Book Jacket

 

rank 624
word count 101747
date submitted 23.01.2011
date updated 22.12.2012
genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance,...
classification: moderate
complete

THE MINE

A. J. BAVIN

The only time Steiger ever held a black man by the arm was when he needed to inflict discipline on him.

 

South Africa, 1985. Apartheid is rife - and so is the resistance to it. Against this background a black man and a white man find themselves trapped underground, the sole survivors of a mining disaster. The black has been blinded by the explosion and the white man is badly injured. Segregation or not, only if they can work together can they get out - but do they?

Just say that one escapes. What are the reactions of that survivor to the young daughter of the other - particularly when Apartheid segregates black from white?

Although this story starts with a mining catastrophe, it is of a greater catastrophe that I write: Apartheid - which was a disaster for both blacks and whites alike. Fiction it may be - but it is fiction woven around the framework of cruelty and oppression inflicted by white on black in an attempt to keep a strangle hold on a 'beloved country' that wasn't theirs to hold in the first place.

 
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afrikaans, afrikaners, apartheid, black, boers, civil disobedience, colour, colourbar, disaster, explosion, guerilla warfare, guerillas, mining, oppre...

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In the closest chamber, with the best part of half a mile of rock between them, a black man by name of Kingsley Longfellow was also lying battered on the rock floor, thrown onto his back by the blast.

Like Steiger, he knew it was important not to do anything too precipitous until his head cleared. Kingsley had worked in the mine all of his life – and although he had witnessed accidents before, this was the first where his very survival was at stake – because he sensed that this time he was trapped.

Unlike Steiger though, he knew he was not alone because the Lord was with him – the Lord his Saviour was down there alongside him, even amongst all the chaos and destruction.

The big man lay in the dark wondering why he could see no light from his lantern. He decided that it must have got itself turned off in the blast – but feeling for the switch he was surprised to find it still switched on. Perhaps something had been broken by the impact? Never mind, it was but a small thing. He was alive and he was lucky.

He had been driving a dumper truck loaded with ore just before the explosion: had driven it away from the rock face, across the chamber and into the tunnel, driving through endless darkness broken only by the light on his helmet and the lights on the front of the truck. The tunnel always seemed to stretch on for ever; but eventually he had reached the junction, that point where several similar tunnels merged and met the rail track. Here the ore was loaded onto trains that would carry it back to the lifts and up to the surface, to be smelted in great foundries that lay on the outskirts of Johannesburg and Durban.

He unloaded his truck, and with an empty load the journey back seemed quicker. As he re-entered the chamber he heard the sound of a rock-fall: It was like an avalanche, as if the whole of the side of a mountain had slipped away and was cascading down into a valley beneath. Then it was followed by the sound of an enormous explosion.

He felt himself being lifted clean off his truck and deposited like a rag doll on the cavern floor alongside the truck. He lay spread-eagled and his heart skipped beats as he heard the sound of the truck tilting over onto two wheels above him. He sensed it was hanging, canted over him and he was sure that at any moment it would topple and crush him beneath its great weight. There was nothing he could do – he didn’t even have time to pray.

For what felt like an eternity the truck seemed to teeter, delicately balanced above him; and he could imagine God’s angel Gabriel on one side, struggling to keep it upright, resisting the powers of Satan who, on the other side seemed, to be intent on sending it crashing down on him.

Then the protestation from the springs told him that the truck had righted. He realised that it was the truck that had saved him: it had sheltered him from the aftermath of the blast and all the debris hurtling through air around him.

His eyes were burning; and he guessed he would find bruises and scratches all down his back from the undignified slide in which his journey ended. Everything about him was in darkness; but otherwise he seemed to be in one piece.

He knew he was in a bad place, sure that he had been cut off from both the lifts and the shaft and the long rickety ladder that led up to the surface. That shaft and ladder comprised their emergency escape route – although in all his time down the mine he couldn’t remember anyone having used it either in an emergency or in a drill. Certainly not in a drill because they never had any.

Kingsley knew that the first thing he must do was to give up some moments to prayer, to give thanks that he had been spared. Only after that would he worry about his predicament and what he could do about it.

He scrambled onto his knees, let his hands fall onto his lap and he lowered his head. 

First he gave thanks that he, Kingsley Longfellow, a black and a mineworker, who had few advantages and no privileges except to love and be loved by God, was still in one piece. But he knew that was only a start: Unless they could get to him, he had to find some way to get out for himself.

So now he prayed for strength and a clear head, that his strong body might not fail him and that his mind might think with all the vision of an umfundisi, a wise man. He would need strength and courage and wisdom, all of those things, to claw his way out were those on the surface unable to dig down and reach him.

He had faith; but he wondered, did he have enough faith to get himself out? And would God help him? The Christian in him trusted God; but just the same he touched on the crucifix around his neck as if it were some kind of voodoo charm. It was lucky that God didn’t work in the same way as the Gods of the old religionsYou didn’t have a hope if you made any of those gods angry – they wouldn’t lift a finger to help you. Yet something was making him doubt.  He had killed a man. Did God condone the use of force – even if for political purposes and in the cause of freedom? He kept a gun hidden in his shack: He had killed a policeman who was beating the life out of a fellow black, believing the man was an activist. Did God condone that? Or would He condemn him to die down here in something akin to hell? And if that was his fate what would the consequences be for his daughter, Anulka? Without the wages he brought back from the mine she wouldn’t be able to sustain herself and her child, the little picaninni, Tom. 

Times were hard: most blacks could hardly support their own families, let alone contemplate taking in two extra mouths.

Although herself a mother, Anulka had had not long turned 16. She had never known her own mother who had died giving birth to her. With the death of Nadeli, Kingsley’s soul had been pained as greatly as if his body had been beaten by the police with their sjamboks. But when he buried her he resolved to bury his grief along with her; and from that moment he had given his all to bringing up his beautiful daughter as best he could with some help from good neighbours.

He had named her Anulka, meaning happiness. 

True, Nadeli’s death hadn’t prevented her from handing down her beauty to her daughter; and Anulka was certainly beautiful. But more than that, she was bright – feisty and spontaneous in equal measures. Those were not necessarily the best of credentials for a Venda girl, who was supposed to be submissive and subservient to a point of being slavish.

Without the guidance of a mother she had fallen into the arms of a young Venda boy who preferred the glory of life as a guerrilla, fighting against the white man, rather than shouldering the responsibilities of a father.

He could only hope that Anulka had not yet heard of the accident. Right now she would be at the Mission School where she helped the teacher, Mrs. N’dela, to give some basic education to as many children as they could cram into one small room. Tom would be sleeping in a crèche at the back of the classroom. Could Mrs. N’dela, he wondered, shelter them from the news of the disaster? Withhold it from them until they could say whether there was any hope for those below ground? Whether there were survivors or not?

He doubted it. People would already be standing around on street corners gossiping and waiting for news and news, especially bad news, flew around a slum like Ochatingi like so many vultures squawking over the carcass of a dead dog in the dust beside the road leading out of the township…

Leading to where? Well, it was their only road: it wasn’t even a proper metalled road and it led to nowhere, really. If you walked east along it for five miles you would come to the mine. After that it faded into nothing, its dusty way hardly discernable from the veldt lying on either side. But try to follow it for another ten miles, always keeping the top of the koppie or hill that they called Oppikoppi at your back, and the track began to climb until you came to a proper road, the metalled one that led from Pretoria to Johannesburg.

That’s where Ochatingi was; and it wasn’t exactly a bustling metropolis.

**

He said all the prayers he could think of; and after that Kingsley began to wonder what was happening above ground. Had they assembled a rescue team yet? Had they started to dig? And here, down below ground, what had become of his fellow miners

Thirty blacks had gone down the lift. As the gates clanked open they had jostled good naturedly as they surged forward into the cage designated for blacks only. When whites went down the mine they used another lift: The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act had kept blacks and whites apart since 1953, be it on buses, lavatories, the parks or on the beaches. So like the other Bantus, Kingsley used the ‘blacks only’ lift. That was the law.

When the cage reached Level 3 they split into three groups, gangs of ten, one group for each of the three chambers now being mined: So there were nine other blacks working along with him in Chamber 32, as well as Johaansen their Afrikaaner Gang Boss. He tried to recollect who the other nine had been.

Jomo Kumalo was one. Of course he was: Jomo had spoken to him going down in the cage. Could Kingsley wait for repayment of the loan he had made Jomo? It was more than two weeks since he lent him 3 rand. The loan had been so Jomo could pay for a consultation with the Shaman, the witchdoctor – and although it was supposed to be just for a few days it hadn’t yet been repaid.

Jomo believed in witchdoctors – that this one could make a cure for his sick wife. Grabbing Kingsley’s arm as the cage descended, Jomo had asked for time to pay. He promised Kingsley he would get his money – but not this month now. Could Kingsley wait? 

Of witchdoctors Kingsley didn’t approve – but if Jomo believed in them and he believed his wife could be cured then that was a matter for him. Anyway it wasn’t a loan from Kingsley; it was a loan made by God, using Kingsley as his instrument. Yes, of course it could wait. Hadn’t the Good Lord’s only son told them how the dishonest steward was saved by compassion, his tolerance and his understanding of the poor?

Where was Jomo now, he thought?

“Jomo?” Kingsley calls. “Jomo! You there, man?”

There was silence.

Then he remembered that Timmi McOobo was another who had been on the shift. It was to Timmi’s wife, Granni McOobo, that Kingsley owed so much. When he was down the mine it was Granni who had looked after the baby Anulka in the early years; and, as Anulka grew up, his daughter and Granni had formed a bond of friendship.

Timmi McOobo was a real krimpie, an old man – far too old to be working down the mine. But in the mines there was work, and for that work there were wages. Every black needed wages. And anyway, if you didn’t have work, the blackjacks, the Peri-Urban police, would take you and throw you into prison – they could throw you into prison for that and many other things. These were the injustices that the activists, blacks mainly but also some enlightened whites, were fighting against.

It was Timmi’s son, Piet, who had fathered Anulka’s child who, as soon as she had told him that she was expecting his baby, had disappeared.

Piet had a habit of disappearing. Sometimes he would not be seen in the community for several days – and whilst he was away nobody was surprised to learn about some massive explosion at an important installation somewhere in the suburbs of Johannesburg, or of policemen being shot to ribbons in some roadside ambush. Then Piet would mysteriously appear again; and Kingsley knew that one of the reasons Timmi kept working down the mine was to provide a ready source of explosives for his son and the other guerrillas in his band.

“McOobo!  Can you hear me McOobo?”

“Anyone? Johaanson, baas?”

He listened again. There was only silence.

Reluctantly he concluded that all of the others who had been with him in Chamber 32 were dead.

And the chambers on either side? Depending on where the collapse had been, one or both could also be cut off. After a few more moments to pull himself together he would see if he couldn’t fix up his lamp and investigate.  He would crawl on his knees if he couldn’t manage it on his feet; but he needed to find out where and how severely his passage to freedom was obstructed.

Wondering what time it now was, the black man brought the back of his hand close up to his face. Kingsley owned a watch. It was precious, his most prized possession. It was literally prized for, many years ago, no less a person than the Bishop of Johannesburg presented it to him for being the top pupil in Bible Studies at the Mission School – the same school where Anulka now helped.  Often, when things were difficult, he had come close to selling the watch to pay the rent or for some other domestic commodity. But as it had been given to him by the Bishop himself, selling it seemed a shameful thing to do. So he still had it – that even after, one Friday, some Tsotsi gangsters tried to rob him of his wages and snatch the watch. They were thwarted only because Piet Kumalo and his friends were close by and had rushed the Tsotsis, brandishing machetes with such ferocity that, even though the gangsters had a pistol, they had run away.

Battered after all those years the watch may be but it still kept good time. And the small light it gave if you pressed on the winder still worked too, so that he should be able to see what time it was. 

The black hand of a black man in a black, black cave held the watch close up to his face, pressing on the winder to light up the dial.

He couldn’t see it. 

He rubbed his eyes to be sure. No, he couldn’t see the light and he couldn’t see the watch. And perhaps there were still lights in the chamber too but he couldn’t see them either? Could his lantern still be working, only he was unable to see the light from it?

Slowly the truth dawned on Kingsley: The explosion in the Ochatingi copper mine had cost him his sight. Now he couldn’t see anything at all.

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Jorre wrote 71 days ago

Gripping and smacks of authenticity, find the cuffing and stuff tad overdone, but then again, I speak as a South African so can be I am a bit sensitive. :) Lamentable but such is the common perceptive. Certainly the premise is good and I will be reading more.
THE BLAME GAME

Margaret Holly wrote 92 days ago

Read the first two chapters and will certainly be returning for more. Some lovely, evocative writing - "the black hand of a black man in a black, black cave" gave me a real feeling of claustrophobia. I like the way my impression of Steiger's and Kingsley's characters changed as I discovered that Steiger was overweight and Kingsley wasn't quite as certain of his religion as he initially appeared to be. (Is vodoo an African religion?) Neither was Kingsley the wise old black man I was expecting. He turns out to be an activist and a killer, however reluctant. I look forward to seeing how this develops and think the book is likely to find a place on my bookshelf when there's a vacancy.

Good luck with it!

Margaret

Eftborin wrote 358 days ago

HFRG

Hi
found myself struggling through the first chapter. I had to re-read paras because of so many typos a n repeated words in sentences ('he's'). I began to note suggestions but stopped. for example: Why 'When, 1985,..etc' simply write 'When the Ochatingi Copper mine exploded in 1985,...etc'
Then after '...knew three things.' You write 'The first was that...'
'The second was that...'
'And the third was that...'
I suggest; 'Firstly, he remained barely alive; secondly. his position was precarious; so much so that a betting man (no need) ...etc; thirdly, although...etc'
I feel you have much work to do yet. Believe me, it will be worth reading through; you will realise my point of view.
Pat

Seringapatam wrote 368 days ago

Although this is not my bag, I thought I would read it. I am looking for books on Authonomy that I wouldnt normally read and this obviously fits the bill. its a good idea for a story and I think you tell it well. It also stretches across a number of genres too. Nice hooks throughout with a good pace to the book. You describe well in the book and keep the reader wanting more. I think this could do very well. Good luck.
Sean Connolly. British Army on the Rampage. (B.A..O.R) Please consider me for a read or watch list wont you?? Many thanks. Sean

donkeyjacket wrote 382 days ago

I found the early chapters had too much backstory - this needs to be paid out slowly as it impacts on the story



Thank you, Frances, for that and for taking the trouble to comment. When the dust has settled from blood andd bullets and packing cases and paint pots (we have just moved home) I will return the read and apply my mind again to 'The Mine.'.

You are by far from the first to have commented on the backstory; and I am going to have to give that serious thought. My difficulty is that I am trying to acheive a story set against an historical, political background. Yes, spread it out may well be the answer.

AJB

donkeyjacket wrote 382 days ago

I found the early chapters had too much backstory - this needs to be paid out slowly as it impacts on the story



Thank you, Frances, for that and for taking the trouble to comment. When the dust has settled from blood andd bullets and packing cases and paint pots (we have just moved home) I will return the read and apply my mind again to 'The Mine.'.

You are by far from the first to have commented on the backstory; and I am going to have to give that serious thought. My difficulty is that I am trying to acheive a story set against an historical, political background. Yes, spread it out may well be the answer.

AJB

FrancesK wrote 385 days ago

It's rare to find a novel set in South Africa, even rarer one that deals with mines. I enjoyed this book, though with the benefit of hindsight, now that apartheid is finished and South Africa is a democracy, it's less unsettling and uncomfortable than it should be. Your characters are drawn with warmth and understanding, but I found the early chapters had too much backstory - this needs to be paid out slowly as it impacts on the plot. The landscape, lifestyles and politics of the 1980s are well evoked. Beware of using cliched similes. Thank you for this human story.

Mooderino wrote 460 days ago

I found this an interesting premise. The pragmatic, does what needs to be done, white guy, and the spiritual, god-loving black man both stuck in a horrible situation.

I think there was maybe a little too much exposition and backstory in the first couple of chapters. Don’s assessment of the situation is all fine, but whenever he thinks back to how he got there or what life is like in South Africa in general it tends to lose any momentum you’ve managed to get going. There isn’t too much of that so it’s okay, but it is noticeable.

It’s far more noticeable in Kingsley’s first chapter. There’s a lot of explaining of his life, both in family terms and political terms. And a lot of names. Far too many to keep up with.

I appreciate that to give the story some grounding you need to give an idea of what kind of life these people live, but throwing dozens of names at the reader is not a very effective way to do it since after the first few none of them stick. I would suggest you need to be more selective and focus on the situation more than the backstory early on.

Not that I’m against backstory—I find stories that just leap into the fray shallow and confusing—but I think you’ve gone a bit too far in the other direction. And it’s especially something to be wary of right at the start of the story when you’re trying to draw the reader in.

When you do focus on the accident the writing is very strong and vivid. Once you get to what’s going on up on the surface the momentum picks up again and it moves along very well.

Patty Apostolides wrote 469 days ago

The Mine -
Historical Review Chapters 1-3

This is a powerful story from the very beginning. It starts with a lovely poem that almost feels surreal, because it is so beautiful and so different from the horrific mining incident that follows. Although 1985 isn't quite a historical time period for me, the story feels like it's timeless. The conflict between man and nature, and man's survival is very strong in these first three chapters.

Inside a mine, where blacks and whites are working, an explosion occurs, and unleashes a destructive force that kills several people. We get a glimpse of two survivors and their thoughts, as they struggle in the aftermath and darkness. One is white, and the other is black, blinded by the incident. The "boss" is outside with 200 other people, waiting to find out the news. He descends inside, only to find out the damage and carnage was great. He barely escapes as another explosion occurs, leaving five volunteers behind who did not live through the explosion.

The tension and emotional investment is immense as we identify with the survivors, and see their hopes, fears, and dreams.

Suggestions/Nitpicks:
I don't see hope around the bend, hope that buffers the shock of death, at least not for several chapters, something that would keep me turning the pages. I can only guess that from this disaster something good will come?

Highly starred and will keep on my WL for future reading.

Best,
Patty
The Greek Maiden and the English Lord

rikasworld wrote 522 days ago

I enjoyed reading this a lot and will try and get back to read on just for pleasure.
I like the character development and your writing style very much. I wasn't really criting I'm afraid but I did notice one typo at the end of Ch. 9 . You've written 'have' instead of 'hate'. Freudian slip I should think as the previous paras were about rape.
High stars

carol jefferies wrote 533 days ago

What a great start 'The Mine' is. I read the first four chapters, and it made me thirst for more.

Your writing makes compelling reading, and the characters, Steiger, as a tough, brutal white man, and Kingsley, a far more compassionate, black man are both very convincing, as is the setting. I especially liked the idea of Kingsley being blinded by the accident in the mine. ( I just hope he doesn't miraculously have his sight restored later.)

However, I would have liked your story to have been written in the present tense rather than the past.

Some of your writing could be reworked to improve the flow. Try and replace passive words like, 'that,' 'begins,' 'of the,' 'turned', 'some of the', 'was' and 'were.' I know because I have just done this to my work and it reads a lot better.

Best Wishes,

Carol

Abby Vandiver wrote 534 days ago

The writing is good and the story interesting enough. It was able to hold my attention and made me want ti read more. You seem to like semi colons. Gramatically they are used used differently than you use them here. I was somewhat confused on the flashback to the cause of the explosion but once I got it it read very well.

Good job.

Abby

Andrea Taylor wrote 536 days ago

Brilliant. Had me breathlessly reading. And this is not a subject that would normally catch my attention, so that says it all. Think this will get published, too.

donkeyjacket wrote 553 days ago

D/

In the words of Chas, in Cat Ballou, 'You are an absolute sweet little sugar plum - and, one day, somebody is going to come along and eat you up...' (A slightly o.t.t .way of saying thanks - but thanks.)

Looking forward to Leo & Rover.

AJB

Di Manzara wrote 553 days ago

HI AJ,

This to me looks terrific. The title and pitches are good, well-written. I've WL this for now. I'll come back soon to read it.

It's me,
D
LEO & ROVER: THE PURPLE MARBLE ADVENTURE

donkeyjacket wrote 597 days ago

Mick/

Thanks for that. The typos all done and dusted; and I will give careful consideration to your other comments. Showing, not telling, is a particular bete noir of mine: First, I think that the principle is greatly overstated; secondly, a soliloquy apart, it is really rather difficult for one character in one chamber to have much of a conversation with anyone; and thirdly, you can 'tell' in a single paragraph what has to take several pages to show - and the story already runs to 100,000 words as it is. 'Them' referrs to the mining community at large, which I had hoped would be obvious; and many Christians, black and white, presumably because they were Christians, fought against Apartheid - so, on those points, I stick to my guns: But grateful, none-the-less for your input.

AJB

mick hanson wrote 597 days ago

Using a mine disaster in the initial introduction of your characters is really quite unique. I think what seems to have happened with your writing is that these opening chapters are totally dominated by the narrator. In the first chapter it is at times difficult to differentiate between the narrator and the white foreman, because they seem to use the same language/accent as in "bladdy." "picaninni" and one or two other instances that have racial overtones. I think it would have read better if you'd have used the spoken word instead, thus showing the reader rather than telling. At one point you also seemed to switch to plural tense? "... water dripped down on "them" from the rock canopy above "them" ..." whereas before it had been "him" - also the dreaded typos that need to be pointed out I guess. "They didn't need (a) brain ..." chapter two "... unable (to) see the light..."in addition you've missed out a number of letters from some words so that, "that" becomes "tat" etc

Then you come to the black man in the second chapter, who for some reason is in chamber 32 whereas the white guy is in chamber 33? (are they connected?) The narrator's voice then changed and it seemed at times that I was reading something from Uncle Tom's Cabin, with regards to his religion, his sexual encounters, and his life-style. Also if he his a freeedom-fighter would he have the religion of the white man his oppressor, after all Christianity was taught to the African wasn't it?

The sense I got from the second chapter seems to place the narrator in the position of uncertainty. After all it is a white man writing about a black man. The thought did cross my mind that if you were black would you have written about a black man in this fashion? I know that you are laying the foundations for what is to come later, but I was hoping you would show the reader, rather then tell them. I think there needs to be more of a balance in order for the story to have greater impact.

This is set in a very crucial period in South African history, when the world waited. It is the time of Nelson Mandela and the ANC, where protesters were gunned down in the streets of Soweto and political tensions were at breaking point. I wish you well with this book, it is a very big story to tell, but feel you should let the characters take over and let them develop. Regards Mick "It Was a Kind of Cold, Grey Morning"

philip john wrote 597 days ago

I have dipped into this at random, partly because I do not have time to read every word but also because I like to see if the style and momentum of a book are maintained. So many people start a story well and then lose their way very quickly. But not you. This is very good stuff. Crisply written and drawing the reader along at just the right speed. Well done!

Philip John

Jacqueline Malcolm wrote 621 days ago

Hey AJ - I read the first two chapters. Firstly, I love the topic - south africa and the apartied will also be a point of interest to me so I was already sold on the story line. For chapter I enjoyed the feeling of the solitude that Don Steiger was experiencing once the blast had happened and his 'tough' character really came through very effectively in the descriptions. I thought you used the quietness following the blast really well in both characters as an opportunity to offer the readers some background information on both characters before it was time for them to meet. Your style of writing is very clean - beautiful afrikans underlying rhythm - very enjoyable and very well written. congrats :)

Andrew Esposito wrote 624 days ago

I found the The Mine to be a captivating read. The primary character, Don Steiger, appears via good description in the first few chapters. I liked his tough boxer background and his enormous size being humbled by his horrific leg injury due to the Ochatingi Mine collapse. The enormity of the Mine incident and the urgency of the rescue is captured well both above and below the surface.

Mike Cameron is another strong character that is embroiled in the world of apathied and segregation. I found the constant use of 'Kaffir' a bit disconcerting - although I trust that it is in keeping with the time setting of the novel.

Kingsley Longfellow is an interesting character, I like the cliff hangers at the end of each chapter, and Kingsley becoming blind was a good incentive to read on. The narrative is well written, analogies such as 'a dentist in hell' was both vivid and entertaining. AJB, I think you have crafted a good novel and expect The Mine to be popular on authonomy. I'm glad I found it and I've rated it high stars. best regards, Andrew Esposito / Killing Paradise

Marva G wrote 626 days ago

I read one and bit chapters - only time stopped me from reading on. Great writing style - wonderful descriptions, at one point I had to remind myself to breathe as the dust was only on the page! You also showed your skill at capturing different rhythms for the two main characters. High rating and watchlisted without trepidation.

R. Dango wrote 642 days ago

Very interesting story with a capturing opening of a mine scene. And, yes, a beautiful and heart breaking poem.
The story reminded me of the Apartheit days of South Africa (from what I knew from the medias), and the dark and risky atmosphere of a mine at the same time. It is especially interesting because we hear about mine accidents a lot these days. I will come back and read more.

r
The Forest of Vulcanus

writingbear wrote 662 days ago

A.J.,

I had to back your book. Very good! If you could take a look at my novel, DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS, your help will be appreciated. Good luck and happy writing.

Dwain-Thomas

Wanttobeawriter wrote 679 days ago

THE MINE
This is a story with a dramatic beginning: a cave-in at a South African mine. Steiger is a sympathetic character when he is first introduced but the more he describes himself I found him less likable than I thought he was going to be. I suspect he’s a character a reader has to grow into. Kingsley, in contrast, I found likable and sympathetic from the start; imagine what it would feel like to not only be trapped underground but be blind as well. I’m a little claustrophobic so either one of those things sends shivers up my spine. You’ve created a great setting for this story; and it’s clear from the start: this is not a story about two men trapped in a mine. It’s about the odd way we categorize people or choose our friends based on insignificant details. Highly starred and added to my shelf. Get busy spamming and asking for reads so this moves up the pile. It’s too good to get lost in the slushpile here. Wanttobeawriter: Who Killed the President?

Tarzan For Real wrote 681 days ago

Compelling characters, vivid account of the mine explosion, and a theme that still echoes loudly to many. I am a fan of this realistic writing. A few grammatical errors but in no way detract from this powerful story.

I agree on the voodoo reference and the research for South Africa needs a little work. Hammer out those minor details and this will roar even louder.

I'll get this on the watchlist when I get some space.--JL "The Devil Of Black Bayou

Camac wrote 689 days ago

AJ - I was living in Jo'burg in 1985, although not employed in the mining industry, so your story was one I particularly looked forward to reading. It doesn't disappoint - it's high-quality writing. The characters are well-drawn, as are the scenes both below and above ground.

I've read the first four chapters and made some notes:
In your pitch you write 'Apartheid is rife'. That is like classing it as something akin to famine or disease.
Bantu was an almost obsolete term in 1985.
Voodoo is not a word used in South Africa. SA blacks consult Sangomas or Nyangas when wishing to contact the spiritual world.
Machetes are known as Pangas in Southern Africa.
Slim Schmidt, presumably a white man, would not have called Cameron 'Baas'.
In ch 4 the continuous use of derogatory terms by Steiger towards Kingsley seems over the top given that we already know his feelings towards Africans. In his present situation surely he has more pressing needs.

I'll return to read more. High stars and I'll be looking to back it when space is available.

Camac Johnson
Hemingway Quest (I'd welcome your comments!)


Cariad wrote 690 days ago

Saw this recommended on the forum and came to have a look. The issue of aparteid will always be one - blatant or not, I think, sadly. Your book will therefore always have something to address. I don't have much to say really - no obvious typos or bits where I got confused or whatever - just a fairly seamless read - the story sucked me in really quickly. Like your characters - something likeable about the white guy - a product of his time and circumstances more than an out and out racist - a human character, and the black guy also. Both seemed to be fully rounded, believable people even in a small space of writing, and the images of the church and the mine also well drawn. I shall give you some stars and keep reading, and definitely a shelf space when one comes free.
Cariad.

donkeyjacket wrote 704 days ago

God bless you, Lady! I wish I was enjoying writing it just now - but we all have bad days. Helped by your kind comments, I shall pick myself up, dust myself down, tear up my last chapter - and start over!
thanks,

AJB

Sharda D wrote 705 days ago

Hi AJ
a return read for your kind support of Mr Unusually's Circus of Dreams. Thanks again for that.

This is wonderful. A gripping situation, some wonderfully well-judged writing, two interesting and contrasting characters set against the backdrop of a country trying to hang on to an abhorrent political regime. Don't think you could write a better premise.
The execution is wonderful too. There is some powerful description - the pool of dark blood, dismembered limbs etc. Each character's voice and POV comes in through the narration seamlessly.
I am seriously impressed by this.
6 stars for now and a future place on my shelf.
All the best,
Sharda.

Karamak wrote 707 days ago

I enjoyed this book, you hooked me from the start and with the blacks did what he bladdy told them I got the feel of the narrative straight away, a bold choice to write about but I like to be contraversal so why not? High stars Karen Faking it in France.

donkeyjacket wrote 723 days ago

Thanks, tons. You know, if it's not going to provoke debate, evoke memories or raise a few eyebrows, I can't see it's worth writing. What astounds me is that it is doing so much better than my first, 'So Sour the Grape'. Maybe your first book is like your first love – you never forget it; but, to me, that one says so much more than this one ever will.

Missus' birthday tomorrow - nobody likes hitting certain numbers, but after we've all jollied each other along and ended up on Alka Seltzers, 'Inside Dead', I promise, will receive my undivided attention (unless it happens to be fine enough to play golf – when it will be the day after.)

AJB

patio wrote 723 days ago

you are brave to take on provocative subject. but i like that

Kenneth Edward Lim wrote 723 days ago

A.J.,
Your book starts out with a mining accident and expands from there, the threads spanning outward, connecting with relevant scenes, backstory and characters. Don and Kingsley are sympathetic players one can only cheer on as they face overwhelming odds. Your pacing is brisk even as you touch on the historical and political reasons for the events taking place. Thanks for the intriguing read.

Kenneth Edward Lim
The North Korean

Kenneth Edward Lim wrote 723 days ago

A.J.,
Your book starts out with a mining accident and expands from there, the threads spanning outward, connecting with relevant scenes, backstory and characters. Don and Kingsley are sympathetic players one can only cheer on as they face overwhelming odds. Your pacing is brisk even as you touch on the historical and political reasons for the events taking place. Thanks for the intri8guing read.

Kenneth Edward Lim
The North Korean

fledglingowl wrote 725 days ago

A.J.,
You've really started with a bang. Clean, powerful writing. Such a great man's story. Like Steiger, love the truthfulness in your writing, your not trying to be politically correct. A period piece only reflects real history if it is told in the language and social awareness of its time. Hope you get away with it when you are published.
Caught a couple of little errors. Listing them only because I can never find my own and love when people point them out for me. If they annoy you, ignore them.
or had it came from above -- come from
He knew he had lost ... but he didn't how many -- didn't know how many.
The limited light it gave enabled to see --- enabled him to see
Really, that's all I saw. The writing is good, the flow and intensity great. High stars. Keeping you watchlisted until I can read more.
Good luck on your writing,
Janet
The Milche Bride
Clarissa's Kitchen

fledglingowl wrote 725 days ago

A.J.,
You've really started with a bang. Clean, powerful writing. Such a great man's story. Like Steiger, love the truthfulness in your writing, your not trying to be politically correct. A period piece only reflects real history if it is told in the language and social awareness of its time. Hope you get away with it when you are published.
Caught a couple of little errors. Listing them only because I can never find my own and love when people point them out for me. If they annoy you, ignore them.
or had it came from above -- come from
He knew he had lost ... but he didn't how many -- didn't know how many.
The limited light it gave enabled to see --- enabled him to see
Really, that's all I saw. The writing is good, the flow and intensity great. High stars. Keeping you watchlisted until I can read more.
Good luck on your writing,
Janet
The Milche Bride
Clarissa's Kitchen

fledglingowl wrote 725 days ago

A.J.,
You've really started with a bang. Clean, powerful writing. Such a great man's story. Like Steiger, love the truthfulness in your writing, your not trying to be politically correct. A period piece only reflects real history if it is told in the language and social awareness of its time. Hope you get away with it when you are published.
Caught a couple of little errors. Listing them only because I can never find my own and love when people point them out for me. If they annoy you, ignore them.
or had it came from above -- come from
He knew he had lost ... but he didn't how many -- didn't know how many.
The limited light it gave enabled to see --- enabled him to see
Really, that's all I saw. The writing is good, the flow and intensity great. High stars. Keeping you watchlisted until I can read more.
Good luck on your writing,
Janet
The Milche Bride
Clarissa's Kitchen

Jojober wrote 733 days ago

you have captivated the peoples minds by your vivid narrations.keep it up.sure to back you after reading.
all.
JK

uncas wrote 746 days ago

This is a very interesting book indeed. It creates a sense of presence in a way that is both colourful and realistic. I like the down to Earth writing style and the subject matter, while perhaps already understood by many, is brought to life in a way that will be revealing to many more. Well done AJB - this is a notch or two above average and deserves to do well. I wish you all the very best with it.
Regards,
Uncas

Su Dan wrote 756 days ago

good subject and setting...good solid writing style that brings your book to life///
l will back...
read SEASONS...

donkeyjacket wrote 817 days ago

Jane/

You are too kind - and that came when confidence was at an all-time low and self-doubt ruled, OK.

Political Correctness? I have often wondered about that - and have hitherto concluded that, today, anything goes. Perhaps it might be more accurate to say that today, whilst one (and count me out) may be as lewd, licentious and sexually explicit as one wishes, with politically correctness, step one inch over the line and one will pay the price. Two unfortunate remarks by Jeremy Clarkson when on the One Show bear me out: The one about suicides in front of tube trains impeding his journey home; and the other about shooting striking civil servants in the street in front of their families. Interesting, the furore that the latter caused, even if on no account could it be taken literally - whilst the former, really offensive and insensitive in my opinion, went almost totally unchallenged.

I try not to do the sexually implicit (unless I am being inane) but I have, hitherto, tried to tell the story as it was. Maybe I am going to have to think about that harder.

Thank you, anyway.

AJB

jlbwye wrote 818 days ago

The Mine. Your pitches promise an interesting story, which covers the problem of race in Africa in a different manner from what I have attempted, and I am intrigued.
I make notes as I read, but dont pretend to be an expert.

Ch.1. Well written and well crafted. I am impatient to discover what happens next, but interested in the mining details you provide, and the introduction to the MC's background and character is skilfully done.

Ch.2. A small nit: you repeat 'switch' in the 4th paragraph, and 'almost' is a word best left out. In fact, if you deleted 'almost immediately' I think you'd agree the sentence would be tighter.
The contrast between God-fearing Kingsley and Don the epitomy of apartheid is authentically portrayed. In reality, of course, the difference would have been much more pronounced and all sorts of forbidden words used. I commend your skill in achieving your aim with offence for modern readers. It is not an easy path to tread.
I dont think you need to tell the reader he experienced a moment of considerable fear. You show it well enough. And would it be better just to say that lying still, Kingsley gave thanks...?
Again, I admire your technique in introducing Kingsley's back story as thought-wanderings as he comes to grip with his dire situation. So natural.

Ch.3. Another scene, and more characters are introduced in a way which is easy for the reader to follow without confusion. Masterfully done.
But with the sensitivity of modern readers in mind, you might have to think of alternative ways of referring to 'blacks', and 'whites', 'kaffirs' etc.etc. I know in those days the words were bandied about freely... but in my quest for a publisher for Breath of Africa, I've had to be so careful - and I still havent found one!

I can see you're an accomplished writer. Your work needs some refining, but we all have to do that. You know how to develope characters, and a plot. But I wonder about the publishability of your book in its present state. The language is authentic, but I question whether the world is ready yet (or will ever be ready) to be exposed to it.

Multi-starred for quality and courage!
Jane.

Pam B wrote 855 days ago

It's so refreshing to read a well written story especially just after reading one that wasn't!

However, I haven't read much as the subject matter & genre are not ones I would normally read. Having said that I think your opening is excellent, as it draws the reader into the story whilst making the lead character someone who is interesting, that is with the potential to change or develop either for good or bad.

I would appreciate a return read with constructive criticism, if I get the time I will be back to read more; as it is I have given yours a rating well deserved, of 4 stars.

Best Wishes
Pam Balsdon
The King's Blessing

a.morrison712 wrote 856 days ago

THE MINE

As I tell everyone, take what rings true and pitch any advice you think is bad. Only you know what is best for the story. I’m also not too great at grammar, so I’ll steer clear of that for the most part. Below are my comments:

CH 1

Okay you throw us right into the action. We find ourselves in a predicament with your MC. Trapped in the mine. No working our way up, here we are right smack-dab in the middle of the good stuff. I like your style already. Dropping us in the middle of the action.

You say “over seeing the black fellers...” This makes me wonder what time period this is in? Still early in the story, but I’ll be looking for hints why your MC would use this word choice.

I like the description of “durra” being the sound of the drill.

Nice hook at the end with the realization that he is also deaf. You just added another layer to the story and I see a ton of potential about where this can go. I’m going to say I was pleasantly surprised by this first chapter, at certain points I found myself just reading to read, and forgetting to crit. I’ll admit, I saw you were a lawyer and thought the prose might be a little dry or lack emotion. I’m happy to find that this is not the case!


CH 8

I think I would resonate with the line, “I think that’s when I became a bit of a monster...” If it would be changed to, “That’s when I became a monster.” It reads stronger and leaves the reader with more of an impact. This was a really nice paragraph though. I’m empathizing with the MC.

I do have one question. You mentioned that your MC finds Kingsley in the mine, blind, etc from an explosion. I’m naturally wondering how long Kingsley has been down there, how a blind man has been able to survive for so long, etc. I’m sure these are things that you will resolve but I just wanted to point them out that they should be addressed ASAP, so that the reader/publishers/agents aren’t thinking that this isn’t believable.

“...same journey to heaven or hell” stopped me in my tracks. I love that line! Kingsley is really an interesting character and I like him already. There is something endearing about him. Good job with his characterization.

I’m assuming you may be from England? I see a statement here that has a totally different meaning in the U.S., than what I think you are trying to convey. “That, Kingsley, is why I hate fucking blacks.” Just take a look at that, if you are from the States you’ll see what that means by reading it over. The word, “fucking and hate” need to be flip-flopped to make this mean that your MC just REALLY hates blacks, otherwise it means something else, I think you can figure it out.

Anyways, I think this has A LOT of potential. There is suspense, drama, nice flashbacks, characters that have depth and real emotion. You get six stars from me. My one MAJOR crit is I don’t think your short pitch is doing your book justice and that it could attract more readers. Especially if it was just something along the lines of letting us know a man is trapped in a mine. In my mind, simpler is MUCH better for the short pitch. Good luck with this!

donkeyjacket wrote 911 days ago

Thanks - pissing it is!
AJB

micksands wrote 911 days ago

Great first chapter. It pulled me right in. My only comment is that I can't imagine a big, rough bloke like Steiger saying 'peeing'. Surely it would be 'pissing'? Looking forward to reading more.

Best,
Mick

Nightdream wrote 949 days ago

The poetic words in the beginning was a nice read. It sounded great reading and coming off my tongue. The beginning of YOUR story was good. I like how you stated the three things that Don knew: nearly dead, nearly dead (no man would bet on his survivle), and nearly dead (his leg was pretty much gone). I was thinking: Was he stuck beneath some rubble? Was he buried underneath the remains of the mine explosion? All this was great because it makes me want to read on (even though its only the first couple of paragraphs LOL but I find small things like this a good pull further on the slingshot).

GREAT intro. Starting with a bang I say. Your writing flows in a way that makes the read double it's normal speed. I'm not a fast reader but I felt like I was with your first chapter. I love Don, he's easy to relate too, I felt for him through all of this especially when he went deaf. That was definitely a good spot to finish the chapter with. 6 stars for the flow, story, and Don Steiger. Though he was 52 years old he reminded me of who I am. I just changed my entire shelf so I can't add you now. But hopefully in the future I will get you up there.

Your writing is actually really good and like I said you are a funny guy.

I don't know about using Steiger in your narration. I think it be better to just use Don.

strachan gordon wrote 954 days ago

An interesting account of an era which is not very well known in England in terms of the way people actually lived in Soutrh Africa , the Apartheid system was easy to understand as a principle , but hard to really understand how it actually translated into every day life. The mine with its structural faults could be a metaphor for the system I don't know if that was your intention . Clear , incisive and very well-written . watchlisted and starred . I wonder if you would be able to look at the first chapter of my novel 'A Buccaneer' set amongst Pirates in the 17th century ,with best wishes from Strachan Gordon

Walden Carrington wrote 969 days ago

As the author of historical fiction, I can appreciate the research that went into this account. The problem of Apartheid in South Africa is complex and this is a fabulous way of educating the public about it. The dramatic story of a mining catastrophe with the historical flashbacks illuminates problems that have been going on for years which are rooted in deep-seated racism. THE MINE gets six stars for this brave approach to bringing to light a troubling situation of concern to people around the world.

Walden Carrington
Titanic: Rose Dawson's Story

RossBrodie wrote 973 days ago

I really like the idea of the white and black man trapped within a mine. The physical incarceration at the beginning paves the way for the ideological restrictions and prohibitions that place this story, which from the contractors of apartheid and repression, stand upon a drama, upon a well born stage of turmoil and terror. I have made a cursory browse through up to chapter 12, seems to be an epic journey. Actually liked the inclusion of police inspectors and the back story of the boxer which, through the physicality and the race relations, contributes towards this massive fictional, quasi fictional essay and critique of race relations. I wonder what your thought when you saw blood diamond at the cinema or on DVD? As perhaps this too has a similar engaging drama with respect to the white and black characters having to co-operate but at the same time been at odds with each other. I think to write a book like this would require extreme concentration and very very keen faculties of the mind, a concentrated sense of perspectives and history. I could never accomplish such a thing myself!

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