Today, I have a Wilf Nussey in the special guest spotlight. Wilf was a newspaperman for forty years, all but four of them in Africa. He was the foremost foreign correspondent for the Argus group of newspapers for many years spanning most of Africa’s transition to independence and its continuing upheavals. Before that he was a freelance correspondent in Kenya for British and North American media and lived and worked in Britain and Canada. Assignments have taken him to the Middle East, Far East, Europe and New Zealand. Five years after becoming editor of a small newspaper, he quit to live in the bush and write books and has produced four successful documentaries. Now he and his wife live a few metres from the sea at Simon’s Town in South Africa’s Cape.
Darts of Deceit?
WILF: It’s an adventure thriller inspired by my knowledge from experience of Southern Africa and the strange situation when white rule had collapsed in Rhodesia, apartheid was collapsing in South Africa, and the Soviet Union was collapsing – all in roughly the same time span. There were fears then of a hard-core backlash in Russia. This story is one scenario of how that might have happened: by triggering major violence in volatile parts of the world, including Southern Africa, to distract the world’s attention and give the Russian extremists a chance to reassert their strength. It also involves fairly typical American and British deviousness in exploiting such situations to their own advantage, and the involvement of the South African apartheid regime as the only real power in the region. The story unfolds around two main characters, one a former Rhodesian, the other a Mozambican, both veterans of the Rhodesian and Mozambique wars.
JET: What drew you to thrillers?
WILF: I enjoy thrillers (when they are well written) as escapist relaxation between reading historical books and novels based in history, specially naval history.
JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?
WILF: Finding an agent and a publisher. Over more than a decade scores of agents have turned down this book, and others I have written, most summarily, some with nice comments about my chapters and synopses, plus a “but…”. Then I read about Rebel ePublishers and wrote direct because what attracted me was that they had been through the same mill of rejection so they were sympathetic.
JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?
WILF: Getting accepted by Rebel. I had amusing experiences along the way, mostly from pompous people who turned up their noses as if I was offering porn.
JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?
WILF: A whole fleet because since childhood I have read voraciously. Some in any old order are Rudyard Kipling, Rider Haggard, Percy Fitzpatrick, John Steinbeck, Patrick O’Brian, C S Forester, Jack London, Charles Dickens (of course), Richard Dawkins, Ed McBain, the list is long.
JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?
WILF: I thought about it often while sitting in planes and airport lounges, or waiting in hotels, reading books to kill the time. I decided to tackle writing books when I became sated with the bureaucracy and trivia of newspaper administration – that
after a lifetime of reporting, most of it as a foreign correspondent. I wrote a couple of documentaries, then a collection of stories about small rural town which I thought was damned good but didn’t sell because the publisher did nothing to promote it.
JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?
WILF: I did all the crazy things as part of my job as a foreign correspondent: going into war situations with troops, rooting around in the backyards of African dictators, grubbing about in the bush, experiencing the hypocrisy of politics and diplomacy, meeting a host of fascinating people. There were many most interesting facts. Years ago when I first came across an AK-47 I predicted it would replace the spear as the symbol of Africa. I was fascinated by the goodwill I found among ordinary people in Africa, those swamped by conflict and exploitation and politics who still somehow survived and, like me, merely wanted to live a good, safe life. I am still entranced by the huge, diverse beauty of Africa in spite of all its dangers and problems.
JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?
WILF: Of novels, this, my first. Of stories, one I wrote in my collection about a small powderhorn picked up by an English farmer in Africa and claimed by a wizened old African witchdoctor. Both reflect Africa, the rough and the smooth and the mysterious.
JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?
WILF: Be thick-skinned, be tough, keep trying, do anything (within reason) to get yourself noticed.
JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten…starting with…Paper or Plastic?
JET: Steak or Tofu?
JET: Beach or Mountains?
JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?
JET: Leather or Lace?
JET: Angels or Demons?
JET: Paper or Digital?
JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?
WILF: Silent films.
JET: Twilight or True Blood?
JET: Coffee or Tea?
JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?
WILF: Been doing an autobiography for the family, a collection of anecdotes from many journalists about covering Africa, and working on another novel, probably around old African gold.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Wilf Nussey and his work at the following places:
Facebook url: facebook.com/wilf.nussey.
Website url: wilfnussey.co.za.
Thanks for joining us today. Don't forget Todd Russell's on tap on Friday.