Book Reviews: Devil’s Paradise, Or Verander Jou Verwoerd

April 9, 2017



Under Devil’s Peak by Gavin Cooper          9

Verander Jou Kop by Stephan Joubert      4

Verwoerd by Henry Kenney                        7

Sweet Paradise by Joanne Hichens            6


Through Under Devil’s Peak, readers can relive the past, the dark times of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, when the unworthy South African judiciary was manipulated, controlled and corrupted  by politicians and their henchmen serving in the Security Police. This book is a biography describing the life and times of Wilfrid Cooper, a remarkable man who stood up and served his profession and people honourably as an advocate and defence lawyer during the apartheid years. His name is associated with many famous trials including the Tsavendas murder case, Steve Biko’s death in detention and many families who requested his service to expose the dirty doings of the Security Police while working during BJ Vorster’s “Detention Without Trial” years.  A revealing case was enacted in South West Africa starting with a murder that proved to be a fake, used as an overture to a major attempt to dethrone SWAPO. Along with the politically motivated cases, there are some criminal ones too – Baron von Schauroth’s assisted “suicide” by Marthinus Rossouw  (a la Brett Kebble), the Marlene Lehnberg Scissor Murder Case  and more that stirred major public interest. In the Eighties, Cooper turned his legal focus on government scandals and was later admitted to the bench to serve his remaining working years as a judge.  This book is a splendid mix of court stories, family life in the Cape, history and legal philosophy.  Gavin, Wilfrid’s son, has covered a part of local history that lives with many of us as a  bad memory. Court procedures are meticulously explained and researched, making this book a unique reading experience, introducing the layman to a world of legal word artistry. I loved it. – DB


Vernander Jou Kop reveals the intricate inner workings of the human brain, showing its miraculous neural wiring to adapt to almost any circumstance and condition. Joubert adds a self-serving claim that the brain is also an instrument wired to reveal God and make us faithful servants of the Christian religion. Blending neurological science and religious fervour makes the book more like a sermon from the pulpit than a serious exposition of brain power. – DB


Reading this book leaves one with a sense of disbelief. Did this happen? Is this how it was? First published a decade after Hendrick Verwoerd’s assassination, this 2016 edition is enriched with a lengthy introduction written by historian Professor David Welsh that puts this biography in true historical perspective.  The narrative makes for fascinating reading about a man who changed  South Africa in many ways, even projecting some of his life’s work into the present.  His obstinate commitment to Afrikaner nationalism culminated in getting South Africa to leave the Commonwealth and establish the Republic that he held up as his greatest triumph. Much of Verwoerd’s character showed during his formative years in school and university, in addition to his obvious intelligence and visionary zeal. He was totally opposed to any interference or contrary advice in attaining his political objectives. He left questions unanswered. Was he pro- or anti-Nazi; was he anti-Semitic; and did he, in the end realise apartheid would fail? The speech he never got to make would probably have had a moderating tone about his political mission, it is thought. This biography deals with the background, the philosophy, the vision, the structure and the practice of apartheid. This is historical writing at its best, making one realise that a brilliant mind, devoted to a single,  overriding objective, can go astray, missing the broad pattern that makes for a country’s positive future. – DB


This is a thriller set in Cape Town, in a “rehabilitation” facility named Sweet Paradise. Rae Valentine, herself a recovered addict, is a private investigator who is cajoled into investigating the disappearance of a young woman committed to this facility. She is turn has been party to a former policeman, a colleague in the investigative business, and himself an alcoholic, being incarcerated in Sweet Paradise. It is a fast-moving story, but each page has a new revelation of greed, megalomania, perversion, nymphomania and plain evil. One searches to find anyone in the cast who is not fatally flawed, though perhaps the solid, slogging members of SAPS do come through as credible. There is plenty of action and intrigue. The plot however relies almost entirely on the total corruptness of the director, a psychiatrist, his wife and the two (and only two) members of the nursing staff. It is somewhat far-fetched. The two nurses  manage the patients 24 hours a day and have sole responsibility for the handful of non-ambulant patients in the closed wards. A part-time gardener and outside caterers complete the complement. If you can suspend disbelief, wander through the aberrations of personality and accept the storyline, you may hold on to the end. The story builds up to a great climax – “incendiary” is the word. – RH