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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tags

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

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11

 

McOobo wasn’t the only one blinded by bright light. It was mid-afternoon when Steiger pulled himself out from the hole where the river came to the surface, above Hadeles. Removing the helmet and lamp he had taken from Kingsley he collapsed into the first bushy clump of veldt grass he could find, blinking in the sunlight. For the first time in two, three days – he didn’t know quite how many – he felt the heat of a relentless sun beating down on him.

Since leaving Kingsley, he had taken another four hours to get out into the open. He was exhausted but he knew that he couldn’t rest long. Kingsley was back in the mine and was badly injured. He had to get help for him – but where to begin?

He shaded his eyes against the sun’s glare and, looking around, he saw that Kingsley had been right: The river came out at the bottom of the hill – although not exactly at Hadeles, which lay a good mile further down. He could see the village, a mud wall encompassing huts built of mud and dung, all roofed over with grasses or reads. The huts were clustered around an open space that had to be the village meeting place; and beside it, in a corral, goats were penned. Children, splashes of red and white against the glare of the sun were leading their Xhosa cattle out of the village and into the veldt to graze or to water at the shallow trickle that the river had now become.

There was still more than a mile to cover: What sort of reception would he get when he reached the village? He didn’t think they would eat him – but they might not like a Boer crawling into their midst.

These people were, he guessed, itinerant Xhosa herdsmen who had migrated west, following their cattle to the grasslands around Ochatingi. The local Venda people had accepted them without there being too much squabbling. He had no idea what Kingsley’s tribal roots were – but a black man was a black man: surely it wouldn’t be difficult to persuade people of another tribe to help one of their fellows in trouble? 

He wondered if they knew that the river led back into the very heart of the mine. He doubted it: Xhosas were highly superstitious people. To them the black hole in the side of the mountain out of which he had crawled would be sinister: It represented the unknown – and of the unknown they had a deep mistrust. 

But he could bet that there were plenty of blacks who did know about it! Now he had a pretty good idea where the explosives of which the terrorists had such a bountiful supply were coming from – and he was certain that was why Kingsley knew so much about the route, too.

But, back in the mine, the blind man was injured and he had to get help quickly.

Kingsley had warned him that the last fall was the big one; and they had found that out to their cost. As usual Steiger had crawled to the edge to look over the drop; and had noticed how faint the beam from his lantern had become. Its battery had to be nearly exhausted.  But Kingsley’s lamp had been turned off all the while, so the battery on it should still be pretty good. Kingsley readily agreed that they should swap: Good battery or bad battery, a lamp was no use to a man who was blind.

It was as he took his own helmet off that he felt his bad leg slip away from under him; and the next thing he knew was that the torrent was sweeping him over the ledge.

“Ahweeh!” It was a long drawn out yell that he made – but then it seemed to be a long drawn out descent. He was falling head down, trying right himself so that he hit the water feet first. Still upside down, he remembered trying to shout a warning to Kingsley, but he hit the water before the words could form.  He remembered hitting the water; and then, as he went under, presumably he hit rock – because after that he didn’t know anything.

**

When he came round he thought he was at the seaside. He found himself half out of the water, beached on shale, shallow water gently swirling around him. They were on an outer bend of the river; and, beside him, Kingsley was lying very still and groaning…

Kingsley had heard the yell and the splash. He couldn’t see anything; and, listening, he couldn’t hear anything either. The silence was ominous: He knew what had happened and he could imagine Steiger floating unconscious face down in the pool. There was nothing to do but follow; and he did just that. He rolled onto his stomach and let himself drop unchecked. Perhaps he should have heeded his own advice, tried to slow the gathering momentum as he went over the edge – but he was a black man in a hurry. 

Kingsley hit the surface and felt himself brushing against Steiger’s body as he went under. The pool wasn’t as deep as he had thought: His legs jarred against the bottom and he felt his spine concertina, buckling with the impact. He tried to kick off the riverbed and a spasm of pain shot up the length of his spine, spreading outward around the small of his back. Then his whole lower body went numb, all feeling from it lost from the waist downward.

When he surfaced there was no trace of Steiger. He thrashed about, feeling around for his friend. He realised that, whilst his arms were working properly, his legs were passive and wouldn’t obey him. Then that he felt the back of Steiger’s head and knew he had guessed right – Steiger was floating face down.

Kingsley needed both arms just to keep himself afloat. He wondered how he was going to get Steiger turned over before his lungs filled with water. He dedicated one hand to keeping hold of the unconscious man, paddling with the other. With the stream giving him his direction, he seemed to be making some progress; and the he sensed that his unfeeling legs were dragging over the bottom. He had made it shallow water and now he might be able to beach Steiger and turn him over – if he had the strength to do so. With his arms and the strength only of his upper body he rolled the white man onto his back.

**

When Steiger’s vision cleared, he was that Kingsley breathing was shallow and his eyes were closed. He was groaning; and Steiger saw him grimace, his body tensing as a spasm of pain seemed to overcome him

Levering himself onto his side, Steiger asked, “Kingsley? You alright, Man?”

It was a stupid question: He could see that Kingsley wasn’t alright. His eyes remained closed but Steiger saw his lips move; and he could just hear him saying, “You right, Don Steiger Baas? Me, I’m not so good. My legs don’t work. I did something bad when I hit the bottom.”

Steiger asked, “Can’t you sit up?”

Kingsley shook his head, running his hands down along his waist. “Something not working just here,” he said. “And my legs… I don’t feel anything from them.

Kingsley had broken his back. Steiger saw that blood was trickling from his lips; and, trying to wipe it away, he said: “If you think we’re nearly out of here then maybe I should go on ahead and see if I can get help?” Kingsley nodded; and Steiger, grabbing hold of his hand, said: “Okay, I’m going off to do that, Kingsley. You just hang on now, because I’m coming back…”

He didn’t know how long it would take him; and he wondered if he would find Kingsley alive when he got back. He said, “I can’t say how long I’ll be, Kingsley – but you hang on and lie still. Help is coming: of that I promise you.”

He let go of Kingsley’s hand and turned to crawl on alone.

**

It seemed an eternity before he had emerged into the sunlight. As soon as he had got his bearings he started to work his way down the slope towards the village. His broken leg felt as though it had been run over by an eight-wheeled truck that had then reversed and done it again.

When he was forced to stop for a brief rest, he tried to assess the distance still to be covered. He was tired and the village didn’t seem to be getting any closer.

The next time he stopped, he looked up and saw that he had crawled into the middle of a herd of cattle – big kindly looking Xhosa cattle staring at him with sad eyes and expressionless faces at the white man who had crawled into the middle of their timeless existence. Two herding boys found him just as dizziness was overcoming him. Shaking his head to clear it, he rolled onto his back and saw them – two lean shiny boys with red cotton shawls draped around their shoulders, their ebony faces and they looked impassively down on him. They bore their weight on their staves, stout poles that seemed to reach on up forever into a hot and cloudless sky. He wondered if he was near to delirium; and then he lost consciousness again

When he woke he appeared, without too much ceremony, to have been slung over the back of a donkey: His face was buried in the animal’s flank and he could feel the warmth of the beast’s flesh and smell the oil in the woollen blanket that had been placed under him. He was aware of the sway of its body as, led by the boys, it seemed to be making its sure-footed way down the track to the village.

They stopped in the village centre. From his upside down viewpoint he could see people clustering around him and chattering. There was much excitement and even more curiosity. He presumed they were speaking in Xhosa. He didn’t speak a word of Xhosa and he could only hope there was someone in the village who could understand English or Afrikaans.

They lifted him off the donkey and set him down gently at the foot of a baobab tree, where they peered at his broken leg and the protection that Kingsley had wrapped around it. The shirt that Kingsley had given up for him was black with mix of grime and blood, and they pointed at it and clucked in concern. When an old man came forward, he wondered if he was to be committed to the care of the tribal witchdoctor; but it transpired the man was there to translate.

Through the interpreter he told them that Kingsley was back up in the mine and it seemed that his back was broken. The interpreter translated directly to an even older man who had to be the headman. He was sitting on an upturned packing case switching at flies with a horsehair switch and listening to the herding boys, who seemed to be explaining how they had found him; and to translator’s translation of the account Steiger was giving.

The headman seemed to have made a decision. He stood up, addressing the crowd. He appeared to be issuing orders, because from nowhere four young men came forward. Their bodies were painted and they carried spears. Steiger could only assume that they were the hunters or the young warriors of the tribe. They listened attentively to the headman’s orders; and then they bowed and, turning away, with a whoop they set off across the veldt in the direction of the mine, running with the grace and speed of antelopes.

“Hey, wait!” Steiger called after them. “I’m coming too.”

The headman asked for a translation of that; and, when he heard it, he smiled, shaking his head as though Steiger was a nut. But he called for the donkey to be brought forward again and instructed the two herding boys to bunt him up on its back again. With the interpreter coming to interpret and the herding boys leading the donkey, they bumped their way back across the veldt, following the runners as best they could.

They didn’t catch up until they reached the hole where the river came out, where they found there was a problem. The four warriors circled the black hole, viewing it with suspicion, their spears pointing down towards it. They were reluctant to go any further. 

Steiger slid down off the pack animal and onto his sound leg. Then, trying to encourage them, he dropped onto all fours and crawled up to the hole. He recovered Kingsley’s helmet from where he had left it, switched it on and pointed the beam down into the hole: It shone down into the blackness with a power that was still pretty good.

“Tell them that I’ll go in ahead and give them light,” he told the interpreter.

Donning the helmet he crawled into the hole and looked back. No one followed. Returning to the entrance he asked the interpreter, “What is it that they’re so frightened of down there?”

“Evil spirits,” the interpreter said. He must have been in the village’s amateur dramatic society because with his arms he made a ridiculous play of wings flapping, holding his throat, sticking out his tongue grotesquely and rolling his eyes, like one demented.

“Ghosts? Who says there are ghosts in here?”

The interpreter pointed back up the hill. Was he trying to tell him that the rumours came from Ochatingi?

“Ochatingi?”

The interpreter nodded; and Steiger thought: Oh, clever activists! They wouldn’t want people poking around in this place, discovering the route used by them to take away the explosives. A few rumours that there were evil spirits here would keep these simple folk away.

“It’s just an underground tunnel through which the river flows,” he tried to assure them.

They weren’t going to buy that. They were not coming with him and that was that. Steiger’s contempt for Kaffirs was beginning to rise again: “Look, you stupid fuckers,” he shouted at them, “Don’t you understand that one of your own kind, a black, is stuck down there badly hurt and in pain?

“Aren’t any of you prepared to come with me? To help me to get him out? He’s one of your own people you know!

The interpreter interpreted, met by impassive faces and shuffling feet. Their heads were bowed and no one stepped forward. Even the donkey was looking ashamed.

“Well I’m going down even if you’re not,” he shouted at them. “Shall I tell you why?

“I’m going because that man down there saved my life, that’s why. If it wasn’t for him I’d be back in there, floating face down in water, dead; and that brave man would be the up here safe. That’s why I’m going.”

He glared at the interpreter. “And tell your headman that if these gutless bastards want to redeem themselves any then the least they can do is to run up to Ochatingi and get help.”

The interpreter interpreted and, shrugging, the men turned back towards the village, their movements a little more reluctant now. Steiger watched them go; and then he switched his lamp on and began the crawl back up the river.

Going up was slower than going down had been: It took the best part of an hour before he pulled himself over the last rocks and flopped down into the pool that had nearly drowned him and which had broken Kingsley’s back. His lantern picked up his friend’s form: He lying where he had left him and he looked in a bad way.

“I see you, Kingsley,” he said, pulling himself up close.

“I see you too, Don Steiger Baas – or should say I hear you.” Although he managed to smile the reply was weak.

“Help is coming, I promise. People are running to Ochatingi to get help. They won’t be long.”

The black man shook his head as if he knew that, for him, not long wasn’t going to be enough. He was weakening fast. Reaching out, he pulled Steiger’s hand towards him; and it was then that he said, “Anulka!

“Anulka? Your wife? You told me your wife was dead.” 

The black man both nodded and then he shook his head: Yes, his wife was dead; but, no, it wasn’t his wife he was talking about. With a struggle he managed to bring the palms of both hands together to indicate something small.

“A baby? A picaninni? Your daughter?”

Kingsley nodded again. “My daughter, Anulka, Don Steiger Baas,” he managed to say. “Who care for her now?” He looked at Steiger through blind eyes that seemed to be imploring.

This man had saved his life; and Steiger could only say softly, “Trust me, my friend. I promise you that I will make sure your daughter goes well.”

He knew Kingsley had heard him. Even as a smile came to his lips the trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth became a flow.

Talk to him!” Steiger told himself. “Talk to him, talk to him about anything but don’t let him have any time to be afraid.” 

 He said: “That was a great journey we did together, Kingsley, you and I. I was proud to do it with you alongside me. Without you I never could have managed, because you knew the secret of the river…

“How did you know that, Kingsley? Are you one of those who are with the activists?”

Kingsley tried to tap the side of his nose in that infuriating conspiratorial gesture he used. But he never made it: His hand dropped limp, his head rolled to one side and his breathing seemed to have stopped. Bending over, Steiger tried to listen for a heartbeat but he couldn’t hear it. He felt for a pulse but there was none; and he knew that Kingsley, still smiling, had gone to some other place. Just where he didn’t know. Was it to his Saviour or was it to some tribal ancestor of the black nation?

It didn’t matter – one thing was for sure: Kingsley would never have gone to hell. 

There was no one else down in the blackness of the mine to see that Steiger was crying as he closed shut the Bantu’s unseeing eyes.

Chapters

11

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Jorre wrote 73 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 94 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 360 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 370 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 384 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 384 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 387 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 462 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 471 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 524 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 535 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 536 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 538 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 556 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 556 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 599 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 599 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 600 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 623 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 626 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 628 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 644 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 664 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 681 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 683 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 691 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 692 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 706 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 707 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 709 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 725 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 725 days ago

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

Kenneth Edward Lim wrote 725 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 725 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 727 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 727 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 727 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 735 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 748 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 758 days ago

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

donkeyjacket wrote 819 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 820 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 857 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 858 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 913 days ago

Thanks - pissing it is!
AJB

micksands wrote 913 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 951 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 957 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 971 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 975 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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