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Crime Beat

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Crime Beat: Bones of contention

jenny hobbsnapoleon bonesRecently I read a book called Napoleon Bones by Jenny Hobbs which contains actionable and libellous references. Hobbs is also director of the Franschhoek Literary Festival. Her book is currently being assessed by legal advisers.

It seems that Hobbs has decided that Cape Town crime fiction shouldn’t only be about bad weather and violence. She has attacked the local genre by introducing a dog’s point of view, and made various disparaging remarks in her novel about prominent characters. On top of this she has defamed four crime fiction writers.

Using a post-modernist device – a character in her makeshift novel who reads crime fiction – she casts aspersions on the good standing of such role models as Riedwaan Faizel, Bennie Griesel, Eberard Februarie, Mace Bishop and Pylon Buso. Two of these characters are labelled drunks, although she is careful not to name them.

In a response from her lawyers, Hobbs claims to be following a local tradition of ‘borrowing’ characters.

While intertextual theft is de rigueur among some Cape Town writers, Hobbs takes her assault to another level with the following derogatory paragraphs about the presentation of females in South African crime fiction. Would Sheemina February see herself as an evil bitch? Would Clare Hart consider herself a clever plain Jane? Would Christine van Rooyen call herself a whore?

‘Women always have to deal with sexism, but that’s life.’ She gave him a wry smile, adding, ‘It’s exaggerated in crime fiction, of course. The women are either hookers or evil bitches or clever plain Janes with hearts of gold. So boring.’

‘They can’t all be like Angelina Jolie, surely?’

He was trying to make a joke, but it seemed to give her more steam.

‘As for the policemen and private dicks: they’ll have problems with drink and shamble about looking scruffy and biting people’s heads off, yet being incredibly perceptive. It makes me long for cultured cops like Adam Dalgleish.’


Who, indeed.

However, of more concern is Hobbs’ slanderous suggestion that Andrew Brown, Deon Meyer, Margie Orford and I are involved in a series of jewellery heists across the city. Or alternatively fencing the proceeds of these robberies.

She writes:

No more jewellery had turned up, but calls from stolen cellphones had been triangulated to positions in Glencairn Heights, Rondebosch, Oranjezicht, Durbanville and Loxton.

‘These guys are experts, so they’ll know we’re tracking the phones. Could be they’re taunting us by moving between unrelated points,’ Captain Japhta said at the morning brainstorm.

‘In a Land Rover Discovery, right?

Legal advisers have suggested that a successful action can be brought against Hobbs.  Meanwhile in Hollywood Angelina Jolie’s lawyers have issued a statement that every dog will have its day.


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