps I could sometimes serve as a conduit? He agreed, and informed the nursing staff of my intended visit, making an appointment.

I drove to George, to the home, and found the reception where I gave my name and the name of the woman I was there to see. They asked me to wait while they prepared her for visitors, then showed me to a nearby three-bed ward. Her bed was curtained off to give privacy.

She was semi-reclined in a wheelchair; a beautiful blonde of about thirty-five, lightly made up. Her body was slim, although I guessed she would have been more muscular with normal activity and diet. It seemed she was fed by gastrostomy tube, and breathed with a trachyotomy airway. I have no idea if I was able to hide my discomfort at seeing her helplessness as I once again was tortured by the thought that I was making a big mistake.

Haltingly, I introduced myself and apologised for disturbing her routine, while thinking that maybe she would welcome any deviation from that. I explained that if she permitted, I would like to pray for her, to ask God to release her from her prison. I took hold of her hand, the tears pouring down my face, swallowing the recurring lumps in my throat, and I told her about cows and cats and kids and begged for The Power to aid her release…

Then after a bit she got agitated; her breathing became ragged and I was afraid that I had badly upset her. I apologised as best I could and said goodbye, not knowing if I had been a help or a horror.


She passed away about ten weeks later. Was that a release? Not the one I had prayed for, anyway. The whole experience shook me, but I suppose enriched me in some ways to keep searching for answers. Some say it is better to journey than to arrive.

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The Matter with MATADOR

Having met the charming and convincing Jeremy Thompson of MATADOR publishing house at the London Book Fair earlier, I was persuaded to re-publish both The Barros Pawns and Purgatory Road with them, the so-called vanity side of Picador Publishing, so as to make use of their UK marketing force.


In mid-June 2011 I got an email from Matador notifying me that ‘Purgatory Road’ had been reviewed on ‘Reading Fuelled by tea’ blog, and re-printed in the Self Publishing Magazine (Issue 19, Summer 2011). It seemed to be really quite positive.

Matador -review.jpg

From SELF_PUBLISHING MAG – reprinted from Reading Fuelled by Tea Review Blog



A South African tale of crime, terror, escape and constantly looking over one’s shoulder for the past to catch up, Purgatory Road grabs the reader’s attention from the first chapter as the protagonist reacts unnecessarily violently to attempted extortion. While the subject matter remains unconvincing for the first third of the novel, the plot motors along and we sense Everyman’s darker side in John. With some surprise, I found myself two thirds in and the story slipped along to a conclusion rich with conflict and intrigue.

Earle conveys the African setting marvellously – a strong sense of dialect comes through almost effortlessly (although he could rein in the exclamation marks), and the beauty of the rugged veldt is well portrayed. John’s motivation is initially puzzling, but the character is strongly developed (as are the supporting cast) and quite likeable, by the end.

Matador Selp P Mag.jpgThe cover is a little unnecessarily loud, (Matador had used my design but changed the colour from sepia-orange to red)   but it does serve to convey the brutality within and warn off a timid reader. The quality of the self-published book was pleasantly surprising – while the cover could be thicker and a chapter heading had displaced itself, the general standard of publication is excellent. A solid debut effort from a promising author.

Among the decisions to make was the quantity to have printed, but I had read from their small-print that copies of over 300 in their warehouse would draw a storage cost, so asked them to print 300 of each. They replied that 500 would be what to go for as review copies and sales would soon reduce the number to below the number that would attract storage costs, so I agreed.

Having a bank account in the Channel Islands was convenient for payment at first, but then HSBC closed my account due to my not being resident there, although other South African UK account holders told me they had no such stipulation. Up to that date Matador had made no payments, but I considered it to be early days.

Two years passed. The numbers in their balance did indeed reduce to below the 300 mark for Purgatory Road, but not so for The Barros Pawns whose balance stopped at 302. I was being charged £20-00 per month for storage, deducted from my balance, none of which I had actually received. I had by this time informed them about the account closure, but they had assured me that they would EFT monies to the South African bank account which I had supplied. Nothing was credited to me. On enquiry, I was first informed that they could not transfer funds to a South African bank, then later, when I complained, that they had paid me in full. When I asked for an account print-out as proof of payment, I was told that these records had not been kept, being too old.

Adding insult to theft, I was then informed that they could no longer store any of my books after two years, and that they would be pulping their stock at my expense. I was both angry and frustrated at not being able to fight back from so far away. The only thing I could think of was refusing to pay for pulping, and demanding that they give their remaining copies to local libraries or even to charity shops.

Another frustration is the fact that these two titles in eBook form have not been re-directed to my control, although Matador assured me that they released their own account to them in the eBook market. I wrote to Amazon about this and was informed that the original submitter has to arrange for transfer, which had not been done. So any sales in this sphere must therefore still accrue to the Matador account…

I really hope that other authors who have dealt with Matador have more success, especially those actually living near enough to broach them about shortcomings face to face.

In the meanwhile, I was selling a few soft-cover copies, from my local printing, on two visits to the Saturday market in Sedgefield on the Garden Route, a two hour trip away, meeting some interesting people and offering advice to some budding authors.

The thought of writing a blog to get my name out there, as well as practicing my writing, was beginning to take shape. The writing of novels is the easy part, but the marketing is murder.

I do hope others have had more satisfactory dealings with Matador, and no doubt you will comment here about your experiences, for better or for worse, until debt do you part.

TBPpic5528purgatory cov frontIf anyone should do me the honour of purchasing either of these as eBooks, please do not buy under these covers on the left as I will not receive a penny. Rather buy under these other two covers below. I thank you!


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A Kiwi Flies In

With my long-time Kiwi mate, Kevin O’Connell, inbound from Down Under to Cape Town, about five hundred km away from my home in Haarlem, the family decided to make an expedition of the trip. On Friday 13   August 2010 we loaded our kit and then, lastly, Neil’s bike on the rack behind the Venture’s rear door. Sheila, her brother, Neil, and I set off early to cut across country via Carlitzdorp on the R62. On to Ladismith and Worcester to the N1, the main artery from the north. We arrived at nephew Andy Maling’s place in Durbanville before dark. It was a very pleasant family get-together braai.


Kevin Barry O’Connell

Saturday dawned, mild to warm. Andy and Neil kept me company to fetch Kevin from the Cape Town International airport. He was looking very slim after his foot operation and needed a stick as he also had his knee replaced. I was surprised the airline allowed such a dangerous weapon on the flight. Back to Andy’s place to a great breakfast before going on to Tommy Maling, Sheila and Neil’s elder brother, in the village of Fish Hoek. We all went across the peninsula to Hout Bay to Fisherman’s Wharf for – you guessed – fish & chips. Back at Tommy’s, we beered late into the night.


Neil Maling

Neil had one of his cycle trips in mind, so, leaving Sheila with Tom and his wife Shirley, Kevin, Neil and I headed east again on the Monday up Sir Laurie’s Pass to drop Neil off with a friend of his who lived near Hermanus where he would cycle from for the following week. Kevin and I returned home to Haarlem to show him around and for me to check on my building projects. In the next two days we sank a coupla slabs o’ piss, as they used to say Down Under. Probably still do, unless they have been drowned in Political Correctitude.


Wonderful thing, these forever friendships. I have been seriously blessed with quite a few.


We reminisced about our previous get-togethers: My visit to NZ – Godzone – and Kevin to Botswana and Warmbaths, as well as our mad times in London in 1969.

KBOC & PJE on board Inter-island.JPG

PJE & KBOC on the NZ inter-island ferry – 2004

On the Wednesday 18 August in colder weather, Kevin and I set off back up the R62 to the old town of Montagu where we had an enjoyable evening and night in the Mystic Tin Backpackers.

On Thursday, sunny and mild, we headed to the beautiful orchard valleys and mountains of Ceres and then took backroads – mostly metalled – through the craggy Cedarberg mountains area to Clanwilliam where we were given a nice double room by Eric and Joan Lever, my old Botswana friends, who had a guest house there. Great to see them again and Kevin liked them, too.

The next day, we headed from Clanwilliam to Lamberts Bay, then Elands Bay, where we had some golden refreshment, to Picketburg and on down the M7 to Malmesbury where I took the R302 to Durbanville to once again stay with Andy & Colleen. Next day, after a wonderful breakfast with all the trimmings, I took Kevin to the airport and had a couple of parting beers before his flight was called. On to Fish Hoek where Sheila had been having a good time at sales and music/record shops. After overnighting there, with an early start we got to Neil’s friend in time for breakfast. We loaded Neil and his bike and set off home, arriving just after dark, all of us pleased to be back with our animals again.

Shortly after that, I was surfing the Net for family tree stuff, and came across an amazing coincidence – a relative of a relative of mine had a duel with an ancestor of Kevin O’Connell’s, more than a century ago!!

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