Update on Ian Smith's The Great Betrayal, in South Africa

from Prof. Richard Wood, University of Durban, August 1997

John Blake, the publisher, seriously underestimated the demand here in South Africa (although I told him it would be at least 5 000) but that is not surprising as the orders from the bookshops were so feeble and the press reaction so nasty. I'm told that the book is now sold out in the UK and you cannot get a book here, in South Africa, for love or money. Ian Smith has been signing frantically. To be fair 'honest, decent and straightforward', the distributor, Verbatim Books, originally put the cover about and got back 300 orders for the whole of South Africa. They don't know their market. Being daring the distributor brought in 1,000 and after the UK launch those were gone immediately and orders could not be fulfilled. As books were brought in they disappeared off the shelves with people often buying more than one copy. Two weeks ago Ian Smith came down from Zimbabwe because there were finally spare books. He went on TV to be interviewed by a young African girl and signed books in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The book sold out at every signing with many furious customers being turned away. 500 books went over the week-end. Then 200 went from John Redfern's mail-order arrangement on Friday, 25 July.

I played my part in selling the book. Ian Smith arrived here in Durban on Friday, 25 July at 1 p.m.. I met him at the airport and drove him straight to a lunch with the Rhodesian Army Officers Association at which he spoke and which he and those present thoroughly enjoyed. The local press also managed to interview him during the lunch. Then I took him to his host, Ken Mackenzie, who lives in Kloof. There was barely time to get home to collect my wife, Carole, and then get to the signing at Adam's Bookshop, in the Musgrave Centre. When we arrived, there was not only a long queue to have the book signed by Ian Smith, who was beavering away, but every available copy had been sold. Many disappointed people. Peter Adams had wine and beer and snacks on hand and after an hour, I gave a brief introduction and then Ian Smith followed with a speech full of humour and his never-quenched fighting spirit. The crowd loved him. There were emotional scenes. One old chap held Smith's hand and choked. He couldn't speak, just stood there, clutching his hand.

I was not with Ian Smith when he went to Pietermaritzburg for a formal lunch on Saturday with 200 people. On Saturday night, however, I was at the function in Durban in the VIP Lounge at Kingsmead Cricket Ground. I spoke there too and again he followed me. There were over two hundred people present and many had been turned away. There were no books on hand to sell but people brought books that they had bought elsewhere and he signed them. He also signed menues, programmes, old photos, other author's books, flags. He spoke to each one and again there were emotional scenes.

On Sunday morning a week ago, a beautiful warm day, Carole and I drove Ian Smith to the Heritage Village Shopping Centre at Hillcrest. We arrived at 10 a.m. for tea. A parking space had been reserved for us and a security guard (a Zulu) slammed his feet together so hard he tottered but snapped off a smart salute. We were given tea by Heritage Village Management Board and were told that there was a queue of 500 people plus waiting and that our hosts, the Now and Then Bookshop had sold out their 100 copies. When we walked through the village - it's a collection of shops and restaurants - people stood up everywhere and clapped. Ian Smith was surrounded by a crowd as he walked. There was unfortunately a great deal of distress as there were so many disappointed - two-thirds of the queue. The manager calculated that he could have sold 500 books. There were angry scenes. Again Ian Smith signed the books, flags, memos, notebooks and any paper on hand, and this time everyone wanted my signature too! (Doubles the value!) And again there were tears shed as people met Ian Smith. He had a word for everyone and shook all the children's hands. The queue never seemed to diminish for three hours. In the end, I had to tell everyone that we were going as we had to get him to the airport. As we left, people stood and clapped. Ian Smith left at 3.20 for Cape Town, where he's signing today. At the moment with the book sold out everywhere, it strikes me that Blake is printing money. The South African price is going up to R160 to cover the cost of having to airfreight copies. The Great Betrayal is on the top of the hardback best seller list in Durban for the third week running!

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