Thapelo Mokoena stars in "Trackers". Picture: Supplied

It was quite exhilarating to sit opposite Deon Meyer, the celebrated South African author with millions of fans around the globe, to chat about his gravitation towards film and television, with "Trackers" being the latest fruit of his labour. 

“I’ve been dabbling in film and television a very long time,” he explained. 

“And about three years ago, I started a company called Scene 23 with two partners. 

“We had a whole slate of material that we wanted to work with and two of the potential TV or film candidates were my books because those were the only ones that hadn’t been optioned or had the movie rights sold. And one of them was "Trackers".

Not only did M-Net get involved, Cinemax, as well as ZDF, a television broadcaster in Germany, were on board for the co-production. “It’s been quite a journey,” said Meyer. 

Acclaimed author Deon Meyer is the supervising screenwriter and co-producer of "Trackers" Picture: Supplied by Peartree Publications.

“Writing a novel is a very lonely business. You just sit in your room and write all day. But making a TV series or a movie is a very collaborative process where you have scriptwriters who work with you. 

“Then you have art directors and the director and you have the camera people and the actors; all the wonderful talent who breathe life into the characters. Then you have the editor and the music. And the final product is always so much more than you envisioned. “So it’s much more exciting, much more sociable. That’s the real fun part of it.” 

When asked about "Dead Before Dying", which was turned into a TV series, "Cape Town", and aired not too long ago, he said: “'Cape Town' was optioned and the rights were bought by a German company. They are lovely people and they have very high production value. But I was never quite comfortable with the script. 

“That’s why I decided if anything else was going to be done in future on my books, I wanted to be more involved. I wanted to have more control over the script. 'Cape Town' was not quite what I thought it would be.” 

He achieved that as the supervising screenwriter and co-producer of "Trackers", with British writer Robert Thorogood ("Death in Paradise") brought in as the showrunner. 

“I always try to be as objective as possible because one can either try to be protective of your darlings and say all the characters must stay in and that scene must stay in,” Meyer said. 

“Luckily, I’ve been involved in film and television for 12 to 15 years. So that experience has taught me that what you want to achieve with an adaptation like this is the best TV series.” 

The story has been modernised to make it more relevant. And the five part series includes the stellar-casting of Sandi Schultz, James Alexander, Rolanda Marais, Thapelo Mokoena and Sisanda Henna, to mention a few. 

Sisanda Henna stars in M-Net's "Trackers". Picture: Supplied

On the premise of the series, which was shot in Cape Town, Limpopo, the Karoo and Mpumalanga, Meyer says: “The book was perhaps the longest book I wrote. It was an experiment in structure. “I wanted to see if I could push the envelope with the traditional structure. So it made the book very hard to adapt. 

“The book is really three stories in one novel and that was always going to be a challenge with the adaptation. So we had to decide what was the main story. And the heart of this book was twofold: Janina Mentz is the assistant director of an intelligence agency, it is one of the intelligence agencies that existed when I wrote the book. Her job is under threat and the agency is under threat and she needs to save it. 

“Then they receive information about a Muslim terrorist attack but they are not quite sure. She tries to manipulate this into something bigger and it turns into something bigger. 

“There are lots of sub-plots as well with two rhinos being transported from Zimbabwe towards the Karoo and that ties into the main terrorist plot. I’m not going to tell you how. There’s a lot of action and there’s a lot of thrills and spills.” 

"Trackers" airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) this Sunday at 8.05pm.