After suffering a heart attack in 2004, Kenny Bergsma followed his dream of becoming a writer – he has completed five books since then and is now looking for a publisher.
Mr Bergsma, 78, who will have been married for 50 years at the end of May, has lived in Parow for 10 years. Before that, he lived on the Cape Flats, but grew up in Constantia.
It was the years he spent in neighbourhoods such as Lansdowne and Strandfontein that sparked the idea for his first book, Flats Justice.
Before “retiring” at the age of 65, the father of two worked as a clothing cutter, a waiter and a Kalk Bay fisherman.
As a schoolboy in the early 1950s, he devoured westerns – both paperbacks and movies, and at 14, started writing his first book, inspired by these Wild West adventures.
“I started writing, and when I came to my fourth or fifth page, I realised that writing was not me. I was writing about westernised societies and countries other than South Africa,” says Mr Bergsma.
That was pretty much the end of his writing career until 2004, when he started to carry around a pen and pocket-size diary, using it to jot down ideas.
“You don’t write every day. Some days you have nothing, and others you write a few pages at a time. I use this,” he says pointing to his notebook, “so when I get an idea I write it down, and when I write my books I can always refer back.”
Flats Justice, which Mr Bergsma completed in 2005, is about a woman who loses her daughter to gang violence.
The drugs and gang scourges plaguing the Cape Flats motivated him to write the book in the hope it might highlight the problems facing the community and lead to change for the better.
In the book, the main character’s 10-year-old daughter is raped and left for dead in their Mitchell’s Plain house. Before the girl dies, she tells her mother the street names of her six killers. The rest of the book describes the mother’s journey to avenge her child’s murder.
“This is about life on the Cape Flats, where crime does not get solved by the people that must solve it. But rather, revenge is taken on the perpetrators,” says Mr Bergsma.
His second book, Questions to a Familiar Stranger, was written in 2010 and completed in 2012.
It lays out his personal views about Christianity.
His latest book is Observations, which was completed in 2014. The book is about his views and opinions on life in general. Mr Bergsma has had just one copy of each of his books printed.
He writes at any time of the day, banging away at his computer or scribbling down shorthand notes in his pocket diary, but he’s at his best at 3am when he wakes up with fresh ideas.
Mr Bergsma has approached a few publishers, but the book was not what they were looking for.
Nevertheless, he’s determined not to give up on his dream to be published one day, and is now exploring the self-publishing route.