'Trackers' offers plenty of action

25 October 2011 - 02:09 By Andrew Donaldson
Andrew Donaldson
Andrew Donaldson

Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude. All books available from Exclusives

IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK

Trackers, by Deon Meyer (Hodder & Stoughton), R190.

THE big hitter of South African thrillers, Meyer gives us at least three novels in this, his seventh book. We've got a housewife escaping domestic abuse, a smuggled rhino, jihadis running amok, spy versus spy drama, even a love story; intricate, brimful with tension.

It paints a frightening picture of contemporary South Africa.

THE ISSUE

THERE was a telling anecdote about Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs (Simon & Schuster) in the New York Times recently.

Shortly after the Apple co-founder asked him to be his official biographer in 2009, he took Isaacson to see the house in the Californian town in which he was raised.

There, Jobs praised the structure's "clean design" and "awesome little features".

He pointed out a fence his father had built 50 years previously and told Isaacson: "He loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn't see."

These were the folksy childhood lessons that drove the transformation of digital technology - and Jobs gave his official biographer a chance to play by the same rules. "His story," the NYT said, "calls for a book that is clear, elegant and concise enough to qualify as an iBio."

Isaacson was a good choice: he'd written excellent biographies of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin; time alone will see whether Jobs will be considered a peer. (The theory of relativity? An MP3 player? It's a close call, or what?)

It was a difficult book to write. Jobs was terminally ill, and although Isaacson had access to his family, it was a painful time for them. The writer explored Jobs's decision to delay cancer surgery for nine months. Jobs instead tried a vegan diet, acupuncture, herbal remedies and other treatments he found online, and even consulted a psychic.

The quackery, it's argued, shortened his life considerably. But Jobs expressed his approval that the book would not be entirely flattering, and undertook not to meddle with it in any way - except its cover design. And you have to hand it to him, it certainly looks good

CRASH COURSE

JOBS'S competitor, the over-achieving Jeff Bezos, also has a biography on the shelves now (as well as the Kindle Fire, a new tablet to take on the iPad) and it is probably this book, which some critics have dismissed as hagiography, that business-school types will recommend - simply because Bezos is more a retail figure and not a designer.

THE BOTTOM LINE

"HE HAD the self-confidence of Muhammad Ali, the enthusiasm of John Kennedy, and the brains of Thomas Edison. He had what was needed to convince others to join him on his bold new quest." - One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com, by Richard L Brandt (Viking)

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