Morningside author publishes his first novel

MORNINGSIDE author, artist and anthropologist Ashling McCarthy has published her first book, At the Jika Jika Tavern. The novel explores the role that belief and culture have on rural crime and follows student anthropologist, Nonhle Ngubane, as she attempts to prove her father’s innocence after his arrest for the highly illegal crime of poaching rhinoceros.

McCarthy began her writing journey in 2011. “I was at the proposal stage for my PhD when I realized I didn’t want to spend another four years of my life writing academically. I had had such wonderful life experiences, met many interesting people along the way, and story ideas came to mind. I started out writing short stories, dropped out of my PhD, and signed up for a creative writing course. I have to add that was in 2011, and it took me a while to start writing a real novel,” McCarthy said.

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McCarthy published her first novel, At the Jika Jika Tavern, in November 2020. “The book took me eight years from conception to completion. It was largely because I had no idea what I was doing, and I also ran my nonprofit and worked as a social development research and writing consultant,” she said.

The anthropologist said she learned that writing requires great flexibility and fluidity. “Sometimes the story you think you want to tell isn’t the story you end up telling. I could work on a chapter until I was blue-faced, but it wasn’t until I admitted that maybe the story wanted to take off in a different direction, that the words flowed in. Like life, the characters and plots are constantly changing.

According to McCarthy, At the Jika Jika Tavern is a detective and detective novel but also falls under general fiction. She said the book explores the realities of rhino poaching in Zululand, through the eyes of a young anthropologist. “The story creates an awareness of the social factors that drive people to engage in illegal activities, such as social inequality, the environment, and wildlife crime, as well as exploring the issues culture and faith,” McCarthy said.

The 41-year-old spent much of her childhood in Zululand, living and working in rural communities across the region in her 20s and 30s, and drew inspiration from her personal experiences for her novel.

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“I had so many personal experiences to draw on. I also work with children and young people who experience the harsh realities of social inequality through my nonprofit, so this is a topic close to my heart. My family was also involved with a game farm in Zululand for many years where six rhinos were poached. Through my background in anthropology, I spent a lot of time researching rhino poaching, social inequality, faith and culture – drawing from academic journals, newspaper articles and interviews.

McCarthy’s advice to potential authors is to map out your book before you start writing it. She strongly recommends that you first establish a skeleton of the book, chapter by chapter, and then start writing your novel.

Enter for a chance to win a copy of At the Jika Jika Tavern by clicking on the registration form below:

2022 Jika Jika Tavern Registration Form

Books can be ordered:

– directly from the author

– by email: [email protected]

– or visit –

They are available from the following bookstores: Bargain Books (Musgrave Branch currently has stock), Exclusive Books, Takealot and other independent bookstores.

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