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Deon Meyer.

Brenda Veldtman

South Africa's Deon Meyer is the author of more than a dozen bestselling thrillers and short-story collections, including Blood Safari, Dead at Daybreak and Dead Before Dying.

His work, originally in Afrikaans, has been published in almost 30 languages.

Meyer's latest novel, Fever, set in a South Africa ravaged by a world-destroying virus, was recently published by House of Anansi.

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What's the best advice you've ever received?

I read the former CEO of General Electric Jack Welch's biography Jack: Straight From the Gut in 2001, and came across his famous quote, "Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be" for the first time.

I immediately realized I was guilty of seeing reality as I wish it to be, like most fiction authors, and have been trying to rectify the matter ever since. It turned out to be excellent advice in just about every facet of my life.

Which fictional character do you wish you'd created?

The late John D. MacDonald's wonderful protagonist Travis McGee. Everything about McGee was just perfect – a battered knight in not-so-shining armour, living on a houseboat called the Busted Flush that he won in a game of poker, a man full of street-wise philosophy and street-fighter acumen.

Would you rather have the ability to be invisible or time-travel?

Oh, time travel, without a doubt. Invisibility might be handy to avoid socially awkward chance meetings – and not much else – but time travel would be an absolute blast (yes, from the past).

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Just imagine: I would be able to experience the real paleo diet, browse the shelves of the ancient Library of Alexandria, listen to the oratory of Cicero, watch Julius Caesar lead the Roman army through the streets of Rome and Horatio Nelson lead the British fleet at Trafalgar. Hear the beautiful roar of a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine in a Spitfire during the Battle of Britain. Buy Apple shares in the 1980s. And most of all, stalk Mozart and listen to his every concert, live and in person. And try and keep him alive to produce a little more …

What's your favourite word to use in a sentence?

Verisimilitude. Why? I mean, just look at the word. It's oozing class and savoir vivre and elegance and exclusivity. It is the sort of word you can use in refined circles and it will get you respect, I'm telling you. Verisimilitude. That's elegance, right there. Kidding aside, as an English-as-second-language speaker, I was unfamiliar with the word until I became an advertising copywriter and learned its meaning in an article by the legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis. That's right, the famous cult horror-movie director who was also a genius at crafting direct-mail advertising. It means, in essence, "the texture of truth." And when I started writing fiction, I realized that crime thrillers benefited from verisimilitude too.

What scares you as a writer?

The next book. Do I have a next book in me? Do I have a decent next book in me? Will it finally expose me as a hack and a pretender? Why? Because I make a living from writing.

What's more important: The beginning of a book or the end?

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The end, always the end, both as a writer and a reader. Many readers will forgive a bad beginning if the ending is superb. Bad endings stay with you, they shape your lasting impression of the book, they determine what you will tell your friends. Great endings will make you forget the wobbly beginning.

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