Audio recordings from the Franschhoek Literary Festival 2016Tuesday, 31 May 2016
Earlier this month, I attended the Franschhoek Literary Festival, and appeared on three of the scores of panel events. You can now find audio recordings of over sixty of the panel discussions on the festival's audio archive, a trove for anyone who didn't make it, or for people who want to catch alternative panels, or who want to relive the ones they attrended. (Two of my panels are in the archive, numbers 89 and 99.)
In addition, you can listen to Amabookabooka's special Friday the 13th live improv session at the Franschhoek Literary Festival, What was that? To hear Fred Strydom, Lauren Beukes and me embarrassing ourselves, click on...
Major US publishing deal for The ApartmentWednesday, 24 February 2016
Good news for American readers! Blumhouse Books will be publishing The Apartment this October! Blumhouse Books is an imprint of Anchor Books run by Jason Blum, producer of Paranormal Activity, Insidious and other modern horror classics. Anchor's part of the Knopf Doubleday / Penguin Random House Group, so the book is in excellent and horrible good hands and will be widely available in the US and Canada. Blumhouse is our first American publisher, so we're thrilled to parts.
Steven Spielberg's Amblin Partners option The Apartment for filmMonday, 22 February 2016
Sarah and I are excited to share the news that Steven Spielberg's Amblin Partners / DreamWorks have optioned The Apartment for a film adaptation. As Variety reports,
The story centers on a couple struggling to move on after armed robbers break into their home and brutalize them. The duo makes a house swap in Paris with a couple they meet online but the supposedly luxurious apartment is run-down and they’re unable to contact the couple. They return home after a series of increasingly unsettling events, with neither able to shake the feeling that there’s now something sinister about their own home.
Macmillan will publish the book in July.
Amblin Partners was founded in December as a successor company to DreamWorks by Spielberg, Jeff Skoll of Participant Media, Anil Ambani of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group and Darren Throop of Entertainment One. Distribution of movies shifted from Disney to Universal.
Read the full report in Variety. And please hold thumbs for the green light!
S.L. Grey's top 5 thrillers in unusual locationsFriday, 19 February 2016
To celebrate next the paperback release of Under Ground, we told the Tor UK blog about our five top thrillers with unusual settings. They include the brilliant South African novels, Power Play by Mike Nicol and Young Blood by Sifiso Mzobe:
Power Play, Mike Nicol
South African crime king Mike Nicol has no hesitation in populating his novels with hectic characters with dubious morals and placing them in hectic and dubious locations. In his latest, Power Play, there’s an unforgettable scene in a dinghy floating in shark-infested waters off Cape Point. Nicol’s use of recognisably real and fascinating locations combined with scandalous action makes you believe that the skulduggery in his novels can and does take place in reality.
Young Blood, Sifiso Mzobe
Young Blood’s setting – Umlazi Township in Durban – isn’t unusual for us as we’re from South Africa, but it’s a good excuse for us to give a shout out for a novel that deserves to be more widely read. Exploring the ins and outs of the stolen car trade, it deservedly won the Sunday Times fiction prize, SA’s top literary honour, and cemented Mzobe’s position as not only an author to watch, but the go-to guy for any writers needing research info on the ins and outs of car theft.
Click here to read on for the full list.
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 by 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.
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.
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!
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?’
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!