Welcome to Irna van Zyl’s writer’s website


The First Book

Junie 2016: Fourie Botha, hoof van plaaslike fiksie by Penguin Random House, by Irna met die eerste twee kopieë van Moordvis.

Fourie Botha, head of local fiction at Penguin Random House, hands Irna the first two copies of Moordvis, the Afrikaans edition of Dead in the Water.

Irna van Zyl’s first crime novel, Dead in the Water (translated from the Afrikaans, Moordvis) was recently published by Penguin Random House.

In Dead in the Water readers are introduced to Irna’s two detectives, Storm van der Merwe and Andreas Moerdyk.
As Storm’s name implies, she has a stormy past with quite a few problems of her own. At the start of the book she finds herself against her will in Hermanus and surrounds, where in the town of Grootbaai she embarks on an investigation after she and her dogs discover the arm-less body of a Johannesburg journalist buried in a shallow grave near the beach.

Meanwhile her former colleague Moerdyk investigates a crash on the N1 which claimed the life of a Springbok rugby player. Very soon Storm and Moerdyk start wondering whether there might be a connection between this vehicle accident and her own case when her car, an old Beetle, is almost written off in a similar collision.
Storm and Moerdyk’s adventures get them into big trouble – trouble more dangerous than shark cage diving, without the cage.


Irna van Zyl

Dead in the Water’s first night is celebrated with friends: from left Frans Rautenbach, Hannerie Visser, Elmari Rautenbach and Stefanie Hefer with Irna.

Irna van Zyl started writing her first crime novel seven years ago, but gave up that attempt after being rejected by two publishers. She immediately started working on the next one, completing the first draft of Moordvis (at that stage still titled Snelweg – or Highway) during a sabbatical between December 2013 and March 2014.

Fourie Botha at Penguin Random House was immediately interested in publishing it, but after two readers’ reports it was clear that it needed some fine-tuning. In April 2015 Irna resigned to write fulltime and three month later she handed her publisher the new, totally rewritten version of Moordvis. In October last year she signed a contract that would ensure an English translation would be published by Penguin mid year 2016.

Curriculum Vitae

Irna obtains an honours degree in Afrikaans and Dutch literature at the University of Stellenbosch in 1978 after being a participant in her third year in D.J. Opperman’s literary laboratory group. In 1979 she completes an honours degree in Journalism under Prof Piet Cillié, also at Stellenbosch. Thereafter, in December 1979, she commences her career as reporter at Die Burger in Cape Town.

In 1981 she is awarded the Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery’s prize for enterprising journalism under pressure of time and circumstance, following her coverage of the recent flooding disaster in Laingsburg and specifically Montague.

In 1985 she becomes Die Burger’s first female chief sub editor and in 1988 editor of De Kat in Johannesburg.

Her collection of short stories Grootmensspeletjies (Grown ups’ Games) is published in 1995.

She parts ways with De Kat in 1996 to move back to Cape Town and is a founding member of New Media Publishing in 1998 along with colleagues John Psillos, Naomi Herselman and Sheldon Cohen. Shortly thereafter she also becomes editor of Insig and between 2007 and 2009 of Boeke-Insig.

In April 2015 she steps down as Editorial Director of New Media to focus fulltime on creative writing.

She is awarded in 2015 by Media24 with the Piet Cillié award in recognition of her career in journalism and, also in 2015, by Naspers with the Order of Table Mountain for her contribution as business woman to the Naspers group.

Irna’s first crime novel, Moordvis, and its English counterpart Dead in the Water is published by Penguin in July 2016.