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When Pretoria boy Ted Botha moved to New York City, he was not so much an immigrant as someone on the make – a travelling South African looking to broaden his horizons. In no time he’d lied his way into a job in the New York magazine industry. Then he stumbled upon a small old dilapidated building in Harlem and moved in. Several blocks away, flats were selling for $1 million and more, yet he’d found one he could afford.

What seemed like a fantastic opportunity, however, quickly descended into a world of chaos, lies, conspiracies, suspicion, drug dealing, police raids and death threats. Behind much of it slithered that terrible beast Botha thought he had left behind in South Africa, race. And the worse things got in the New World, the more Botha thought of the world he had left behind, Africa. Could he ever reconcile the two and survive the anarchy rampant in his old building?

In equal parts memoir, comedy and tragedy – not to mention a travelogue/travelog (with some detours into American spelling along the way) – Flat/White brings to life a cast of characters that you won’t soon forget, in a story you won’t actually believe is true. But it is.

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The Girl with the Crooked Nose

Someone is killing the young women of Juárez. Since 1993, the decomposing bodies of as many as four hundred victims, known as feminicidios, have been found in the desert surrounding this gritty Mexican border town. Prodded by local political pressure and international attention, the Mexican authorities turn to the United States to help solve these horrific crimes. The man they turn to is Bender.

Through breathtakingly realistic sculptures, Frank Bender has made it his career to reconstruct the faces of unknown murder victims and of fugitives whose appearances are certain to have changed over years on the run. The busts are based in part on the painstaking application of forensic science and art to fleshless human skulls and in part on deep intuition, an uncanny ability to discern not only a missing face but the personality behind it.

Arriving in Mexico, Bender works in secrecy, in a culture of corruption and casual violence, braving anonymous threats and sinister coincidences to give eight skulls back their faces and, hopefully, their histories. Drawn to one skull in particular – ‘the Girl with the Crooked Nose’ – Bender gradually comes to suspect that perhaps he is not meant to succeed, and that the true solution to the mystery of the feminicidios is far more terrible than anyone has dared to imagine.

Ted Botha brilliantly weaves Bender’s story – the cases he has solved, the intricacies of his art, the colorful characters he encounters, and the personal cost of his strange obsession – with the chilling story of the Juárez investigation. The Girl with the Crooked Nose will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.

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The Animal Lover

"The Animal Lover" is equal parts mystery, romance, comedy, and adventure that crisscrosses the globe and whisks you from modernday Africa back to the jungles of World War 2.

Upton Magna, the sadsack son of evil Solomon Magna, a millionaire businessman in London, has been sidelined and sent to a backwater city in West Africa to find exports for his father, but he’s not doing very well. On a whim he starts following the mysterious, gorgeous Ella Bazaar on a madcap journey in search of an okapi that has been stolen. (If you don’t know what an okapi is, don’t fret. All will be explained.)

At the same time, Upton starts reading the 1939 diary of one Hercule Perpignon, dashing hero and hunter (at least for a while, this being a story about animal love) on a coconut plantation in wartime West Africa. When the gorgeous Sylvie arrives, magical, mystical, inexplicable things start to occur.

As Hercule’s adventures with the lovely young mistress of the plantation get more intense, so do Upton’s with Ella Bazaar. Coincidentally, or maybe not, strange things are happening in parts of the world where the pernicious Solomon Magna’s empire has spread its tentacles, and someone seems to be orchestrating his downfall.

So, what is the connection between the possible demise of the Magna empire, Upton, and the diary? Or is there any at all? And who is the animal lover? If you think you know, think again. You are probably wrong. And you won't find out until the last page.

Reminiscent of 'Water for Elephants' and 'The Life of Pi,' 'The Animal Lover' will take you on a journey through past and present that you won't soon forget.


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Mongo, Adventures in Trash

Mongo, according to the Cassell Dictionary of Slang, is New York lingo for any discarded object that is retrieved. When Ted moved to Manhattan from South Africa, where people constructed homes out of what others considered trash, he decorated his apartment with furniture he found on the streets. Soon he realized he wasn't the only person finding things of value in the garbage, and he began roaming the streets meeting all kinds of collectors, united by their obsession with mongo.

This book is a record of his travels among the collectors, who are as varied as the kind of mongo they seek. They range from housewife to homeless man, from accountant to computer consultant; from retrenched bank worker to full-time collector. One man finds jewelry in the sludge of New York's sewers; another has built one of the most extensive rare book collections in the city. The myriad reasons for collecting open a window into the range of human desires: some people collect for fun, others to make a living; some to find friends, others to snoop; some to make a political statement, others because it is an addiction. Collecting mongo is a longtime, universal phenomenon, and, as the publisher Bloomsbury says, is "at last receiving a worthy literary appreciation."


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The Expat Confessions
(with Jenni Baxter)

Ted became an expatriate in 1995, Jenni Baxter in 1990. He moved to New York by way of France, she to Australia by way of London. In their new countries, they created new lives, built new homes, made new friends and learned how to talk with a different accent. But there was one thing that neither of them ever forgot - South Africa. In fact, it was because of their South African connection and a South African website that they met, became firm friends and decided to tell the story of what it's like to be a South African abroad. They contacted South Africans far and wide - from Taiwan to Hawaii, Sydney to Sudan, Christchurch to Canada, London to L.A. - and got their take on living abroad and leaving their homeland behind. Their stories are surprising, funny, tragic, heartfelt, frustrating, racist and sometimes even quite sad. They are The Expat Confessions.

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Apartheid in my Rucksack

When Ted left Pretoria in 1986 to travel overland through Africa to England and North America, he wanted to escape South Africa. He wanted a period of respite from the political turmoil, the riots, the apartheid that he had been writing about daily. He wanted to lose himself in travel, and perhaps even look for a new home abroad. But forgetting South Africa wasn't that easy. Despite his rigorous efforts to immerse himself in my travels, his errant thoughts kept turning homeward, and South Africa and her spurious policies dogged his every step.

The world was captivated and consumed by South Africa and he repeatedly found himself in situations that recalled home. On Lake Malawi, he met with Americans who had been arrested on suspicion of being South African spies. In Tanzania he was declared a Prohibited Immigrant because of his Afrikaans surname. He arrived in America the week that Congress passed its momentous anti-apartheid legislation, while Paul Simon's album Graceland was filling the streets with the sound of township mbaqanga. And all along the way he met with exiles: bogus ones in Nairobi and real ones in Scotland, New York and Vancouver, all trying in vain to forget home.

The farther from home he traveled, the closer he got to it. His journey of escape turned into one of confrontation. During eight months on the road, the specter of apartheid influenced how he saw places abroad and how he saw South Africa, and he found myself curiously and inextricably caught between those two worlds.

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Apartheid in my Rucksack