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History Buffs and Cricket Enthusiasts Gathered for the Launch for Dean Allen’s Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa

Dean Allen

The many history buffs and cricket enthusiasts who filled The Book Lounge earlier this month for the launch of Dean Allen’s Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa: Logan of Matjiesfontein were enthralled by the story of James Logan of Matjiesfontein. The author, who is a talented lecturer and historian, shared his broad knowledge (replete with amusing anecdotes) about this intriguing slice of local history.

Michael Morris, fellow historian and journalist and the author of Apartheid, an Illustrated History, joined Allen in witty and engaging conversation at the launch. Welcoming the duo to The Book Lounge, owner Mervyn Sloman praised the book for it’s sheer beauty. “It is exceptionally unusual in this day and age to find a book where so much care has gone into the visual side, in a way that complements the storytelling,” he said.

Dean Allen and Michael MorrisEmpire, War & Cricket in South Africa“The text is filled with clean prose that is very well-written,” Sloman said. “Like the best storytelling you are drawn into the characters, the time and the place of this fascinating, little known aspect of our history, the intersection of war and cricket.”

Morris recalled the many email exchanges he had enjoyed over the years with Allen, whom he had known “digitally” as the editor of the Cape Argus. In his years working for the newspaper, Morris received many “intelligent, insightful, extremely well-written and historically fascinating pieces on some or other aspect of cricket”, a topic about which he claimed to know nothing. Morris said he had found Allen’s Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa every bit as engaging as his excellent articles.

The many years of research that had gone into the book also informed Allen’s PhD thesis, and both works have reached a timely fruition. “The timing of this publication is absolutely spot on,” said Morris, referring to the book’s opening paragraph which quotes Cecil John Rhodes. “In his singularly immodest way, this telling opening shows Rhodes reflecting on his own contribution and that of James Logan. Rhodes says he has met only two creators in the Cape, himself and James Logan!”

Morris was curious about why such an extraordinary character had not attracted more attention before now. Allen speculated about this: “He’s one of those characters that history has missed! Being a Brit I can say, had Logan achieved what he had on home soil, there’d be dozens of books written about him already. But that’s the beauty of South Africa. It’s like discovering gold!”

Dean Allen is a compelling speaker and his enjoyment of the work he has done over many years shines through – both in his exuberant presentation, and in the gorgeous book he has written. At the launch, Allen told one particularly memorable story about a “disappearing” suitcase encountered while he was researching for this book.

Many people in the audience bought copies of Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa and queued patiently for an opportunity to chat to the author while he signed their books. A lucky few managed to get out of town and accompany Allen on a spectacular tour of Matjiesfontein, the focal point of this book, the following weekend.

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted from the launch using #livebooks while Dean Allen (@EmpireCricketSA) used #EmpireWarCricket:


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Dean Allen launched Empire, War & Cricket Launch with Michael Morris at The Book Lounge in Cape Town

Posted by Books LIVE on Friday, 24 April 2015

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