The moulding of a monster

Book: Red Ink

Book: Red Ink

Author: Angela Makholwa

Publisher: MacMillinReviewer: Edward Tsumele

Journalists earn their living by writing. Logic dictates that it should therefore be easy for them to rewrite these stories into fiction. The transition, however, is not that easy.

When I received Red Ink from my editor to review, I noticed that the author was a familiar face on the country's journalism landscape.

Angela Makholwa, who penned Red Ink, used to be a magazine journalist in the late 1990s.

She now seems to have crossed that difficult divide - from being a journalist to a novelist - and the result is a riveting piece of writing.

In Red Ink, Makholwa has managed to use her skills as a journalist to tell the story of convicted rapist and killer, Napoleon Dingiswayo.

This is a simple and straightforward story. When young, beautiful and ambitious former journalist-turned-public relations consultant, Lucy Khambule, receives an unexpected call from prisoner Dingiswayo, a killer nicknamed The Butcher by the media, her life changes irrevocably.

Khambule has her own problems - she is frustrated by her business partner in the consultancy. She decides to fight this frustration by doing something new with her life - she decides to become a novelist. She decides to write the story of Dingiswayo, from his troubled childhood right until the time that he is convicted of being a serial rapist and killer.

Makholwa's narrative is catchy and powerful. She points out that Dingiswayo was apparently always in trouble because he was raised by a mother who was always half- drunk and abused her children most of the time.

After years of abuse from his mother, Dingiswayo slowly turns into a monster who despises all women and refers to them as bitches.

He then develops into this monster who abuses women.

There are gaps in the book. For example, it is not explained how Dingiswayo suddenly turns into this reasonable and adoring gentleman in prison who falls in love with the author. This seems quite unreal.

This novel, a first by the author, however, is a good read and tells a believable South African story.

Red Ink definitely belongs on my book shelf.