Seeing the first reports that Oscar Pistorius was writing a book, I began to say “Good Grief!”, but this is neither good nor grief.
Weeks ago, when I wrote about the inevitability of
“Oscar: The Movie” and even The Musical,
some readers thought I was being rather over-the-top. But I was just being accurate, if a touch sarcastic.
Chapter One: Oscar Writes a Book.
Major overseas newspapers reported Pistorius's
manager and agent, Peet van Zyl, as
having revealed that Oscar would indeed write a book, about Reeva and himself, the slaying of the former and the
trial of the latter. Being Oscar, of course, it would emphasize “his ordeal,” as, despite being convicted of killing his friend, he still appears to be the
perpetrator who sees himself as an eternal victim.
The Observer quoted Peet as saying: “He
will write his own book. We've discussed
it. We've talked about ideas and
concepts. I'm not going to go into
details now." I haven’t seen him
specifically deny using those actual words.
Such a book could be highly profitable
for him in financial terms. While his
uncle’s fortune will ensure Oscar never goes hungry, his awful defence has been very
expensive, and he may already be missing
the bling and the gaudy lifestyle he once enjoyed. The exercise would naturally be seen by many as a disgusting effort to cash in on
the death, and to make a killing out of
Read: The adoration of Oscar
The report brought widespread
condemnation and bitterness throughout orthodox and social media. Those that soar by the tweet may sink by the
tweet. There’s been an outpouring of
scorn, including unpleasant suggestions
for titles, the most popular being “How
I Got Away With Murder”; Racing From the Truth; and, my favourite: “The Green Bile.” Someone speculated as to whether he’d have the cheek to ask Judge Masipa
to write the foreword. Would there be an
accompanying CD of wailing? Maybe a
complimentary pack of anti-nausea meds?
If this was ever near a serious
idea, someone hugely over-estimated
Oscar’s enduring popularity. The
pathetic Pistorians, though frenzied in their comments on every blog or site
they can reach, are tiny in number, and limited in how many books they each can
buy. Some other celebrity books have
flopped commercially, and there could be
demonstrations and boycotts of the publishers of such a book, and of stores which stocked it.
Chapter Two : Oscar Does Not Write a Book.
After the controversy had been broiling
for some days, his manager, Peet, spoke
again. Inevitably, he complained of having been quoted out of
context. Interesting how often that
complaint comes from folks whose real trouble comes from having been quoted
accurately and in context. As an
agent, part of whose job would usually
include managing the media with skill, one would have expected him to anticipate the inevitable fuss that’d
follow such comments, and to have been careful to place his precise comments on
Anyhow, he told another major paper: "During the
interview, I was asked about the various
books… that are in the works. All I
said was 'If and when Oscar decides to
write a memoir, that's the only book
that will matter." That would have
been unrealistic speculation, as few, especially if they’d heard his wild and
hysterical evidence in court, would expect such a book to be accurate or
definitive. Does he want us to hear his side of it? We’ve
heard nothing BUT his side of it, he made sure of that.
Read: The absurdities of the Oscar trial
said elsewhere: "I will sit down with him once everything is done and
decide what we are going to do. We have to wait until 13 October before we can
think about anything. After that we will tell the world what we are going to
do." And “We’ve talked about ideas and concepts. I’m not going to go into
One can’t help wondering whether Van Zyl
may have been used as a stalking horse, to put the book idea out and see what reaction it got. Now that there’s been so much hostility,
maybe the idea will be soft-pedalled for now, to try again later.
Profiteering from crime
In some countries there are excellent
laws which utterly forbid any convicted criminal from profiting in any way from
the crime. In South Africa the situation
may be, not surprisingly, more feeble and illogical. I have read that the law in S.A., such as the
Correctional Services Act, says that
nobody who has been criminally convicted may derive profit "directly or
indirectly for any published account" relating to the offence in question. But this should include ANY form of
profiteering, such as giving lectures or
paid interviews. It also seems that this
ban may only extend while he is actually in jail or on probation or community
service for the crime. If that is indeed the case, it is ridiculous and the law needs urgent
amendment to ensure no profit is
allowed, in any way, forever.
Similarly, there’s of course been some talk about him
returning to competition as a runner. Various sporting groups, without
exactly sounding enthusiastic, have said
that their rules don’t actually forbid someone from competing again after a
criminal conviction, once they've served
their sentence. Maybe the rules should
be amended. But already some major
sponsors have begun to indicate they would not wish to be associated with him
again. Especially if, as now seems
possible, he receives a ridiculously
lenient sentence, there could even be demonstrations
were he to run again. He has already
started to provoke a strong backlash.
Read: The successes and shortcomings of the Oscar trial
have been reminded of the American sometime sportsman, OJ Simpson, very controversially cleared of murder charges, who published a book “If
I Did It”, which, he insisted, described only hypothetically how he would have killed his ex-wife and
another victim if he had been guilty.
hard to see what more Oscar would reveal in such a book, other than a re-hash of what we've already
heard at such length. Especially with
all his claims in court that he
“can’t remember” details, it would be
very fishy if he suddenly discovered new details.
There can’t be exculpatory evidence he hasn't
used already, and theoretically, if he produced substantial new facts pointing
to guilt, such as an admission, then, as
the excellent Prof. James Grant of Wits, has been quoted as saying:
“Ordinarily, if he were to write a book with new information, he wouldn’t be retried. But if he says
something exceptional such as to admit guilt, it would be unthinkable that an
appeal court wouldn’t take it up.”
Books already en route
are already many other books being rushed to press right now, by both competent authors and eager
wannabes. Already, there’s “Oscar: An
Accident Waiting to Happen,” co-written
by Patricia Taylor, mother of his bitter ex-girlfriend Samantha.
In December comes Chase Your Shadow: the
Trials of Oscar Pistorius, by John
Carlin, who wrote the book on which the movie “Invictus” was based. Barry Bateman, whose flood of live tweets became
well-known, has co-written with Mandy
Wiener, “Behind the Door: The Oscar and Reeva Steenkamp Story” due out next
month. A TV movie is surely being
planned. Bateman has apparently already
had approaches from producers. Barry’s trial coverage brought him 227,000
followers, though one wonders how many
will remain when the trial is over.
We’ll never hear what Reeva Steenkamp
might have wanted to say. Oscar has
experienced media advisors, who surely
would not have suggested a book. He
should try not to confirm the impression he’s given of an egotistical,unfeeling and irresponsible young man. What we need to hear from Oscar is genuine
contrition and remorse rather than just profound self-pity. They need to remind him of the great value of
Is Oscar getting away with murder?
Will Oscar get "special treatment" in jail?
Is it worth sending Oscar to jail?
Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.