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Hot of the Press: Read an Excerpt from HJ Golakai’s New Novel, The Score

The ScoreKwela Books has shared an excerpt from The Score, the new novel by HJ Golakai.

The Score is the much anticipated follow-up to Golakai’s first novel, the internationally acclaimed The Lazarus Effect, which was longlisted for the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature, and shortlisted for both the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize.

The Score is described as “an unflinching romp through what remains of the dream of the rainbow nation …” The book sees the return of investigative reporter Vee, who has been banished to Oudtshoorn. Luckily for her – and unluckily for everyone else – she has barely checked in when the first body is discovered.

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“Johnson …”
Vee flipped a hand for silence, frowning over the document open on the flatscreen. It was all over the place. Jumbled, wordy in the wrong places, the punch sucked out of it. The online team were a pack of butchers – why else would every thing of beauty that passed through their feral mitts come out the other end looking, sounding if that were possible, like a mangled carcass?
Prose was doomed to play the ugly stepchild to graphics in their world, as if readers only visited the digital page to look at pretty pictures. She chopped a few limp lines off the third paragraph, thought better of it and deleted it completely. “Dammit!” she threw her hands up. “What’ve you done?”
“This,” Darren Februarie tapped the screen, “is a masterpiece.”
“This is shit spattered on a bathroom wall, that’s how readable it is.” She readjusted her chair. “Last time I give you anything for comments.”
“C’mon. You’re not gonna do a full re-write while I –”
“Febs, hush your mouth. This is what you do, make a mess and throw it in my lap to fix at the last minute. Who told you to merge all this? It was separate for good reason.”
“It read better.”
It read better? Did you actually read this tripe back to yourself after you butchered it, or is comprehension another handicap of your Bantu education?”
“Ohh-hooo! Bitch switch on, people!” Darren guffawed, then slowly, very carefully, raised his middle finger in her face. Vee bared and snapped her teeth as if to bite it off, sending him
stumbling backwards, laughing some more. She swivelled back around, dead serious as she sliced the cursor across the screen, muttering to herself. “You are no Hemingway, and I’m no Mark Zuckerberg. Instead of trying to do a mash-up, let’s play to strengths until …” The rest of the sentence – ‘I’m officially part of the team’ – soured in the back of her throat. She shook her head. “Well, just until.” The cursor flitted like a scalpel, ripping out the heart of the story gasping for air amidst entrails of inconsequential fluff, and transplanted it to the top of the page.
“Otherwise we end up with this.”
“Fine. I defer to your brilliance only – she’s coming!”
Vee jerked one eye over his head and through the door to the newsroom. A missile of purple bore down on them in the form of a short, plump brunette. She clicked ‘save’, wiggled out the
flash drive, tossed it at Februarie’s rapidly retreating back and sprang from the chair.
She didn’t get far.
“Ah, Voinjama!” Swathes of plum crowded out the nearest escape route. Vee groaned inwardly as Saskia Schoeman executed her trademark plastic smile, lips stretching by fractions like they
were being tugged at the corners by invisible drawstrings.
“There you are.”
“Here I am. Where I always … am.”
“Indeed you are,” Saskia sniffed. “One would think you were hiding from me!”
“Haha. One could think that. And before you ask, I’m headed there already.”
“Wonderful.” The smile cranked up a few extra tight degrees.
Trouble brewing, Vee cautioned herself. Experience had shown there was very little difference between office manager and Gestapo in Saskia’s mind. The witch’s cauldron was always on
the boil, and as the unfortunate newbies, she and Chlöe often served as the freshest ingredients.
“Oh, and when you run into your, umm … friend, perhaps you can impress upon her the importance of attending my meetings.” Again, hard to miss how Schoeman’s saliva practically curdled at the prospect of using the word ‘assistant’, a luxury no-one below her was supposed to have. “We start in fifteen. If you can spare her, that is.”
Vee ignored the jibe, frowning. “What meeting?” She thought for a second. “Oh, the interns’ thing. Chlöe’s not an intern.”
“She’s not a journalist either, is she?” Saskia’s head did a sly cat’s tilt.
Vee primmed her lips. “Thought that was two-thirty this afternoon, with the group from Urban.” She flicked her watch: closing on nine-thirty a.m. “I was hoping to attend.”
“Not necessary. I have it under control. You’ve stretched yourself quite thin as it is.” Something vulgar insinuated itself in her tone, another of her slithery, unsettling talents. Schoeman flicked her gaze across the newsroom to Darren, who had hustled himself a long, safe distance away and now stood looking pointedly nonchalant as he sipped coffee and conferred with
another colleague. She dragged her eyes back to Vee, the film on her irises taking on an oily, vaguely threatening glint. “May I add that I believe the office runs far better when we all look to our assigned duties, and concentrate on performing them exclusively and well. No-one need step outside the confines of their job description. It’s disruptive.”
And I believe you look like a rolling grape, Vee smirked at her back, watching her duck-waddle away.
She rotated kinks out of her neck and shoulders down the corridor to the managing editor’s office, apprehension stirring up her breakfast. She really wasn’t up for crap this early.
Investigating for Urban magazine had been one thing, but wading through the innards of the City Chronicle beast had so far proved a different adventure altogether. Yes … definitely a Jonah-in-the-belly-of-the-whale level of wading.

Book details

Author image courtesy of Brittlepaper and Victor Ehikhamenor


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