By the Book: Q&A with James Brent-Styan

Author of Steinhoff: Inside SA's Biggest Corporate Crash, James Brent-Styan was a voracious reader as a child and especially fond of Asterix and Obelix.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Stripped: The king of sleaze, Lolly Jackson's autobiography he signed and gave me shortly before he was assassinated.

What's the best book you've ever received as a gift?

The Asterix and Obelix books my parents bought me and I still have.

What do you read when you're working on a book?

Anything related (and unrelated). I'm always discovering new stories that interest me while researching something. Often one book leads to others. And it's insane how they're often all connected in a way.

And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?

I don't really avoid anything. But I do tend to have less time to read for personal enjoyment.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

Voracious. I won a prize one school holiday (I was in primary school) for most books read that holiday. I think it was 24 books in three weeks. They didn't believe me when I listed the books so they tested me. I won a book. 

Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

Asterix and Obelix, naturally. Tintin. Enid Blyton's Famous Five. Willard Price (Animal adventure books). Topsy Smith (Trompie), Keurboslaan books.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

My Eskom book called Blackout. It may help him address what is surely the greatest crisis facing the country at the moment.

You're organising a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

James Patterson, Agatha Christie en Stephen King.

What was the last truly great book you read?

I couldn't put down Deon Meyer's Koors (English version Fever).

* James-Brent Styan has been the media liaison officer for the Western Cape Minister of Local Government and Environmental Affairs since 2014. Previously, James was a senior political correspondent for Media24 in Parliament, after working as a financial reporter in Johannesburg for a number of years. His first book, Blackout: The Eskom Crisis, was published in 2015. His second book, Heartbreaker (2017) is a biography of Dr Christiaan Barnard, who conducted the first successful heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital, while Steinhoff: Inside SA's Biggest Corporate Crash was published in 2018.