When Dr Anthony Turton, Tony, first approached us to publish his memoirs, he was already well known to us because of his notoriety for speaking truth to power. He had been severely castigated and pilloried by the ANC and elements of the mainstream media for statements he had made at a conference while he was still working for the CSIR. The CSIR suspended him.
When I received the manuscript and started going through it in order to prepare it for publication, I was astounded. This was a pretty incredible story, from a pretty incredible man.
Shirene and I met Tony at his house on the KZN South Coast and his personal presence we found quite daunting. He is a very tall, imposing man, but after just a few minutes of conversation, it is not his physical presence that you are conscious of, but rather a psychological one; almost as if his aura begins to envelope you with the conviction of his words and the vision he has for a peaceful, prosperous South Africa, a country he truly and passionately loves. It is soon crystal clear that any criticism he levels at authority figures, is done so out of a deep-seated belief in doing the right thing, not just for the sake of his own preferences, but truly for the sake of all who live in the country. It is an empathy and passion which cannot but leave you convinced of the desirability of his vision.
As I read the manuscript, I began to understand more of what had made the man. It is the story of his journey, sketching briefly his family background, and its deep roots in South Africa, then through his military service and service with the Intelligence services. As the narrative progresses, you begin to get a sense of the man, a feeling for how he was shaped, changed … forged.
The story is told exactly how it happened with no excuses, but I found myself nodding my head often as I recognized a lot of the more universal themes that led to the peaceful change in government in 1994. It is a brilliant example of how, through the dark years, the experiences of the ordinary people was slowly changing despite the desires of the apparatchiks of the National Party.
Shaking Hands with Billy is great read, a fascinating story and well worth the effort. I was very pleased to be able to completely reformat the book for the Kindle platform so that it can be available to more people. Do yourself a favor and download the book. Now!