Ebersohn's novel was banned upon publication in South Africa, and then the ban was lifted. The provocation offered by the book to the authorities is no hidden thing: fictionalized here are the interrogation and the death (naked, shuttled around in the back of a van) of black leader Steve Bike, whom Ebersohn calls Sam Benghu. From the novel's first sentence, Benghu is conscious that he's dying, having suffered irreversible brain damage from beatings around the head with a ""sandbag."" And as he slowly dies, in defiant silence, his life--as a poor township black who has risen eventually to a leader of ""Convention"" (a black self-help program brutally set down by the government)--runs by in memory. In counterpoint are the behaviors of the Afrikaner security policemen watching over Benghu in his cell. Desperate, insecure, they descend to a savagery which seems to stem mainly from a great fear--the fear of what Benghu represents, the stored-up anger. A prison-ward attendant and one doctor see to Benghu with compassion; yet it is oddly, pessimistically, the terrible guards who seem most human. Ebersohn--author of the fine mystery, A Lonely Place to Die--writes with an immediacy that bespeaks outrage; and if the book, as fiction, is less than full-throated and less impressive than Athol Fugard's Tsotsi, it does have a jabbing, shocking core--even with a story that's been told already in non-fiction form (see Donald Woods' Biko and others).