‘Unemployed columnist. Author of ten books. Hasn’t seen a royalty cheque in years. Lives alone with two regrets and a hangover.’ (Twitter Bio, Ben Trovato). To follow is a candid, highly engaging (and somewhat typical!) interview conducted by writer Keara Edwards with the famous/infamous Sunday Times writer and publisher of numerous books, Ben Trovato.

Journalism leads to writing, writing leads to drinking, drinking leads to divorce (Ben Trovato)

Ben Trovato, image: Facebook

Ben Trovato, image: Facebook

How did you become a writer? Please tell us a bit about your development as a writer.

I became a writer because the army conscripted me into 2 Signals Regiment and one of the requirements was to type 45 words a minute or carry a big Dutchman around the parade ground on my shoulders. So when I left the army, I had the ability to type and to shoot someone in head from a distance of 500 metres. Nobody was hiring snipers at the time, so I went into journalism. My development as a writer? Well, I developed from a young writer who fabricated the facts to one who… okay, so maybe I haven’t developed.

What encourages you to write?

My fear of being sodomised in jail encourages me to write.

If I didn’t write, I would have no other way to earn a living. I would have to rob, pillage and plunder to maintain my lifestyle and sooner or later I would be arrested and tossed into a cell where a fighting general in the 28s would interfere with my bottom. As broad-minded as I am, I can’t have that sort of thing going on.

Through your writing you come across as a… well, there is no other way to say this. You come across as a sexist, rude and arrogant. Which I personally find quite refreshing as a writer, but some of your readers complain quite bitterly about your opinions. How would you describe yourself?

Since you’ve already covered sexist, rude and arrogant, I’d like to add misogynistic, racist and homophobic.

"Will the Real Ben Trovato Please Stand Up"

“Will the Real Ben Trovato Please Stand Up”

Do you experience ‘writers block’? And if so, how do you overcome it?

I find alcohol abuse usually opens up a chink in writer’s block just big enough for me to squeeze through.

What makes you decide on which subjects or events to write about every week?

The government helps me to decide. By the time I have read one of the daily newspapers, I am so full of outrage that I can barely stop my hands from shaking long enough to write. No, wait. That’s the withdrawal symptoms kicking in. But still. If you’re not offended by what’s happening in this country, and can’t think of anything to say, you shouldn’t be a satirist. Or even alive.

What has been your greatest writing achievement?

This interview, by far. Oh yes. And I made the longlist for the Alan Paton Award for Non-Fiction but the judges came to their senses and made sure I came nowhere near the shortlist. Or any other kind of list, either. Every time I meet a deadline, I consider it to be my greatest writing achievement.

What advice would you give to new, aspiring writers?

I would advise them to do something else. Writing is backbreaking work, especially if you can’t afford a decent chair. The pay sucks and it’s long and lonely work. However, the hours are fantastic, especially when you don’t do any actual writing.

"Ben Trovato - The Whipping Boy"

“Ben Trovato – The Whipping Boy”

How do you go about to get your work published?

Sleep with your publisher. Or, even better, become a publisher.

What is the most important writing tip you have ever received?

Someone once told me not to become a journalist. I didn’t listen. Journalism leads to writing, writing leads to drinking, drinking leads to divorce. Which isn’t always a bad thing.

Who are your most inspirational writers?

Charles Bukowski, Jane Austen, Hunter S Thompson, Wilbur Smith, Henry Root, Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, Jesus Christ.

Tell me please, do you have secret survival tips for South African writers?

Learn to live by your wits. Know which roots and berries are hallucinogenic and which should be thrown away. Always sit with your back to the wall in a strange bar. Learn to beg with dignity. Learn to hold your liquor, especially when driving.

Learn to touch-type. Learn to touch women. Properly.


Our country’s own Bukowski…? Maybe, maybe not. Nonetheless, can someone give this man some goddamn money so he can go buy some booze and get back to writing already?!


Relevant links:


interview: © Keara Edwards
images: Facebook, Amazon Books

"Hits and Missives - The Worst of Ben Trovato"

“Hits and Missives – The Worst of Ben Trovato”