My short story, "Oasis", in the Short Story Day Africa anthology, WaterWednesday, 3 February 2016
Writing my genderless short story, "Oasis", for the Short Story Day Africa Water competition was fascinating experiment. For one thing, it showed me just how gender is semantically hardwired into our language.
In the end, I developed a modified Spivak system of pronouns. The Spivak system was invented not, as you might expect, by the literary theorist Gayatri Spivak, but my mathematician Michael Spivak on the LambdaMOO role-playing game in the early days of the internet (on which I was guilty of spending way too much time (and being banned from the Wits computer room for using up all of the History department's bandwidth). But that's a story for another time... at least I have something to show for myself, two decades later.)
"Oasis" is about a teenager being escorted out of Europe to join the rebellion against corporate water supply. The Water anthology is now out, with an amazing line-up of African writers. Check it out: http://shortstorydayafrica.org/books/ It's launching in Cape Town in March.
Rafiki's StyleFriday, 2 October 2015
Back in June, I blogged about my Book Dash experience, and I'm very proud to present the finished book I created with ace illustrator Audrey Anderson and crack designer Wesley Thompson:
Rafiki’s style is all his own, but when the Cool Cat Crew struts by, he starts to wonder if it’s good enough.
Created at Book Dash Johannesburg on 27 July 2015 by Audrey Anderson (illustrator), Louis Greenberg (writer) and Wesley Thompson (designer).
You can read, download and print this Book Dash book for free here. Also check out many other brilliant titles by illustrators, writers, and designers throughout South Africa.
A Whirlwind of WaitingThursday, 27 August 2015
Join me on a mystery tour. Experimental travel meets photo album meets moving installation, thirteen days only. Starts 18.9.2015
Follow @whirlwindwaiting on Instagram for the magic and the mundane, an obsessive cataloguing of #transport and #waiting, very likely #art and #food and #beer, and unexpurgated pretty random #onthehour shots. I'll be searching for fuel for big questions and the comfort of minutiae; we may find what I'm looking for along the way.
Louis longlisted for Short Story Day Africa prizeWednesday, 2 September 2015
Louis was very pleased to hear that his entry to the Short Story Day Africa prize has been longlisted with twenty other stories from a large field of entries from all across the continent. The theme of this year's story is Water, and as it's currently under blind judging, he can't say any more!
The shortlisted stories will be announced in October and the winner in November. Read more about the competition here.
Louis interviewed on Radio TodayMonday, 17 August 2015
Louis recently spoke to Sue Grant-Marshall on Radio Today about Under Ground and S.L. Grey's Downside trio. Try the embedded podcast player above, or click here to hear the interview.
As always, check here for a list of the latest S.L. Grey reviews and interviews.
Get to know S.L. GreyThursday, 16 July 2015
Under Ground is published today in the United Kingdom and will be reaching the Commonwealth soon. Editions in Dutch, German, French, Spanish and Korean are also being prepared. Pan Macmillan, our new English publishers, interviewed us to get to introduce us to our readers new and old, asking abour our favourite and formative books and characters. You can tell a lot by what people keep on their bookshelves!
Tell us your top five crime and thriller novels of all time?
Louis: If I have to choose just five, I’d go for:
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt: I was a self-absorbed student at the time; these smart and nasty characters were aspirational to me.
- Killer Country by Mike Nicol: Nicol is my favourite writer of noir crime. He gets to the root of South Africa’s ills with a perfect ear and incomparable styling. You come out of the book thinking in the rhythms of the characters.
- City of Glass from The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, because our drive to solve mysteries is a psychological desire for impossible completion. (I might sneak The City & The City and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle into this line.)
- Enigma by Robert Harris: Harris has a unique ability to present meticulously researched historical settings and events in riveting, page-turning plots. You run with the characters and stories and feel like you’re learning something at the same time.
- Under the Skin by Michel Faber: the best example of creeping dread. Not much happens and the space and the silence are terrifying. Jonathan Glazer’s film version was an excellent adaptation of the spirit of the novel.
Sarah: Painful to choose just five, but here goes:
- Black Heart by Mike Nicol. The third in Mike Nicol’s Revenge Trilogy, (Louis’s choice, Killer Country, is the second). Heartily agree with Louis’s comments about Nicol’s noirish stylishness, plus he’s the king of killer dialogue.
- Freedomland by Richard Price. I’ve read this about twenty times. A master-class in dialogue and atmosphere, it skewers lazy preconceptions about race.
- The Cutting Room byLouise Welsh. This unputdownable and stylish thriller is laced with delicious black humour, and has a vicious yet sympathetic protagonist.
- Little Children by Tom Perotta. Like Price, Perotta scalpels straight through the heart of American society, and is fearless when it comes to so-called difficult subjects (in this case, paedophilia). He’s also witty as hell.
- Joyland by Stephen King. If there is such a thing as a flawless novel, this is it. Full of heart, and the ending made me sob.
What’s the first book you remember falling in love with?
Louis: Johnny Lion’s Book by Edith Thatcher Hurd. It's about a lonely little lion who gets carried away into an imaginative adventure by a book. I am Johnny; stories still spice up my ordinary life.
Sarah: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. I can still remember staying up all night to finish it.
Which book do you wish you had written and why?
Read on for the full interview...
As always, check here for a list of our latest reviews and interviews.
"Somewhere in the world, there's always an S.L. Grey novel being written"Friday, 10 July 2015
Pan Macmillan recently asked Louis about the collaborative process between him and Sarah Lotz, and how they met.
Sarah and I met online at bookslive.co.za, which at the time was not only the internet newspaper about South African books, but also a forum where writers could chat, joke and commiserate together. The social functions of the site have been taken over by Facebook and Twitter since, but the site was important in introducing several writers to one another and allowing us to work together.
In 2009, I commissioned a collection of short stories, Home Away, from authors I only could have known through BooksLive, and Sarah was among them. She wrote a zombie story set in Botswana. Later that year, my family and I went on holiday to Cape Town, and Sarah hosted a party at her house, which is when I first met her in person.
A few months later, Sarah came up to Johannesburg for a crime fiction seminar at the University of Witwatersrand, where I was studying for my doctorate.
Read on for the full article...
A thorough interview with S.L. GreyThursday, 9 July 2015
Top UK independent horror review site, The Ginger Nuts of Horror, recently engaged us in a wide-ranging interview that covered all three of the Downside novels as well as our new one, Under Ground. Here's an extract:
Hello, how are things with the pair of you?
L: Fine, thanks. Between us, we usually average out; while one of us is having a crisis of some sort, the other’s calm and happy. Sarah’s in summery Shropshire and I’m in wintery Johannesburg, so we tend to meet in the moderate middle.
For those who don’t know who is S.L. Grey, and why did you chose Grey as your ‘surname”
L: We are Sarah Lotz, a novelist and scriptwriter who’s divided her time between the UK and Cape Town, South Africa, and Louis Greenberg, a novelist and editor born, bred and based in Johannesburg.
As I remember it, we wanted a simple and neutral sounding name for our collaborative persona. It helps that Greys are certain breed of hermetic Downsiders in The Mall particularly, and that the mannequins on our first-ever book jacket were grey. We like the idea of blending into the background and pulling the strings from behind the scenes.
How did the pair of you come to work together?
L: In mid-2009, Sarah came up to Johannesburg to speak at a crime colloquium at the university where I was finishing my doctorate. We’d been in touch before – she’d written a short story about zombies in Botswana for an anthology I’d just put together, and we’d met in Cape Town once. We bunked the afternoon session, had a few drinks in the student pub, and discussed our mutual interest in horror and decided to write a novel together. I’d just quit my day job, so I was in the position to jump straight in. By the end of the year, we’d drafted The Mall.
I’ll assume that this is a process that you both enjoy, as you are about to publish your fourth novel together?
L: Absolutely, and we’ve just finished drafting our fifth book together, due out next year. We’ve managed to keep the same, matching desire and work ethic over the last six years and we’ve retained the sense of trust and respect for each other we’ve had from the start. I think that’s quite rare, and we’re lucky.
Read on for the full interview...
The Ginger Nuts of Horror also gave Under Ground a fine review, saying "Under Ground is a brilliant modern take on the last man standing type of novel crossed with a tense Towering Inferno sense of being trapped in a burning cage. It will grab your attention from the first chapter and have you hooked right up to the perfect ending." Read the whole review here, and check here for a list of our latest reviews and interviews.
Under Ground hardbacks are printedTuesday, 23 June 2015
... and very beautiful!
Tor UK tweeted this picture of the finished copies looking dark and creepy and resplendent with their moody endpapers. We love them!
I'm still here!Monday, 3 March 2015
I haven't posted anything on this site for a while, but I'm checking in to say that I'm still here.
I've been involved with my alter ego, finishing edits on Under Ground, the fourth S.L. Grey novel, coming from Pan Macmillan in the UK this July. Have a look at the proof and teasers here. So far, Under Ground is also being published in German, French, Dutch, Spanish, Turkish and Korean. Sarah and I have also started work on House Swap, the fifth novel, coming in July 2016. This time, we're setting our scares in Cape Town and Paris. The Mall and The Ward were recently promoted on Amazon UK, where they topped the horror charts and seemed to reach - and please - many new readers.
I'm also busy on a couple of new solo novels at various stages, so the last few months haven't been all Candy Crush, football on TV, eating out and craft beer in. As always, I'll keep you posted of anything important here and on Twitter.
Prawn ApocalypseMonday, 15 September 2014
This story first appeared in the Sunday Times Lifestyle on 14 September 2014:
Granma Vito talks like she’s a hundred years old, but she’s only been alive for seven summers. Don’t get me wrong, that’s pretty ancient for a Parktown Prawn, but sometimes she spins her tales a little fuzzy.
‘Give me some of the sweet stuff,’ she says, her broken left mandible clutching uselessly at the air in front of her mouth.
I spear a bit of moist dog pellet from the pile and approach her, trying not to inhale her stink as I point the mush into her mouth. ‘Mmm …’ Her jaw clatters and scrapes as she guzzles. ‘Have some,’ she says.
‘No, thanks, Granma.’ I’ve never developed a taste for dog food. I prefer fruit, worms, carrion. Anything natural. Once, I ate a snail.
Granma Vito shrugs, her hinges creaking. ‘Come closer then, little grub, and I’ll tell you the truth.’
That’s another thing about Granma Vito: calling me a grub. I know she does it to annoy me, to get some response. I’ve moulted four times since I hatched – as a newt, Granma Vito, not a grub! – and I’m almost an adult. But I’ve seen two summers now, and I refuse to rise to the bait.
The fact is, I love Granma Vito. I love her stories, whether they’re fact or fantasy. Frankly, they’re the only bit of light down here as we huddle in ever-diminishing numbers against the terrible siege from beyond the burrow.
It wasn’t always like this, I know. And Granma Vito’s tales remind me of a glorious time before I was an egg.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Excuse me, Granma?’
‘I said: What’s your name?’
Radio interview with Michele MagwoodWednesday, 27 August 2014
Michele Magwood recently interviewed me on TM Live Radio. We talked about Dark Windows, religion, sex, politics, vampires and a houseful of books. Listen to the interview on the player below or click here.Tweet
Waxing opinionated with Geosi GyasiTuesday, 12 August 2014
Ghanaian book blogger, Geosi Gyasi, recently sent me a probing interview that allowed me to wax opinionated on politics, place, a reading culture and - yes - writing. I've extracted a couple of questions below; you can read the full interview here.
Geosi Gyasi: Your most recent book, ‘Dark Windows’ was published by Umuzi in April this year. In real life, do you think crime in Johannesburg could ever be cured?
Louis Greenberg: I have fantasies of some benign and overwhelming shift in our – Johannesburg, South African, global – politics and relationships that would strip greed and self–interest away and leave people in a better position. If humans spent as much time and money treating social inequity as they do on weapons and dirty energy and accumulation of wealth, we could solve all our social diseases tomorrow. Are people hard-wired to be greedy and self-interested, or is it just the way we’re encouraged to be by all our dominant political and religious systems? I don’t know, but part of my creative drive at the moment is imagining alternatives.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you feel your stories have political underpinnings?
Louis Greenberg: Despite my diatribe in the last answer, I am always drawn back to personal politics – the politics of individuals, what makes us unique and what connects us. I think if we can avoid ever becoming numbers, statistics, categories (to come back to your first question), we can remember each other’s humanity. The problem with macropolitics is that it tends to generalise people and when we concern ourselves with macropolitics, we tend to generalise ourselves and our reactions to others. I think writing novels – telling our individual and intimate stories – is a perfect vehicle to remind people of each other’s individuality and connectedness. This is why we should read fiction. And we shouldn’t allow people who don’t value or read fiction to govern us!Tweet