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The Sunday Hangman: A Kramer and Zondi Investigation (Kramer and Zondi Investigations) Paperback – February 7, 2012


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Product Details

  • Series: Kramer and Zondi Investigations
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime; Reprint edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616951052
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616951054
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,416,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for James McClure:
 
"The pace is fast, the solution ingenious.  Above all, however, is the author’s extraordinary naturalistic style. He is that rarity—a sensitive writer who can carry his point without forcing."
The New York Times Book Review
 
“More than a good mystery story, which it is, The Steam Pig is also a revealing picture of the hate and sickness of the apartheid society of South Africa.”
Washington Post
 
“So artfully conceived as to engender cheers.... A memorable mystery.”
Los Angeles Times
 
“This well-plotted, well-written murder mystery is exceptional ... sometimes grim, sometimes sourly comic, always shocking.”
The Atlantic

“Probably one of the best police procedurals published so far in 2012.”
—Mystery Tribune

"Soho completes its reprinting of one of the finest police series to begin in the 1970s, James McClure's eight books about Tromp Kramer and Mickey Zondi, a South African biracial detective team in the days of Apartheid."
—Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 

About the Author

James McClure (1939-2006) was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he worked as a photographer and then a teacher before becoming a crime reporter. He published eight wildly successful books in the Kramer and Zondi series during his lifetime and was the recipient of the CWA Silver and Gold Daggers.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen on April 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
Bank robber Tollie Erasmus has been found hanging from a tree with a Bible in his hand. What looks at first like a suicide turns out to be a killing performed in the same manner as that used by the South African criminal justice system to execute criminals. It soon becomes clear that the murder of Erasmus is more than an isolated crime, as a second victim turns up who was killed in a similar manner.
Police detectives Lieutenant Tromp Kramer and his Bantu assistant Mickey Zondi pursue their investigation amid the hate filled atmosphere of South Africa under the apartheid system. This atmosphere is so much a part of the story that it could not be told in any other time or place. The emphasis on the gradations of color of a person's skin, and whether they are white, black or colored are such an integral part of the dialog and relationships among characters as to be frightening.
McClure's characters are as multi-layered as a writer can make them. He adds details of their personal lives that bring the reader into the minds of police, criminals, and peripheral characters, whether we are meant to like them or not. The differing cultures and ethnic backgrounds of the characters rub against each other in a constant friction as Kramer and Zondi work their way toward the capture of the killer.
The Sunday Hangman was originally released in 1977, and is one of eight Kramer and Zondi novels. This riveting story serves as a scathing indictment of the apartheid system, which was still fully in force in South Africa at the time the book was written. But primarily, McClure is telling a good tale, with plenty of satisfying twists and turns for the avid crime novel reader. The message, if there is one, is so woven into the story as to be not so much part of the plot as part of the life of the characters. And it is this subtlety that is the novel's strength.
(Review published in Suspense Magazine)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 13, 2013
Format: Paperback
Years ago I read quite a lot in the mystery/suspense genre - escapism from the strains of work, I suppose. One of my favorite series featured the unlikely South African duo of Lt. Tromp Kramer and Bantu Detective Sergeant Mickey Zondi. Culling through my books, I recently discovered a title I had not read previously - THE SUNDAY HANGMAN (1977 edition). It turned out to be moderately entertaining, better than what I recall of most such detective series.

A vicious criminal, long on the lam, turns up hanging from a thorn tree in a picnic area just off a main highway out in the country. At first it looks like a suicide. But police investigations reveal it to have been an execution; moreover, four other hangings had been conducted in the same fashion. There clearly is a self-appointed executioner on the loose in the veld of South Africa. In the end, of course, the hangman is identified and justice of a sort prevails.

The plot is overly complicated and highly improbable, but ultimately plot is not the reason for reading James McClure. Instead, the appeal of his series lies in its detective duo, especially the native sidekick Mickey Zondi. This is South Africa of the 1970's: apartheid is still the official way of life. Most of the whites look down on the kaffirs (Tromp Kramer is a rare exception), and Mickey Zondi cleverly exploits being underestimated. He also is superb at eliciting intelligence from the black underclass, which most white police detectives either ignore or intimidate into hostile silence. More broadly, McClure does a good job of depicting the complexities and nuances of social life in the South Africa of the time, including its racial prejudice. Yet another reason for reading McClure: his writing is above average.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mystery Tribune on February 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
Released by Soho Crime in early February, The Sunday Hangman is probably one of the best police procedurals published so far in 2012. The author, James McClure (1939 - 2006), was a British author and journalist best known for his Kramer and Zondi mysteries set in South Africa. The Sunday Hangman is the fifth book in this series originally published in 1977.

A Brief Summary

Tollie Erasmus, an unsavory bank robber on the run, is found dead hanging from the neck in a remote location. A bible is stuck in his left hand and at first it seems that this is a simple case of suicide. Lieutenant Kramer and his Bantu assistant Mickey Zondi are not convinced though. Soon another criminal ends up at the end of a noose; a message to Kramer and Zondi: Someone is upholding a code of justice that goes beyond the South Africa court system.

Somewhere there's a killer who knows far too much about the hangman's craft, and Lieutenant Kramer and Zondi must find him before his trail of death continues.

Our Take

The Sunday Hangman goes beyond a typical police procedural novel: The strong focus on mixing the story with McClure's naturalistic view of the location produces a rare tale of crime which not only puts the readers in the center of the realities in South African society but also absorbs their minds with vivid descriptions of the relationships between the native and white residents of the country.

McClure's writing is very personal: Many details are added by the author regarding the life of the main characters; from the forensics doctor's wife demanding a TV set, to the health problems and career difficulties of Zondi; such side stories don't distract the reader but add to the richness of the main plot.
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More About the Author

James McClure, the author and journalist, is best known for the widely acclaimed Kramer and Zondi detective novels that subtly brought the reality of apartheid-era South Africa to an international audience. But he was also the author of two of the most perceptive postwar books about the inner workings of the police on both sides of the Atlantic, and a campaigning and independent-minded newspaper editor.
Born in Johannesburg and educated in Natal, Jim, as he was always known, worked as a photographer after leaving school. He then became a teacher in his home town Pietermaritzburg, where school plays were his start in creative writing.
In the early 1960's, he left teaching to become a reporter, first with the Natal Witness and then the Natal Mercury, and his crime beat soon took him to the dark side of what was happening in South Africa at that time. What he witnessed during this time was later to be reflected in his writing.
In 1965, married and with a young son, these experiences, along with friends being arrested for their political views, led him and his family to leave South Africa for a future in Britain.
After working at the Scottish Daily Mail in Edinburgh, he moved south to Oxford and began a 30-year association with the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times. Possessed of a ferocious work ethic, he combined a busy journalistic life and a growing family with the creation of one of the most successful detective partnerships in the crime novel.
The Afrikaner Lieutenant Tromp Kramer and the Zulu detective sergeant Mickey Zondi arrived on the scene in The Steam Pig in 1971 and duly won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger that year. Seven more Kramer and Zondi books, including The Caterpillar Cop (1972), The Gooseberry Fool (1974), The Sunday Hangman (1977) and The Artful Egg (1984) were to follow, as were other novels, including Four and Twenty Virgins and Rogue Eagle, which won him the 1976 CWA Silver Dagger.
He enjoyed the esteem of fellow writers and critics. Ruth Rendell called him a "great storyteller" and Susanna Yager said that "even his corpses seem more real than some other authors' living characters". In 2000, The Artful Egg was included in a list of 100 Best Crime Novels of the 20th century in the Times.
His attempts at writing scripts for film included a play in 1968, set in the tunnels of the Vietnam War entitled 'The Hole' ('Bedrock'), sold to Granada television but never made. In 1974, he adapted the Steam Pig for film, the South African production of which was started, but inexplicably later abandoned. Both scripts are included in the recently published eBook 'God it Was Fun', a collection of his short stories and scripts (2014)
Jim was not only interested in fictional cops. In the late 70s, he attached himself to the Merseyside police and won the confidence of the officers there so well that he was able to produce Spike Island: Portrait of a Police Division in 1980, a book that captured and humanized the police in ways that few such books ever do and stands up to re-reading 25 years later. He repeated the feat in San Diego, California, four years later with Cop World.
After a break from journalism, in 1994, he became the editor of the Oxford Times, which won the weekly newspaper of the year award under his leadership. He became editor of the Oxford Mail in 2000 and remained there until his retirement. He had a talent for spotting young journalists and championing causes, and was an accomplished cartoonist.
He tackled his ill-health over the last few years with characteristic dark humour, recounting tales of hospital visits with the same vivid attention to offbeat detail that characterized his writing. He planned to write a new novel set in Oxford, but ran out of time on 17th June 2006.

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