Author of Langbourne series visits Cape Town

Alan Landau (at the head of the table) in conversation with readers

The Jacob Gitlin Library recently hosted visiting author, Alan Landau, well known for his Langbourne series of books, during a visit to Cape Town from Australia. Rather than hosting a conventional book launch, the Library chose a different format, calling on fans of his books to join in for an intimate informal meet-up and chat.

The Langbourne series consists of six historical fiction novels, all of which tell the tale of the two young Jewish Langbourne brothers, who come to Southern Africa in the late 19th century from Ireland, where they have been struggling to make a living. Arriving in Port Elizabeth they land up moving to Cape Town and begin making cigarettes on their landlady’s stoep. As their business expands they travel into the interior with a cart and oxen. The novels tell tales of their adventures in Cape Town, Transvaal and Rhodesia as well as the Anglo Boer wars. The brothers face numerous challenges in Africa, but are also able to benefit from the opportunities they find in their new home and build an empire.

Alan explained that the books reflect the story of his own family and the growth of the family business in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, an enterprise he himself eventually headed up. While so many family histories are not known, he was privileged to get to know the story of his forebears from the regular stories his late father told him that had been handed down. It was in more recent years that Alan felt the need to pass the stories on to the next generation – his son – and this sparked the writing of what was initially meant to be one book. “When I started writing the book, I soon realised that there was so much to tell that it would go beyond a single book, perhaps three,” he says. “But how wrong I was – the whole story ended up as a series of six books!”

Having seen the success of the Langbourne series, Alan has since written other books: a Covid project written under a pseudonym, and his latest book, just released in South Africa, To Brave Men, which is set against a significant event in Zimbabwe’s past. Lovers of the Langbourne series will no doubt be happy to know that the Langbourne brothers reappear in this novel, albeit in a different context.

Alan has kindly donated two copies of his latest book to the Gitlin Library. The book is also available for purchase. All books in the Langbourne series are available at the Library, as is his other book, Of Sand and Stars.

• Published in the March 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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