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John van de Ruit

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

How to sound like James Earl Jones in just five days

John van de RuitDear Reader

Announcing…. Spud the Audiobook Recording

– or –

How to sound like James Earl Jones in just five days.

The week started on a bad footing when my traditional boys-only Transkei fishing week ended three days prematurely. This was largely on account of gale force winds, dwindling whiskey reserves, and our fishing boat drifting out to sea.

After a hearty SAA breakfast of grated cabbage roll on soggy lettuce, I dismounted my Airbus to find absolutely nobody waiting for me at the airport. I must say the Penguins (my publishers) are usually quite good about arranging a hearty airport welcome complete with hired fans, fake news cameras, and a sturdy bunch of fake flowers. Alas I found myself bereft in the mighty concrete jungle and after just shy of three hundred offers for a taxi, I grimly shuffled off towards the bright red hell of AVIS.

Despite Johannesburg’s predawn temperatures making me think twice about my quasi radical stance towards global warming, I broke into a steady trickling sweat. You see my driving license has expired. It’s not as though I have been idle – it was number 23 on my new year’s resolution list. What if the red haired lady behind the red counter dressed in a red power jacket saw red and refused me my rightful VW Polo?

The lady in red studied my driver’s licence, paused and then looked me up and down.

    RED WOMAN You the guy who wrote the book?

I breathed in a lung full of a businessman’s Old Spice and sighed with haggard relief. I then shot her a smug smile and said:

    ME That’s me.

The woman nodded and looked grim.

    RED WOMAN Never read it.

She shook her head slightly and started furiously thumping away at the computer without looking where she was writing. I was certain she was calling in the police. I had the sudden vision of Robert McBride in a mysterious place called Ekhurleni, swallowing his last Romany Cream, kicking his shoe polisher in the ribs before leaping onto his desk and shouting, “We’ve got a situation at the airport!”

The red woman continued to thrash away indiscriminately at her keyboard like I do at photo shoots that are meant to show me in the throes of writing Spud. Please don’t be fooled by these.

    RED WOMAN My son got it for his birthday.

Always a good sign when the darling son is a fan. I took another breath of Old Spice, this time laced with cigarette fumes from another suit standing behind me barking orders into his blue tooth. Surely I was home dry. More thrashing followed.

    RED WOMAN He couldn’t get into it. He gave it to his cousin who lost it. Waste of a hundred bucks.

I nodded sympathetic and thought about handing over 30 cents (my share of the royalty). The problem is that people always assume that I make a good sixty-five Rand a book after tax. If I did I wouldn’t be snatching at the keys for a VW Polo like it was my precious. The red lady asked me what I was up to in Jozi and after hearing about the audiobook recording she snorted derisively and wished me a wonderful day.

After carefully inspecting my car for dents, I raced off into a thirty-kilometre parking lot, fronting as the N3. That’s when I discovered a small crack in the windscreen roughly about the size of an Inyala dropping. It was too late to return to AVIS and plead my innocence – besides I didn’t want to be late for the SABC studio or they might drag me off to their dungeon or wherever it is they have hidden John Perlman. With my cracked windscreen, and a general feeling of urban doom descending steadily, I already began to fear my return to the place of red.

I have just realised that should I continue in my lyrical vein it could mean boring all readers senseless and wasting the rest of my week on website writing. This is problematic because I have a To Do list of fifteen items including renewing my driver’s license, which currently sits at number seven. I have therefore decided to make a rather Spudly list:



• It feels very cool to sit in a recording studio with headphones on.
• I was able to witness Alan Swerdlow (my director) attempting to hang himself with his tie soon after my first practice session.
• I didn’t have to learn the script.
• I could record in my pyjamas.
• I could be an actor again and say things like “Alan I actually preferred the first take to the second – it possessed a haunting quality that reflects the subtle yet ingenious layering of the text…”
• I could play with the air conditioner.
• I didn’t have to think about AVIS.


• I had to read my own book out loud cover to cover. (With frequent re-reads)
• I had to read for six hours a day.
• My voice dropped seven octaves.
• Morning traffic jams began from my driveway.
• Getting funny looks in the SABC canteen because I was wearing my pyjamas.
• The SABC canteen.
• John Perlman’s bloodstains on the studio walls.
• Nearly bursting into tears when reading the part where Gecko dies. This in the full knowledge that it was fictional to begin with.
• Discovering various errors in the text. This would typically result in a howl of frustration followed by some nasty abuse for the Penguins.
• Sarky remarks from the director about my Natal accent.

I am aware that the negatives outnumber the positives but this doesn’t necessarily mean that Spud the audiobook will reflect that particular dynamic. What it means is that any labour of love is destined to cripple you emotionally and exhaust you mentally. And that’s why Spud 3 will only be released in the summer of 2016.

For those who are still left wondering about the final result… well… um… guys… I’m afraid there is only one way to find out…

With Spud love

PS John van de Ruit was not hauled over the coals by Avis Rent A Car for having a small crack in his windscreen. In fact he got off Scott free. Unfortunately in his frantic escape from the reds he left his cell phone in the cubby hole.



Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    September 17th, 2007 @19:01 #

    The following note came to John's inbox care of BOOK SA. John, what is it that you do to incite such praise, apart from write funny bestsellers?

    Before we get into it, let's encourage Gail to take a meander around the rest of the BOOK SA network. Plenty of books for Sunday reading in here, Gail!

    Oh, for a "Dear John" letter like this one...

    Dear John,

    Please god tell me that there will be a Spud there, four and even five??????

    I walked into the bookshop on Saturday looking for something to read.Walked through the shelves and thought to myself, doesn't anyone write anything funny anymore?

    Gave up. Was on the way out and walked past the S.A. section. Normally never give it a glance.Either the stuff is depressing hardcore political, and J M Coetzee seriously needs prozac, or it's cooking and animals, or the non-fiction novels are, quite frankly, absolute crap!

    Saw Spud. Remember seeing a fairly good review somewhere. Having seen nothing else I gave it a try.

    Thank God I bought both. This meant that I did not have to make another trip to the bookshop on Sunday.

    Can't wait for the next one. Please hurry up. And I just LOVE Vern. He is my absolute bestest character.

    As for the dilema with Mermaid and Amanda. Spud should go out with Mermaid for the time being. Stay freinds with Amanda until he grows up.

    As all young love, Spud and Mermaid will grow out of each other. Amanda however is waiting in the wings.....

    A Movie? I would rather see a TV show. I am sure M-net would be interested.

    But if you go the movie route, then there will just have to be Spud 1, 11 and 111! Harry Potter eat your heart out

    And please God find some good actors, S.A. ones too! I am tired of cringing at our movies and TV projects. It is time we got past producing first class adverts and moved on. If we can crack the bloody advertising industry then it's time we cracked the movie industry too!


  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
    September 17th, 2007 @19:56 #

    Dear Gail, if you want to have another good laugh, without depressing hardcore politics: Past Imperfect by Emma van der Vliet (Penguin, 2007). PS I love the prozac bit, even though I am a fan of JMC.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    September 17th, 2007 @21:28 #

    Do not despair, Ben. You too can now benefit from the convenience of Rent-a-Stalker. Gail is one of our more experienced operatives. She can also provide you with information on our full paparazzi service, which comes with 5 bonafide flashers and an American news team. And if you sign in early (before the December rush), we'll throw in the helicopter for free.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    September 25th, 2007 @10:01 #

    I think I may have a job for you, Crazyjo. (Stupid, American, teenage girl with raving hormones - that's top of the list in our recruitment profile.)

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    September 25th, 2007 @15:09 #

    crazyjo, has Spud II on its database, though it's "currently unavailable":

    If you keep watching that page, you might get to be the first to place an order when it goes "live" - !

    Otherwise, SA's own ships overseas. Here's the link:

    Once you create a profile on Kalahari, and pay with a credit card, you should have the book within six weeks.

    Either way, it's a long wait, I'm afraid!

  • wheels
    September 25th, 2007 @16:09 #

    Hey John, I enjoyed both books immensely. You obviously enjoy deep sea fishing, hence the trip to the Transkei. Or is this just the occasional (traditional) outing with the boys? And I know that Spud was fiction based on fact (hence the slip-up in the first book when you mentioned "St Johns" and "Voortrekker" instead of their 'given' names), but where is the cemetery adjoining an Anglican Church (near the circle???) in Durban North? St Martins, but without the dead folk?

    You wrote the book every school boarder (in Natal anyway) has wanted to write but never did. If you ever need ammunition to add to your plot for a third Spud, just shout! -- Dave R.

  • wheels
    October 8th, 2007 @16:17 #

    Karina'a recommendation of Past Imperfect by Emma van der Vliet, I bought it and read it. A waste of time. Pretentious, self-involved, childish, and a nothing story. I finished reading the book and it was a big "huh?" What was the point? Good language usage, but it was simply a pointless year-in-the-life of a nobody which left me exasperated. Seems like, towards the end, the author grew tired of her story and decided to end it. Ho hum. Emma, I was just as tired of it as you obviously were.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Stephen</a>
    October 30th, 2007 @15:44 #

    Wow, John, just read all the great news about Spud on the Penguin blog. Well bloody done!


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