Review of Charles van Onselen's The Night Trains. Published by Jonathan Ball Publishers in 2019.
If you have ever visited Pilgrim’s Rest it is one of those places that stays with you and haunts your memory. It compares to Bendigo in Australia and Julian in California. It is still a tourist attraction of note in Mpumalanga and a village of romance and imagination. It is described in the online tourist blurb as a “a small town with a very colourful and exciting history”. The main street of this early mining settlement lives on its heritage and here you expect to find at least six bars to quench the thirst of the gold panner.
Eric Rosenthal (1905-1983) was a prolific writer. The bibliography of his books in his Wikipedia entry runs to 50 books. I have collected most of them. He wrote non-fiction history about South Africa. His style was light and entertaining. He was a raconteur. He captured yarns and stories about the past and he loved drawing out the characters of early Johannesburg. Rosenthal was trained as a lawyer but chose journalism and writing for a living. His books were popular in their day with large print runs and are therefore readily available today.
In 1948 a book called Homes of the Golden City was published. The book is about Johannesburg. The initiator of the project was Allister Macmillan, who sadly died before the book was completed. The project was brought to completion by a young writer Eric Rosenthal (1905-1983) who went on to be be a prolific author on historical themes.
Richard Lewinsohn, Barney Barnato from Whitechapel Clown to Diamond King, Routledge, London, 1937, 275 pages, 8 illustrations, hardcover
The Golden Crown of Johannesburg by Gerhard Freiherr von Ketelhodt, edited by Willie van den Berg, published by Willsan Mining Publishers, 2007, paperback, 150 pages, illustrated. This is an authentic quirky small book of memoirs of an immigrant miner from Germany who worked underground as a miner at the best known of the Witwatersrand mines, Crown Mines, for some twenty years from the mid 1950s to the 1970s. He sets his own story against the backdrop of the early mining origins of Johannesburg.