With every book I write I aim to have my book listed among the best thrillers. Some critics have agreed that I have achieved this. Given how much competition exists in our field, I find it humbling that a number of critics have also categorised my books as falling into the field of best psychological thrillers.

My thrillers are largely, but not always, been inspired by South African realities. We cannot avoid the fact that we live in one of the most violent societies on earth.

Because thrillers have plots that demand careful construction, I plan my novels down to the last detail. But when I start writing, something else takes over and everything changes. And these changes keep coming long after the first draft is written. I hesitate to say that I planned anything particular in any of my books. I don’t know who plans my stories, but I am reluctant to take any credit for them.

As far as the action inside South African prisons is concerned, the inside of a prison is a very singular place, quite unlike the places in which the rest of us spend our days. The inhabitants and the pressures under which prisoners and warders live are unlike anything we have to deal with. I spend as much time as I can inside, without being convicted of anything. It is a fascinating world, but one to observe only as a visitor.

I have been asked many times which I think are the best thrillers of all time and the question stumps me every time. So many great thrillers have been written. My own favourites are The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and The Night of the Generals by Hans Helmut Kirst. The latter is to me an irresistible story about a series of murders during wartime occupied Europe. The only thing the investigator has to go on is that the killer is a German general.

Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs in a great villain.  The role of the villain in a thriller should not be underestimated in crime fiction. There are elements of many criminals in mine. In life, there are evil men, but what the mixture of genes, hormones, brain chemistry and circumstances are that turn them into killers may never be fully understood. As John Steinbeck wrote, “Monsters are born in this world to human parents.”


Wessel Ebersohn Books

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