Vintage Afrikaans pulp novels

Lees hierdie blad in Afrikaans.

For over a decade, from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, the Afrikaans language in South Africa saw a proliferation of pulp novels. The premier publisher of these books, Pronk, produced about two books a month for almost 15 years –  some 350 books in all.

The vast majority of these books came from only four writers. Braam le Roux wrote 101 books in a writing career of only ten years. Meiring Fouché wrote 79, Reinhardt Hendriks (sometimes writing as Casper H. Marais) wrote 76 and Gerrie Radloff 71.

Republication of Pronk books

Most of the Pronk books have been republished on occasion. However, as far as could be established, Say Books is the first to make any of these books available in ebook format.

Original texts have been hard to come by, and we often had to rely on republished versions in which some aspects of the originals had been adapted, e.g. references to money as well as the terminology used to refer to different races. We kept the texts as close to the original as possible, correcting clear errors and making minor typographic adjustments for clarity. Here and there, the meaning of some words have changed to the extent that modern readers had to be accommodated by substituting the more common current terminology.

What could not be changed is the moral and ethical mindset of the time, especially in regards to the implicit attitudes towards people of different races. While we do avoid pejorative racial terms, the attitudes remain as they were originally. This makes these books interesting also from a sociological point of view. Tellingly, whereas the heroes are Afrikaners, the villains tend to be foreigners.

Above all, however, these stories are entertainment of a kind that is all too often seen these days – tales of grand adventure, where credibility is unashamedly sacrificed for excitement.

Afrikaans pulp series of the 1950s

These books appeared in a number of different series, with different writers often contributing to the same series.

The most prolific of these writers, Braam le Roux, (pseudonym of Abraham le Roux Botha) started four of these series:

  • Die Swart Luiperd. The Black Leopard is a masked character akin to Lee Falk’s Phantom. Wearing a leopard mask, Leon Fouché goes around the jungle on horseback, aided by two leopards, fighting evil.
  • Temmers van die Woestyn. Tamers of the Desert is a series of “Westerns” set against the discovery of diamonds and gold in southern Africa late in the 1800s.
  • SA Polisie. The SA Police series focuses on rural mounted policeman Kobus Roode. The stories are set in the post-war years.
  • Swerwer Speurder. Roaming Detective features Obed de Swardt in a series of 1950s crime stories.

All four these series were continued by other writers after Braam le Roux’s death. Meiring Fouché pseudonym of F.A. Venter) took over writing Die Swart Luiperd and contributed to SA Polisie and Swerwer Speurder. He also started two series of his own:

  • Maagd van die See (Virgin of the Sea), about a pirate ship.
  • Sahara Avontuur (Sahara Adventure) series about a South African in the French Foreign Legion.

Gerrie Radlof (spelled Radloff in later editions, pseudonym of Gerrit van Zyl) contributed to many series and also started two of his own:

  • Ramala is set in the Fish River region of South Africa  in the 1840s and features a small band, led by Manie van der Walt, who fights for justice.
  • Oloff die Seerower (Oloff the Pirate) was one of the few series not  to be shared by any other writer.

Reinhardt Hendriks/Casper H. Marais created Rooi Jan (Red John), about a bearded Tarzan-like figure in the eastern borderlands of European civilisation in South Africa around 1840.

Reinhardt Hendriks’s brother, Hermie Hendriks, also wrote a number of books, notably the Diamantveld (Diamond Field) series of 12 books, set against the backdrop of the discovery of diamonds in South Afrika in the 1870s.