ENG 1B21: DEON MEYER, THIRTEEN HOURS – THE WRITER, THE CHARACTERS AND THE SETTINGDeon Meyer was born in 1958 in Paarl, in the Western Cape winelands.Deon Meyer has been publishing Detective Fiction since 1994. His works include: (1994) Wie met vuur speel (not translated because he says it was not up to standard!) (1996) Feniks (English title: Dead before Dying) (2000) Orion (English title: Dead at Daybreak) (2002) Proteus (English title: Heart of the Hunter) (2004) Infanta (English title: Devils Peak) (2007) Onsigbaar (English title: Blood Safari) (2009) 13 Uur (English title: Thirteen Hours) (2010) Spoor (English title: Trackers) (2011) 7 Dae (English title: Seven Days)More about the author: Schooling: in Klerksdorp (Northwest Province). University: Potchefstroom. First career: journalism. First job: as a journalist on Die Volksblad, Bloemfontein. Began full-time career in crime fiction in the mid-1990s. His knowledge and love of music emerges in his fiction. What type of music does Benny Griessel enjoy? His novels have been translated into 25 languages: Tretton timmar (Swedish), Treize heures (French), Dreizehn Stunden (German). Dead before Dying is called “el thriller africano”: Sombras del Pasado (Spanish).THEMES: Is the motivation for each crime: is it “love, lust, lucre [the love of money], loathing” or a combination of these?1. A key theme is observing and analysing, rather than making snap judgements and false assumptions (it is so easy to do this in a country that has a history of social division):
The methods police use to solve crime relate to the theme of gaining knowledge: They follow clues and analyse them. They use forensic analysis. They retrace and reconstruct crime scenes. They listen, look, identify and observe.2. Compassion, empathy and understanding: in the violent, brutalising world of crime and policing. in the police force, with its history of racial and gender conflict.3. The effects of living in a city („cityness‟). How does living a city affect its inhabitants? What role does nature (the mountains encircling the city centre) play in the novel? What role does the geography of Cape Town play? Implicitly and sometimes explicitly, characters seem very aware of their own and each other‟s racial and cultural identities. The police all work very close together, under tense conditions, for long periods of time and conflicts often spill over into arguments and name-calling. So they are aware of each other‟s physical presence – each character‟s facial features and physical size. It is easier for the men to comment on Mbali Kaleni‟s size and love of KFC than to acknowledge that she is a very diligent, intelligent policewoman, who locates the place where Rachel is hiding. It seems very easy to make snap judgements about people, based on their racial, gender and cultural identities. Yet, the novel questions whether this is „real‟ knowledge or whether it distracts characters from solving the two crimes.READING A CHAPTER: The novel is divided into thirteen hours (or sections); each section has several chapters (download the novel‟s structure from Edulink). In each chapter, events in the lives of different characters unfold simultaneously.
FIRST HOUR: 05:36–07:00Rachel Benny Rachel Benny BennyRachel runs Benny is woken Running in Benny reflects The crime scene.up Signal Hill and must deal in terror, on his personal Benny’s roleon thewith Erin’s Rachel is seen life: his force as mentor is murder. by an eye- estranged wife made clear.witness. and Bella, with Forensic officerswhom he spent process the scene.the previous night.p. 305:36: a girl runs up the steep slope of Lion‟s Head. The sound of her running shoes urgenton the broad footpath‟s gravel. At this moment, as the sun‟s rays pick her out, like a searchlight against the mountain, sheis the image of carefree grace. Seen from behind, her dark plait bounces against the littlerucksack. Her neck is deeply tanned against the powder blue of her T-shirt. There is energy inthe rhythmic stride of her long legs in denim shorts. She personifies athletic youth – vigorous,healthy, focused.Until she stops and looks back over her left shoulder. Then the illusion disintegrates. There isanxiety in her face. And utter exhaustion. How many references to time are there in the opening passage? WHAT CLUES DOES THIS PASSAGE PROVIDE? The character: Where is she running? What does her suntan indicate? What do we learn in paragraph 3? We deduce from the facts:
HAVE WE MISSED ANY CLUES?To solve a crime, one must ask the right questions.Hypothesis :if she is running so hard and looking back, perhaps she is running away, or being chased.Do the pursuers want something she has? Why would anyone want a girl‟s rucksack? If so, what has occurred before the scene opens?p. 4: Detective Benny Griessel was asleep. […] When his cell phone rang, the first shrill note was enough the first shrill note was enoughto draw him back to reality with a fleeting feeling of relief. He opened his eyes and checkedthe radio clock. It was 05:37. He swung his feet of the single bed, dream forgotten. For an instant he perched motionlesson the edge, like a man hovering on a cliff. Then he stood and stumbled to the door, down thewooden stairs to the living room below, to where he had left his phone last night. His hairwas unkempt, too long between trims. He wore only a pair of faded rugby shorts. His singlethought was that a call at this time of the morning could only be bad news. How many references to time are there in this passage? Why is time so important in the novel?WHAT CLUES DOES THIS PASSAGE PROVIDE?The Character:Question:as a policemen, likely to be called to crime scenes at any time, would one not keep the phone close?Therefore:What do his sleeping arrangements suggest?What do we learn from his personal appearance?
Metaphors as clues:“For an instant he perched motionless on the edge, like a man hovering on a cliff.” A man hovering on a cliff may well fall over into the sea or onto the rocks below. What has happened in Benny‟s life to warrant the use of this implied comparison?We learn later that: He is a recovering alcoholic. He is separated from his wife, Anna. He has spent the night with some he has just met, Bella.p. 5: Suddenly she was on the tar of Signal Hill Road and spotted the woman and dog ahundred metres to the left. […] She ran towards the woman and her dog. It was big, a Ridgeback. The woman lookedabout sixty, white, with a large pink sun hat, a walking stick and a small bag on her back. The dog was unsettled now. Maybe it smelled her fear, sensed the panic inside her. Hersoles slapped on the tar as she slowed. She stopped three metres from them. „Help me,‟ said the girl. Her accent was strong. „What‟s wrong?‟ there was concern in the woman‟s eyes. „They‟re going to kill me.‟ The woman looked around in fear. „But there‟s nobody.‟ The girl looked over her shoulder. „They‟re coming.‟What information/clues does this encounter provide?WHAT CLUES DOES THIS PASSAGE PROVIDE?The Character: more clues about Rachel are given – She is not just fearful, she is terrified. She is in fear of her life. She is not South African. Something she considers dreadful has happened before the novel opens.
She knows things that no one else knows.Why is this encounter with the older lady important? This lady (Sybil Gravett, 110) is an eye witness who later provides the police with valuable information.
LITERARY STYLEHow is this passage narrated?Throughout the novel, Meyer uses a combination of third-person narration and dialogue(direct speech).Effect: Direct speech (dialogue) gives the reader direct access to Rachel‟s immediate fearsand needs, and her origins and culture. She is not South African.The third-person narrator interprets the event.p. 6: At least he was sober, One hundred and fifty-six days now. More than five months ofstruggling against the bottle, day after day, hour after hour, till now. God, Anna must never hear about last night. Not now. Less than a month before his term ofexile was served, the punishment for his drinking. If Anna was found out, he was fucked, allthe struggle and suffering for nothing. He sighed and stood in front of the mirrored cabinet to brush his teeth. Had a good look athimself. Greying at the temples, wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, the Slavic features. Hehad never been much of an oil painting. […] Whatever had she seen in him, that Bella? There had been a moment last night when hewondered if she was sleeping with him because she felt sorry for him […]. How many references to time are there in this passage?WHAT CLUES DOES THIS PASSAGE PROVIDE? Benny has struggled to deal with his alcoholism and has left home to do this. This novel is about solving two crimes in thirteen hours, and Benny knows exactly what one hour means. Benny is not vain about his appearance: He feels guilty about spending the previous night with Bella, the computer consultant. After this call, Benny must try to put his personal life on hold to deal with the crime: but can he?pp. 7–8: Benny reaches the crime scene and remembers meeting Vusi Ndabeni for thefirst time.
[…] he was in the Commissioner‟s large conference room, along with six of the best „new‟people looking singularly unimpressed, all seated in a row on grey government-issue chairs.This time John Africa toned down his message: „Benny will be your mentor. He‟s been onthe force for twenty-five years; he was part of the old Murder and Robbery Squad when mostof you were in primary school. What he‟s forgotten, you still have to learn […]. Learn fromhim. You have been hand picked – not many of you will get this opportunity. Griesselwatched their faces. Four lean black men, one fat black woman, and one broad-shoulderedcoloured detective, all in their early thirties. There was not much ungrudging gratitude, withthe exception of Vusumuzi („but everyone calls me Vusi‟) Ndabeni.Time: This passage has occurred before Benny arrives at the crime scene. Thus, the passageis a flashback from the present to his first meeting with Vusi. Commissioner Africa introduces Benny to the younger officers whom he will be mentoring. What is immediately clear about the forms of social difference/diversity of this group? “Twenty-five years” implies that Benny once served on the old apartheid police force and must now deal sensitively with colleagues in the post-apartheid force. What are the tensions on the force? How are they expressed? Who feels marginalised – and by whom?SETTING (TIME, PLACE AND SPACE):Setting in the Detective Fiction of Deon Meyer: Thirteen Hours is the middle volume of The Devil’s Peak Trilogy. In the first volume, Devil’s Peak (2007), Detective Benny Griesel is introduced, as he tries to solve a crime involving a vigilante on the loose – and to control his serious drinking problem. Thus, he faces battles on two fronts: in his public life, on the one hand, and in his personal life, on the other. In Thirteen Hours, the second volume, Benny is joined by his mentor, Senior Superintendent Mat Joubert, of the Provincial Task Force. The reader sometimes sees Benny through Mat‟s eyes. Two crimes are reported early in the novel and Benny, now a mentor to his younger colleagues on the force, must oversee the solving of both crimes. The third volume, Seven Hours, due out in English in September 2012, features Benny Griessel and some of the characters from Thirteen Hours – and a new love interest for Benny!
SETTING: TIME (and aspects of the Theme) The novel is set in the very recent past: 2009. This detective novel is set fifteen years into the post-apartheid era, as the narrator and characters illustrate. South Africa is now open to international tourism – and international crime syndicates. The novel unfolds during thirteen hours on one day. In each of the novel‟s thirteen sections, events unfold simultaneously. In one chapter, one moves from one set of characters to another. Sometimes, Benny, Rachel, Vusi, and Sandra recall events from earlier periods of their lives. This helps to develop their characters and provide insight into their behaviour and motivation.SETTING: PLACE The novel is set in the city of Cape Town and in the inner city suburbs, just above the city centre. The geography of the novel is vital as it plunges readers into very fast street life in Cape Town. The reader views the action through the eyes of policemen who spend their lives on these tough streets – as their strong language so regularly reveals! Benny moves from one part of the city on his bicycle or in a car; Vusi uses a helicopter to get to Tableview on the other side of the bay. They must move quickly in order to solve both crimes. Living in a city („cityness‟) relates closely to the themes of the novel.Specific Places in the NovelPolice Headquarters: The protagonist (main character), Detective Inspector Benny Griessel, is based at Cape Town police headquarters, Caledon Square, near Table Bay. It is under the command of Deputy Commissioner John Afrika, who organises the police operations to solve both crimes. Backpackers‟ Lodge, Long Street: Early one morning in 2009, Benny is woken from sleep to solve a crime involving two young, female American
tourists, one dead, and the other on the run. Tourists, Rachel Anderson and Erin Russel, havebeen staying at the Cat and Moose Backpackers‟ Lodge at the top of Long Street. Rachel‟sbelongings remain there while she flees her pursuers, in a nail-biting chase up Signal Hill andinto Oranjezicht. Why are her belongings so important?St. Martini‟s Lutheran Church, Long Street:Police first hear of that a crime has been committed when Erin‟s body is found outside thischurch, near the Cat and Moose. This discovery launches Benny, Vusi and their colleagueson their search to find the other American girl and to discover who has committed the crimeand the motivation for committing it.Van Hunks Nightclub (bottom of Long Street):A fictional nightclub, not to be confused with the more respectable Van Hunks restaurant. Itis run by two Russians suspected of having connections to the Russian crime underworld. Arethe Russians implicated in the crime? Vusi and Benny first suspect this because the girlsspent the night before the murder having drinks at Van Hunks. Why is the name “VanHunks” amusing?Fireman‟s Arms (cnr. of Buitengracht and Mechau Streets, Cape Town): very old tavern,founded in the early 1900s, where much male bonding takes place, while watching rugby,cricket etc. “One night at the Firemen‟s Arms he had said that if you were to lock up the pressand the politce on Robben Island for a week, the liquor industry in Cape Town wouldcollapse” (p. 15).The Inner City Suburbs:The dramatic landscape of the mountains (Table Mountain, Lion‟s Head and Devil‟s Peak) form the background to the novel. Lion’s Head and Signal: Lion‟s Head is the large rock formation atop Signal Hill. In chapter 1, Rachel is running up Signal Hill. Later, while sheltering at Piet van der Lingen‟s home, she remembers the chase, Erin‟s murder and her escape. Tamboerskloof: The second murder is discovered at 47 Brownlow Street (inreality, Brownlow Road) in this suburb on the slopes of Signal Hill. While most houses in theinner city suburbs have been renovated and gentrified, Benny remarks that this largeVictorian house is quite run down. How does this reflect on the characters who live there?
Orangezicht: After running along Signal Hill, Rachel crosses Kloof Nek and runs up Tafelberg Rd along the slopes of Table Mountain. She then heads down the mountain into the suburb of Oranjezicht, just above the city centre. Setting: Space The social space in which the novel is set is the post-apartheid era. Cape Town may seem to be a blissful tourist destination, especially for backpackers from foreign land. However, in the world of the novel, Cape Town‟s city streets are fraught with crime. Trust between people is in short supply. Even policemen who have worked together for years cannot trust one another. For the police, the social space in which they work is highly structured and very hierarchical. It is hard to challenge authority. There are tensions between some (but not all) of the older white police personnel and the newer black and coloured members of the force. But which form of tension emerges when Inspector Mbali Kaleni is called in to assist temporarily while Griessel is involved with the Barnard case. Gender conflict seems to cut across racial lines. All the male officers groan when Regional Commissioner Afrika calls in Kaleni. Clearly, white, coloured, and black officers find her capability and her brusque [abrupt and snappy] attitude hard to cope with. Fransman Dekker calls her a “bra-burning feminist [who …] thinks she knows everything” (p. 121). We later discover that Dekker resents Kaleni for reprimanding him while he was chatting up a woman other than his wife! Griessel keeps his opinion to himself, but the narrator gives us access to his thoughts about Kaleni. He remembers her as “short, very fat, with an unattractive face, severe as the sphinx, in a black trouser suit that sat too tight” (p. 120). Does Griessel make the same kind of physical judgements about the male colleagues he is asked to mentor? Does he feel as threatened by her as Dekker does? And why does Dekker feel so threatened? The Commissioner respects Kaleni as “[…] clever. And thorough.” Why does Vusi makes this comment in response to the Commissioner: “She‟s a Zulu” (p. 120). Does Vusi feel as threatened by Kaleni as Dekker does? While people struggle to get over the differences of race, class, and gender, the stresses of the work place bring out tensions between them. As you read, note the ways in which characters are described. Try to understand the characters as part of this social context. The first character to appear is Rachel Anderson. The narrator describes her as running early in the morning and being “the image of carefree grace” (p. 4).
CHARACTERS:The Police (based at Cape Town’s police headquarters, Caledon Square):John Africa: his official title is “Regional Commissioner: Domestic Services and CriminalIntelligence.” He is Benny‟s superior and in charge of both cases. Why is CommissionerAfrica under exceptional pressure to discover who has murdered Erin and where Rachel ishiding?Benny Griessel: a Detective Inspector who hopes to hear that he has been promoted toCaptain on the very day this novel takes place. He is not tall, but is well-built, and isdescribed as having „Slavic‟ features (high cheek bones). Benny has considerable experience;he has been on the force for twenty-five years and was formerly part of the old Murder andRobbery squad. Commissioner Africa provides insight into Benny‟s character and role,describing him to the more junior policemen as “„Your advisor, your sounding board. Andyour mentor.‟” (p. 8). Whom does Benny find it easier to mentor, Fransman Dekker or Vusi Ndabeni?Vusumuzi Ndabeni (Vusi): an Inspector who hopes to prove his ability by helping to solvethis case. He is the same height as Benny, but slighter and thinner in build. He takes muchmore care of his personal grooming than Benny does. As a detective, he is keen to learn fromBenny and is not keen to return to Khayelitsha, having spent four years there already (p. 10).Forensics Department: Forensic science entails the application of scientific methods to thesolving of crime. Since the days of the fictional „consulting‟ detective, Sherlock Holmes,detective fiction has always included some forensic detection (watch CSI for moreinformation on „forensics‟!). On at least one occasion, characters refer to the backlog in theforensic laboratories.“Thick” and “Thin”: two officers from the Forensics department. They are „flat‟ characters,not well developed. “Thick” – a reference to size and height – is really named Arnold; “Thin”(tall and skinny, p. 8) is really named Jimmy. “[T]hey were known in Cape police circles asThick and Thin, usually in the tired crack „Forensics will stand by you through Thick andThin.‟” (pp. 8–9).Professor Pagel: chief pathologist, refers to them as “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.” Wheredoes this reference come from and is it appropriate?Tiffany October: The pathologist attending to the case of Erin Russel. In crime fiction, thepathologist usually plays a crucial role in pointing the police to the time of death and thecause of the crime and, possibly, the criminals themselves. She is less experienced that thechief pathologist but decides that Erin has been dead for at least four hours.Tinkie Kellerman: brought in to assist Alexandra (Sandra) Barnard, who is suspected ofkilling her husband, Adam (p. 73). Though sympathetic, she does not stop Sandra from tryingto kill herself.
Benny Griessel’s Personal Life:Anna Griessel: Benny‟s wife, from whom he is separated, so that he can deal with hisdrinking problem. What part does she play in the novel? In which of the thirteen hours doesshe feature?Carla Griessel: Benny and Anna‟s daughter. She has left the country to live in London aftera shocking incident in which she was kidnapped and attacked (see Devil’s Peak). In his mind,Benny is always thinking of what he can tell her in his next email (see the novel‟s lastchapter).Fritz Griessel: Benny and Anna‟s son, still at school, and a passionate rock musician, whoseambition it is to play lead guitar. He does not feature much in the novel, other than inBenny‟s thoughts and emails. He is a serious fan of Basson Laubscher, lead guitarist ofZinkplaat. Which type of “horribly expensive” guitar does Benny buy in order to encourageFritz?Doc Barkhuizen: Benny‟s sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous. It is he who has helped Bennymove from hard drink to fruit juice, buy a bicycle and turn his life around (pp. 15–16).Crime 1:Two White American Girls are under attack very early in the morning. This raisesquestions. Why is Erin Russel killed. Why is Rachel Anderson being chased around Orangezicht.Who else is involved? Rachel‟s parents: Bill and Jess Anderson of West Lafayette, Indiana. How does the fact that they are American affect the case? „Ollie‟ Sands, from Arizona, who travels with the girls. Piet van der Lingen, who shelters Rachel round midday. „Barry,‟ Jason de Klerk, Steve Chitsunga (African Adventure Tours) – they pursue Rachel in a terrifying, later violent, chase. But do they act alone?Crime 2:
Alexandra Barnard, a former singer, is woken to find her husband, Adam, lying dead onthe carpet (pp. 29 ff) at 47 Brownlow St, Tamboerskloof. Did she commit the crime? Why can she not remember? Why is D. I. Benny Griessel immediately drawn to her?Who else is involved? Adam Barnard: owned music production company, Afrisound. His womanising drove Sandra to drink! How many people could have wanted Adam dead? Sylvia Buys: the „maid.‟ Could she be a suspect? Has she witnessed anything? Willie Mouton: Adam‟s partner, “middle-aged Zorro” (66). He is aggressive and points the police in the direction of gospel stars, Josh and Melinda Geyser. Regardt Groenewald: Mouton‟s lawyer. Dekker thinks he and Willie are “like those guys in the old “black-and-white films […] „Laurel and Hardy‟” (78). Who were Laurel and Hardy? Josh and Melinda Geyser: Afrikaans Gospel Stars. Willie says Josh wanted “to kill [Adam]” (79) for sleeping with Melinda! Josh is a former Gladiators fighter, “White Lightning”. Even given his physical strength and his anger, has Josh killed Adam? Natasha Abader: Willie Mouton‟s attractive personal assistant (PA) at Afrisound. She helps the police with their inquiries. Dekker is very attracted to her.