Thinking out of the Christmas box


Thinking out of the Christmas box

The silly season is upon us, so DEBORAH STEINMAIR unpacks a stack of local books for gift hunters.


IT'S that time of year again when we find something to celebrate and love to hand out gifts. My friends and family will get books, the only gift that, according to Exclusive Books' Christmas list, can be opened more than once. I'll give you a quick run-through of suggestions to stack under the tree — five local books and a Wilbur Smith, who at least hailed from our continent.

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Our own Paul Newman

Chris Vorster, who rose to fame as writer Ryno Lategan in SABC2's now departed soap opera, 7de Laan, is also a writer in real life. His previous book was about Franz Marx. Now he tells the story of Marius Weyers, everyone's favourite actor. Here are some things his colleagues say about Weyers:

Marius is the Paul Newman of our generation — Pieter-Dirk Uys
He is for me the embodiment of gravitas — Dawid Minnaar
He became the hub for all of us — Jana Cilliers
There is a rock-solidity in him that is delightful to look at — Marthinus Basson
He comes from a generation — unlike today's actors who share everything about themselves on social media — who are still mysterious — Anna-Mart van der Merwe

There are quite a few photos, showing Marius as a sulky 15-year-old in Afrikaans Hoër Seunskool, in his Spanish dancer outfit when he “fell head over heels in love with his castanets" and with his late wife Yvette, and one of a newspaper poster declaring: MARIUS WEYERS GETS OUT OF THE CLOSET, referring to a role as a gay Nazi.

It's accessible and thorough, a sturdy, small-format coffee table book.

Who, what, where and how much?

Marius Weyers: Biography was published by Protea Boekhuis and costs R465 at Exclusive Books.

Greek chutzpah

Here's a tasty local treat: Costa Ayiotis was a lawyer and diplomat for the UN when he threw caution to the wind and traded Johannesburg for Cape Town. He bought a rundown bar in Hout Bay and transformed it into Lemonia Greek Taverna. Everyone was sceptical because coastal towns are notoriously fickle and unpredictable.

He had no previous experience in the hospitality industry but possessed abundant Greek chutzpah, stubbornness and work ethic.

This book takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride that is in turn funny and manic. It's fun to read a true story and, moreover, a success story. We need more of that. An uplifting gift.

Who, what, where and how much?

My Big Fat Greek Taverna by Costa Ayiotis was published by Melinda Ferguson Books and costs R330 at Exclusive Books.

A sense of place

Justin Fox is a travel writer, novelist, poet and photographer. He undertakes a quaint journey between these pages: instead of roadmaps, he sets off with a kitbag full of books to guide him. He explores the places where his favourite books are set — Olive Schreiner's mountainous eastern Karoo, the Lowveld of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, Eugène Marais's Waterberg, Herman Charles Bosman's Marico, JM Coetzee's dusty Moordenaarskaroo, Dalene Matthee's forests, Zakes Mda's Wild Coast, among others.

It's a love letter to our landscape and intertwines stories and places. With its lovely cover and abundant food for thought, it's an ideal present.

Who, what, where and how much?

Place: South African Literary Journeys by Justin Fox was published by Penguin Random House SA and costs R330 at Exclusive Books.

Woman behind bars

We are gluttons for reality, judging by our love of true crime documentaries. This is a memoir, from the horse's mouth, with the subtitle: How Prison Set Me Free. Nikki Munitz was a white-collar criminal. With a heroin addiction, she ends up in the infamous Noupoort, where she meets her handsome Afrikaans husband.

She's clean and sober as she starts work at a law firm, then she starts siphoning money from trust accounts and redirecting it to her and her husband and father-in-law's accounts. She steals R2.5 million and is found guilty on 37 counts of fraud.

The content is sensational, but it's the heart behind it that really captivates: the story of a woman's redemption, how she accesses her true self and lets go of lies and excuses. A story of hope and salvation.

Who, what, where and how much?

Fraud: How Prison Set Me Free by Nikki Munitz was published by NB and costs R330 at Exclusive Books.

Local thugs

Even in the season of giving and joy, we remain curious about the criminals in our midst, such as the so-called Facebook rapist Thabo Bester. True crime keeps us riveted. If this book weren't the truth, it would be quintessential crime fiction: murder, rape, deceit, an unlikely love story, an escape from prison, a burned corpse, a coffin full of meat, the glamorous lives of Thabo Bester and Nandipha Magudumana.

Marecia Damons and Daniel Steyn — the award-winning GroundUp journalists who unmasked the couple's scams when the government was caught sleeping and the couple were living it up in Sandton — tell the story behind the headlines.

The reader gains insight into Bester and Magudumana's early years and the web of complicity and cover-up in the prison system. The truth is stranger and often more entertaining than fiction. And more glamorous.

Who, what, where and how much?

The Thabo Bester Story: The Facebook Rapist, the Celebrity Doctor and the Escape from Cell 35 by Marecia Damons and Daniel Steyn was published by NB and costs R300 at Exclusive Books.

Pharaohs and wizards

Wilbur Smith died in 2021 but here we have a new book, completed and edited by Mark Chadbourn. This tale of ancient Egypt  is epic and sweeping. Pharaoh is back on the throne after years of Hyksos's reign left once-mighty Egypt on the brink of the abyss. Pharaoh's power is limited and there are many pretenders to the throne.

Piay is sent by his mentor, the mage Taita, to unravel an age-old mystery that could seal Egypt's fate forever. In the chaos of war, a dark evil is unleashed: followers of Seth, the god of chaos, want to lead the country on a dark detour.

Piay races through the desert in search of clues to the mystery. Can he save his beloved country?

With a stately gold-embossed black cover, it makes  an attractive gift for lovers of history.

Who, what, where and how much?

Testament by Wilbur Smith and Mark Chadbourn was published by Pan Macmillan and costs R380 at Exclusive Books.

What are we listening to?

Karin Zoid sings For You:

♦ VWB ♦

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