When your plot’s in a pickle, who you gonna call? In my case, this forensic investigator is on speed dial.
Former SAPS reservist Craig Pedersen these days investigates white-collar crime in places and organisations I am not at liberty to disclose. Suffice to say, where he is asked to poke his nose in, the rot goes deep. Eye-wateringly so. And that if you’ve had your hand in the till, it’s just about over when he darkens your doorway. But let me start at the beginning.
Craig and I met under strange circumstances. He had an AK-47. I wanted a picture of one. In an action scene. Under a bridge, in water. In winter. He volunteered to be the action hero. I said, no, I can’t impose.
But the man was not to be deterred, and so the two of found ourselves under a bridge in Milnerton, in wetsuits, up to our waists in freezing water. The shoot was a success, shot for the purposes of a book cover. Not mine. At that stage I had no idea I was ever going to attempt a novel.
When I completed BOS, and needed a cover shot, I remembered this series of images, and sent one to my publisher, Etienne Bloemhof.
“I’d like something like this,” I said. “That’s it,” he said. “We’ll take it. That’s just perfect!”
And so, Craig graced the cover of my debut. And more. During many subsequent discussions, his technical knowledge intrigued me, his insight into criminal minds as the head of our local neighbourhood watch was fascinating. Then I discovered he also ran the forensics firm TCD Forensics in Cape Town, and he became my go-to source for things technical in the world of crime investigation, surveillance and the pursuit of stolen funds. (Cue the plot of IVOOR!)
The relationship has endured three books, with Craig becoming an essential part of my plot planning, not only when I am stuck, as he explains in TCG Forensic’s latest article in the December ’21 edition of Kulula.com’s inflight magazine, Khuluma.
(For ease of reading, the full text here:)
Getting to the facts is more than a job. It’s a relentless, passionate pursuit and a way of life.
Every day our investigative and technical teams are dissecting commercial and cyber crimes to get to the bottom of the “how” and ultimately. searching for the often evasive “who”, a quest fueled by a passion for technology, driven by an enquiring mind and supported by the best team and world class systems.
But sometimes, we’re fortunate enough to be able to step back from the seriousness of our work and contribute to a broader and deeper understanding of the intricacies of financial crimes investigation.
We’re immensely proud of our long association with one of South Africa’s upcoming authors, someone whose endless hours of technical and historical research to ensure that his readers are engrossed in that “as if I was there” experience.
Jaco Wolmarans’ third novel, Ivoor, has just hit the shelves, a novel that again traversers deeply familiar, rich South African settings following former Special Forces Operator Tex Texeira’s relentless hunt for the truth. In this case, unravelling a decade-old money trail of stolen intelligence funds.
Wolmarans has a natural gift for storytelling and meticulous attention to detail – and that’s where we intersect. In assisting him with his latest novel, we were able to draw on our own years of industry experience yet use sufficient creative licence to ensure that it didn’t become a “how to launder your cash” guide.
“My stories start as real events, into which I paint my characters – who, incidentally, are mostly based on real people from special forces and forensic investigative worlds,” Wolmarans says.
“The only way I can write convincingly about a world I know very little about is to speak to people who’ve spent their lives combating crime. What’s even tougher, is being able to cast my antagonists, the bad guys, properly. To do that, you have to think like a criminal. Which I’m not. But I happen to know people …”
Wolmarans approached TCG Forensics just over a year ago with a request to help devise a plot for laundering money – or more correctly, to trace and undo an existing money laundering scheme dating back to the late eighties, at the end of the South African bush war.
“Fact is indeed stranger than fiction. And when you need a fictional storyline to be driven by authenticity, nothing beats the reality – and the reader fascination – of a real forensic investigation. That’s why I came knocking to get insight into the real machinations of a forensic investigation, the technologies and methods used, and the limitations thereof.
“I’m a stickler for accuracy and authenticity,” says Wolmarans. “My audience demands that. Men and women who served in our armed forces know their stuff, their armaments and ordinance. You can’t just create your own. It’s not only disrespectful, but you instantly lose your informed and knowledgeable reader.
“The same goes for every other aspect of weaponry, law enforcement, legal issues and surveillance featured in my books. It has to be absolutely correct and appropriate. I want my readers to be completely convinced, and to trust me in not misleading them or being sloppy. That kind of reputation is hard to build, and harder to maintain.
“In this respect I found a great asset in TCG CEO Craig Pedersen – he is a wealth of information and source of contacts, some of them rather darker than expected – which is even better, and invaluable to my story-telling!
“There is simply no substitute for real stories. You simply can’t make up this stuff, and as a writer who primarily has to ‘make up’ stuff, having access to real information makes my life so much easier. It simply is a case of fact being stranger – and more useful – than fiction!”
Wolmarans, a former journalist and currently a video producer and photographer, also consulted TCD on his previous novels, Skag, and his debut novel and predecessor to Ivoor, Bos, which launched his writing career to glowing reviews in national newspapers, TV appearances and guest appearances at South Africa’s biggest literary festivals.
The proof’s in the pudding. Most reviewers remark on his meticulous research and ability to weave fictional characters into real-life event, making for a riveting read that leaves one wondering where fact ends and fiction starts.
“It was an absolute privilege to assist Jaco with understanding the nuances of international money movement, the elements of laundering delicacies of Trusts. While the majority of our investigations will remain closed books in deference to client confidentiality, it made it even more entertaining to step into the wonderful escapist world of fiction.”
TCG’s Forensics blog makes for some fascinating reading about the insides of forensic investigations.