Meyer, Deon 1958–

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Meyer, Deon 1958–

PERSONAL:

Born 1958, in Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa; married; wife's name Anita; children: Lida, Liam, Johan, Konstanz. Education: Attended Potchefstroom University. Hobbies and other interests: Music, motorcycling, reading, cooking, rugby.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Melkbosstrand, South Africa. Agent—Isobel Dixon, Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, 122 Arlington Rd., 2nd Fl., London NW1 7HP, England. E-mail—i[email protected]

CAREER:

Crime writer, Internet consultant, advertising copywriter and creative director, and journalist. Volksblad, Bloemfontein, South Africa, reporter. Consultant to BMW motorcyle company.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Sunday Times shortlist citation, M-Net Book Prize shortlist citation, and ATKV Prose Prize, 2000, all for Dead at Daybreak; Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, 2003, for French translation of Dead before Dying; ATKV Prose Prize, 2003, for Heart of the Hunter; Prix Mystère de la Critique, 2004, for French translation of Heart of the Hunter.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

Wie met vuur speel, Tafelberg (Kaapstad, South Africa), 1994.

Feniks, Queillerie (Kaapstad, South Africa), 1996, translation published as Dead before Dying, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1999, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

Bottervisse in die jêm 13 kortverhale, Van der Walt (Pretoria, South Africa), 1997.

Orion, Human & Rousseau (Kaapstad, South Africa), 2000, translation by Madeleine Van Biljon published as Dead at Daybreak, Coronet (London, England), 2000, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2005.

Proteus, Human & Rousseau (Kaapstad, South Africa), 2002, translation by K.L. Seegers published as Heart of the Hunter, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.

Infanta, Lapa Uitgewers (Pretoria, South Africa), 2004, translation by K.L. Seegers published as Devil's Peak, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2007, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2008.

Author's work has been translated into many languages, including French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Czech, Romanian, Slovakian, and Bulgarian.

SIDELIGHTS:

South African crime writer Deon Meyer has achieved an international reputation for his works, which use post-apartheid South Africa as their setting. Although the books are written and were originally published in Afrikaans, a language with a very small reading public outside Meyer's native country, translations of his works into English and French have earned the writer recognition, including the French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and the Prix Mystère de la Critique. "It's difficult writing in Afrikaans," Meyer told an interviewer for Crime Time. "It's so isolated and incestuous because it's an extremely small community anyway, but you have to get published in Afrikaans first." "The funny thing is, the major writers from South Africa, winning the prizes, have been around for a while, and there aren't so many new voices making themselves heard," the novelist concluded. "It's not as healthy as it should be, and the prizes sort of cover that up."

Meyer's first novel to be translated into English and released in the United States was the prize-winning Heart of the Hunter. The novel tells the story of Thobela Mpayipheli, a retired assassin who worked for the African National Congress (ANC) in the organization's struggle against apartheid. Thobela (also known as "Tiny" because he stands well over six feet tall) was trained by the former Soviet espionage organization, the KGB. The ANC had a close relationship with the KGB. Tiny is now retired and working in a motorcycle shop in Cape Town. He has a stable relationship with Miriam Nzuluwazi and helps to prepare her young son for life as a farmer. But when Monica Kleintjes, the daughter of Tiny's former colleague Johnny Kleintjes, approaches him to deliver information to a terrorist group to save her father's life, Tiny is pulled back into the world of international intrigue and danger he had hoped to put behind him. "This novel," stated Booklist contributor Frank Sennett, "examines the rippling horrors too often caused by so-called intelligence agents working for foreign masters in backwater nations."

Chased by representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency, al Qaeda, and the South African government, all of whom want the information he carries, Tiny is forced to steal a motorcycle and to head for the Zambian border. "Adrenalin long suppressed by his present pastoral life bursts into activity," wrote Judy Gigstad for Bookreporter.com, "when he leads his pursuers across the South African veldt on a chase for survival. Meyer's description of the terrain makes his audience a part of the story, cheering for Tiny's success and the return to his new life."

Praising the novel's "wonderful setting," a Kirkus Reviews contributor also cited Meyer's "rich, colorful cast, headed by a valiant/vulnerable protagonist who makes empathy easy." "The freshness of the context and the emotional complexity of the hero's journey," declared a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, "are ample compensation for readers who want a more thought-provoking spy story." "Despite the complexity of its tightly-woven plot—skillfully revealed through newspaper articles and intelligence reports—Meyer's U.S. debut moves at a breathtaking pace," concluded Library Journal contributor Ronnie H. Terpening.

Meyer's next novel to be published in the United States was Orion, translated as Dead at Daybreak. Once again the story takes place in post-apartheid South Africa, but this time the central character is Zat van Haarden, a white, former policeman. Full of self-loathing and drinking too much, Zat nevertheless begins investigating a case involving a lawyer named Hope Beneke. Hope is pursuing the interests of her client, Wilma van As, who was in a relationship with wealthy Jan Smit. Smit was murdered, and the will that bequeathed the bulk of his fortune to Wilma is missing. Reviewer Ronnie H. Terpening, writing for the Library Journal, praised the book's "breathtaking pace, heart-pounding action," and the "fascinating" portrayal of Zat. A Kirkus Reviews writer felt that Zat's brooding introspection and the use of flashbacks slowed the novel's pacing, but saw "flashes of real talent" in the writing. Booklist contributor Frank Sennett called this novel "a narrative gem."

Feniks, translated into English and published as Dead before Dying, is a "gritty existential tale with enough muscle for thriller fans and noir aficionados alike," according to a Publishers Weekly review. The book concerns Mat Joubert, a detective who has been falling deeper and deeper into depression since the death of his wife, also a police officer. Mat gets a new superior officer, who insists that he seek counseling. Joanne Wilkinson credited Meyer with creating "a deeply moving portrait" of Mat, one that has both "humor and pathos."

In Infanta, translated into English as Devil's Peak, the focus is again on Tobela Mpayipheli, the former mercenary soldier. When his son is killed by two gunmen who escape legal punishment, Mpayipheli sets out to hunt them down himself. Along the way he deals out vigilante justice to others who have done violence to children, and he becomes a folk hero in doing so. A Publishers Weekly writer called this book Meyer's "finest," thanks to its "complex, finely wrought characters, keen psychological insight and a compelling plot."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 2004, Frank Senmett, review of Heart of the Hunter, p. 1825; July, 2005, Frank Sennett, review of Dead at Daybreak, p. 1905; May 1, 2006, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Dead before Dying, p. 37.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2004, review of Heart of the Hunter, p. 553; June 15, 2005, review of Dead at Daybreak, p. 667; February 15, 2008, review of Devil's Peak.

Library Journal, May 15, 2004, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of Heart of the Hunter, p. 11; June 1, 2005, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of Dead at Daybreak, p. 119.

Publishers Weekly, July 19, 2004, review of Heart of the Hunter, p. 146; July 11, 2005, review of Dead at Daybreak, p. 61; March 27, 2006, review of Dead before Dying, p. 55; January 28, 2008, review of Devil's Peak, p. 41.

ONLINE

AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (April 4, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Heart of the Hunter.

BookLoons, http://www.bookloons.com/ (April 1, 2008), Hilary Williamson, reviews of Dead before Dying and Dead at Daybreak.

Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (April 4, 2005), Judy Gigstad, review of Heart of the Hunter.

Crime Time, http://www.crimetime.co.uk/ (April 1, 2008), Michael Carlson, interview with Deon Meyer.

Curled Up with a Good Book, http://www.curledup.com/ (April 1, 2008), Luan Gaines, interview with Deon Meyer, review of Dead at Daybreak.

Deon Meyer Home Page, http://www.deonmeyer.com (April 1, 2008).

Fresh Fiction, http://freshfiction.com/ (April 16, 2006), Sabrina Marino, review of Dead before Dying.

Mostly Fiction, http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (September 5, 2005), Mary Whipple, review of Dead at Daybreak.

MyShelf.com, http://www.myshelf.com/ (May 9, 2006), review of Dead before Dying.

Mystery Site, http://www.themysterysite.com/ (April 1, 2008), reviews of Dead before Dying, Devil's Peak, and Dead at Daybreak.

Once Written, http://www.oncewritten.com/ (September 22, 2006), Kevin Tipple, review of Dead before Dying.

Reviewing the Evidence, http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/ (April 1, 2008), Sharon Wheeler, review of Dead before Dying, Dead at Daybreak, and Devil's Peak.

Who Dunnit, http://www.who-dunnit.com/ (April 1, 2008), Alan Paul Curtis, review of Dead before Dying.