Book Jacket

 

rank 626
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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32

 

Olivia Cameron regretted giving Charlie the possible link to Elizabeth through the hospital – at least then. Charlie’s erection had gone down like a deflated balloon. When he heard what she had to say, he leapt out of the shower like a cat on hot bricks.

Hurriedly drying himself down, he looked as if he was a man on a mission. Clothes that a few moments previously had been torn off and impatiently dropped onto the bathroom floor were thrown back on in a hurry.

She turned off the shower. “What’s up with you?”

“Sorry, I must go to the police station. I think you have just given me the best lead yet.”

“I’m sorry, too,” she said, turning the shower back on.

After he had left she thought, thank God that she had again suggested something that Charlie considered worth following up: He didn’t have the biggest brains in the world, didn’t Charlie Gambon – none at all really if you tried to measure them against his body and the rest of that magnificent tackle with which he had been endowed. She knew that as long as she was able to do his thinking for him he would remain grateful for something a little more than the frolics they enjoyed in bed.

Charlie needed her brains if there was to be any hope of his getting noticed and promoted. And she needed him to get noticed and get promoted every bit much as he did. The fun in bed came for free but, on an inspector’s salary, they sure as hell weren’t going to have so much fun out of bed – not the sort of high flying social stuff to which Olivia aspired. Charlie was tough and he was cruel – and those were the only reasons he had got as far in the police as he had. Only he simply didn’t have too much brain.

His boss might have refused him a warrant to arrest Anulka on a murder charge; but although catching copulating couples contravening the Immorality Acts wasn’t exactly cloak and dagger stuff it was a start. Bunting was also a Boer; and hadn’t the man told Charlie that there were lots of Boers who would whoop for joy to read of a mixed race couple caught flouting the law and put away by the courts.

**

As for Charlie Gambon, having whittled down a few likely Elizabeth Smiths at police headquarters, he was driving furiously across Pretoria towards Constantia Park, the first of the three most likely addresses that he had selected where he might track down his Elizabeth Smith. He knew he had another card: Olivia had reminded him that the lady for whom he was looking had once been in a mental institution. If all three leads drew a blank then he would have turn his attention to the loony bins – but in Pretoria there were more of those than you could shake a stick at.

He was going it alone: Not having a warrant might be okay in a hick community like Tembisa but here in the middle of Pretoria he couldn’t afford to have his blackjacks trampling all over the place, drawing attention to themselves and to him, without having a warrant.

He stopped in front of the first of his addresses but didn’t bother to get out of the Land Rover. With the brushwood end of a besom broom an elderly white woman was beating hell out of her black garden boy who, Gambon guessed, had to have dug up a clump of her prize Amaryllis bulbs to deserve such wrath.

“Hit him with the handle, Lady,” he shouted through the open nearside window. “He’ll more likely remember not to do it again if it hurts.” The lady looked up and, seeing she was being addressed by a policeman gave him a wry grin; but the distraction was sufficient for the garden boy to scamper to safety around the back of the house.

At his second choice, Willow Park Manor, an Elizabeth Smith lived on the third floor of a block of flats. It was a fairly prestigious looking place – not too swanky but all the same it was smart: Definitely the sort of place where his Elizabeth Smith might live. He got out and pressed the entry-phone buzzer. The lady, whichever Elizabeth Smith she may be, was not going to let him come up on trust even though he told her he was a police officer. “I’ll come down,” she told him over the answer-phone.

When she came to the door to the entrance lobby she had taken the precaution of bringing the concierge with her. He was a beefy, dark skinned Zulu, who looked at the lady, questioning whether he was to let this man in. Gambon flashed his ID and she nodded. He could already see that she wasn’t ‘his’ Elizabeth Smith – younger than the one that, as Olivia had reminded him, he had a run in with down at Cameron’s bungalow at Ochatingi. She looked too much like an upwardly mobile young lawyer. He prepared to excuse himself.

“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, Inspector” the lady said. “If I should ever happen to bump into your Elizabeth Smith, is there anything I should tell her?”

Nosy parker – mind your own fucking business, Gambon was thinking. All the same trying to be civil he said: “You can tell her that the Police believe her life is in danger because she was a witness in a murder case brought against some tsotsis a few years back and we have learned that gang want revenge.”

That wasn’t a bad story: He might use it again if he was forced to go round the mental hospitals. There, he knew there would be difficulties about all the confidentiality stuff even if he had a warrant.

In the event, the lady was no lawyer – she was a sub-editor on the South African Mail and Guardian, and she remembered the case. “Mainly,” she told him, “because of the coincidence that one of the victims was another Elizabeth Smith…

“It all happened at a farm outside Upington in the Northern Cape, didn’t it? As I remember it, the tsotsis killed both the husband and a Dutch girl, the sister in law. I was in court when sentence was passed and I remember the Dutch girl’s bereaved husband going ballistic. He had to be removed from the court. Quite a scene, he made; and several police officers were needed to eject him: He was, I recollect, some sort of manager out at the Ochatingi Mine…”

Too much information – Gambon had a job to assimilate it all. But he was certain that they were talking about the same Elizabeth Smith and he latched firmly on to the bit about Upington in the Northern Cape: If the third of his addresses yielded nothing, he had a feeling that he might next have to plan a trip to Upington.

**

That same evening, back at the mine manager’s bungalow, Evan Cameron was trying to decide the best course of action to take.

Lestunga the Zulu guard was worried, and he had come to the door wishing to talk to the Makulu Baas: Lestunga had a friend who was concierge at a block of flats in Pretoria’s Willow Park Manor. Lestunga had received a call from said friend. It was a social call mainly, but his friend couldn’t help recalling the coincidence of a visit to the flats earlier in the day by an inspector in the South African Police. The Inspector had told them that he was looking for one Elizabeth Smith whose life was in danger…

Wasn’t it a coincidence, his friend had remarked, that the Mrs Smith for whom the policeman was looking had a brother who had been employed at the Ochatingi mine – and did Lestunga know him?

“Murena,” Lestunga told Don, “the lady, Mrs Smith who live in my friend’s apartment block, she’s a newspaper editor. She tell the policeman she remember the happening well; and she tell the Inspector where it all take place.”

Then Lestunga added, “My friend think Inspector’s story all made up. He not wanting to find Mrs Smith to do her a favour: my friend thinks he want for something bad…

“After I put telephone down I am thinking. I think that it not Mrs Smith the Inspector wants – but maybe the Bantu girl. Remember, Murena, girl who leave the compound with Mrs Smith and Masser Don Steiger?

“The Inspector man a bladdy Boer, Murena, not liking black people and white people all fucking together…”

So Gambon now knew where Don and Anulka were heading.  The problem was that Evan Cameron didn’t. He asked Lestunga, “Can you remember where it was, this place of which the lady was speaking?” Lestunga couldn’t remember; but perhaps his friend could. Asking Cameron if he could use the telephone, he called his friend, who couldn’t remember the name of the place either – only that it was somewhere in the Northern Cape.

The Northern Cape, Cameron knew, was a great, wide-open and very desolate place.

“Ask him again,” Evan said. But, no, the concierge couldn’t remember the name. In desperation Evan pulled out an atlas of South Africa. The North Cape wasn’t exactly overpopulated with towns and cities. He read them out and Lestunga repeated them over the phone: “Springbok? De Aar? Kimberley?”  And then, at Upington, he struck gold. Yes – that was the name that the Editor had given the Inspector.

Evan Cameron had a lead. But what could he do now?

At least Elizabeth Smith should know where her own farm was. But, when he picked up the telephone book, there were umpteen Elizabeth Smiths and no clue as to which was the one he needed to trace. Then it occurred to him that Elizabeth Smith might have been named as Don’s next of kin in the Company’s files. Good thinking, Evan – although, in the frame of mind that Don Steiger had been in after his wife had been killed he might just as easily have put down a gorilla for his next of kin.

But – olé – there it was: On an index card, there was Elizabeth’s full name, address and telephone number; and sitting down in front of the telephone he dialled the number. The phone just rang and rang; and when he tried again later in the day it was the same.

Gambon now had a lead to Upington; and it was in the area around Upington that Don and Anulka were hiding. Even now the pyromaniac might be heading that way himself, intent on finding the farmhouse and burning it down, heedless of who was inside. Worse, Gambon would probably rather hope that Don and Anulka were inside. He was a Boer who bigotry would cause him to stop at nothing. Hadn’t he orchestrated burning down that shack in Ochatingi whilst the occupants were asleep?

Olivia had told him Gambon was trying to make a name for himself in the police. And he hated blacks. It all added up – not mathematically, mind – but on the balance of probabilities it did. The more he thought about it, the more he knew he had to warn them.

But he had to find them first.

And assuming he could find them, what could Don and Anulka do about it anyway? Their choice would be running or staying and fighting. If they ran, then they could look forward to spending the rest of their lives as fugitives.

And if Don stayed and fought? He was tough: But was he a match for Gambon after so many dissolute years and with a leg still healing? Before Evan Cameron had even suspected that Olivia was being knocked off by Gambon she had mentioned that the Inspector was himself something pretty big in police boxing circles. And anyway, Gambon would probably be carrying a gun – in which case resistance could bring an early foreclosure every bit a final as being trapped in a burning farmhouse or even being dropped through the gallows floor.

He knew it was a more than messages that Don would need – but what could he do to help? For an instant the ludicrous idea of kidnapping Olivia crossed his mind: Would a hysterical call from her as he held a gun to her head and threatened dire retribution unless Gambon backed off do the trick? But the idea of kidnapping ones own wife, even if she was as near as dammit an ex, was just silly. Anyway, Olivia probably had no more idea exactly Gambon was or how to make contact with him than he – and if Inspector Gambon really wanted to do something to further his own ends, he didn’t think the prospect of Evan threatening to tear Olivia apart limb by limb, throwing her to the lions, was likely to deter him. Anyway it wasn’t quite Evan Cameron’s way of doing things.

No: He knew he had to enlist reinforcements – and they would have to catch Charlie Gambon stepping right outside the bounds of the law and bring him in.

But where would he get these reinforcements? He knew that Don had a Zulu boxing coach who sounded a pretty tough nut – but the man owed nothing to either Don or Anulka, and there was no reason for him to volunteer his services when there was a risk of being shot at.

He couldn’t take Lestunga with him: He was still employed by the Company at the compound – and the only firearm that Lestunga had ever fired was his pre-war Lee Enfield .303. That would hardly be a match for any weapon, official or unofficial, being carried by Gambon.

Baffled by where he could go to summons help, the prospect of Don nominating a gorilla as his next of kin came into his head. That word ‘gorilla’ was going round and round in his mind: Gorilla? Gorilla?

Then it came to him in a flash:  “Guerrilla, for God’s sake!”

He recalled that Piet McOobo was the guerrilla who the blacks now revered as a hero. And Anulka had told them that Piet was the father of her child. True, the boy hadn’t actually been too conscientious about discharging his paternal duties – but surely he would he respond to a request for help knowing that the lives of both Anulka and his son were in danger?

Reaching Piet was the only way to find out. But where was he going find him?

He crossed the hall, entered the kitchen and went over to the window that Olivia hated – the one that looked down over the sprawl that was Ochatingi. Looking down on the slum he knew that if he was ever going to find this elusive rebel, then Ochatingi was the place he had begin.

Chapters

32

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Jorre wrote 75 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 96 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 362 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 372 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 386 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 386 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 389 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 464 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 472 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 526 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 537 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 537 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 540 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 557 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 557 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 600 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 601 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 601 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 625 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 628 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 630 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 645 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 666 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 682 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 685 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 693 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 694 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 708 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 709 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 711 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 726 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 727 days ago

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

Kenneth Edward Lim wrote 727 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 727 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 728 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 728 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 728 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 737 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 750 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 760 days ago

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

donkeyjacket wrote 821 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 821 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 859 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 860 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 915 days ago

Thanks - pissing it is!
AJB

micksands wrote 915 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 953 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 958 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 973 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 977 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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