Milnerton’s Jaco Wolmarans takes readers on a journey into the murky world of rhino poaching in his debut novel, Bos.
Released by Tafelberg Publishers a few weeks ago, the Afrikaans novel describes the fight against rhino poaching by former SADF recces.
A friendship forms between the two main characters, Tex and Carlos, during clandestine operations in Angola during the Bush War.
Wolmarans describes Carlos as the “veteran with a violent past” and Tex as the “talented protégé”.
The men go their separate ways but their paths cross many years later. Only now Carlos is a feared rhino poacher in Mozambique and Tex is the only operator able to get close to him.
While the story puts rhino poaching in the spotlight, Wolmarans says it’s actually a “convenient vehicle” to describe corruption.
“That’s what the story is actually about,” he says.
He spent only eight weeks writing the book but a long time doing research, which for him is the best part about writing a book.
“I’m a fanatic about getting facts straight,” he says.
So while the plot may be fictitious, places and times are real.
“It forces you to keep it as realistic as possible,” he explains.
As part of his research he had a few sources retelling stories of their time in the Bush War.
He learnt that nerves of steel and the ability to survive in the bush were crucial to survival.
He served in the Bush War himself, he says, although his time was spent in the air force as a radio operator and not in a combat position.
Wolmarans speaks of the characters with such vivid detail that it prompts the question whether they are based on real people. Tongue in cheek, he replies: “If I tell you, I’d have to kill you.”
A freelance journalist and photographer, Wolmarans wears many hats and blames it on his “short attention span”.
He first started writing while working with authors Deon Meyer and Rudie van Rensburg 20 years ago. But besides dabbling in a few short stories, he has never tackled a novel until Bos.
“You cannot force a story into a plot. Let the characters drive the story.
“If you respect the character, he will drive the storyline,” he says.
The cover features Milnerton security expert Craig Pedersen, who Wolmarans credits as his “go to guy” for technical information.
Wolmarans says he took the picture of Mr Pedersen years before the book was even an idea.
The stock images was for a completely unrelated story and taken under the bridge in the Rietvlei in Milnerton.
“It was in the middle of winter, and we put on wet suits and clothes over them to keep warm,” he says.
When the book needed a cover, Wolmarans knew one of the shots captured that day would be perfect.
The helicopter was photoshopped in.
Wolmarans is working on his second novel, which will be based on the South African nuclear bomb programme and how it “almost went wrong”.
Bos will be launched at the Stellenbosch Woordfees on Friday March 8, and Wolmarans also plans to attend the Klein Karoo Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn in April.