Whilst working in the British Library I discovered the diaries of a young doctor who fought to expose a smallpox epidemic which had broken out in the diamond mines of South Africa. Reading further, it became clear that Cecil Rhodes, the great statesman, had covered up the epidemic to protect his investments in the mines. At the time it was reported as one of the worst medical scandals in British history, but it has since been all but forgotten.
My character Joseph Baier is modelled on the diamond magnates, and much of my character Edwin’s article for the Diamond Field, which features in the book, is based on fact, including Rhodes’s determination to reintroduce the flogging of African labourers. The Fever Tree exposes a darker side to Cecil Rhodes, and asks probing questions about the role the English played in the making of South Africa. The mining of blood diamonds, and the exploitation of Africa for its resources, went on then and still goes on today.
When I was in Kimberley, I came across a wonderful book of old photographs which give an amazing sense of time and place. Here are a handful, courtesy of the Kimberley Africana Library.
Target (USA) Picks Leopard at the Door for its Book Club
May 01, 2017
Kathryn Hughes Praises Leopard at the Door: “Right from the deliciously descriptive prologue, I knew I was in for a treat with this book. Jennifer McVeigh manages to transport the reader right to the heart of Africa with her vivid atmospheric prose.”
June 09, 2017
Kate Furnivall Praises Leopard at the Door: "This is a book that will steal your heart. It is a wonderful, stunning, heart-wrenching tale of love, danger and self-discovery. Jennifer McVeigh's descriptions of life in Kenya are electric in intensity and open up the world of Africa in vivid detail in a way that totally beguiled me. I couldn't put it down. It took me places I have never been before. A powerful, painful and brilliant book."
February 15, 2017
Publishers Weekly praises Leopard at the Door: "Captivating and thought-provoking. McVeigh’s beautiful prose and harrowing plot will quickly absorb readers by sensitively approaching themes of race, cultural evolution, and the humanness that unites us all."