Oscar Pistorius: Will he write a memoir?

Pistorius's manager and agent Peet van Zyl says his client will write a book, but the law may not let him.

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters Pool/AP
Oscar Pistorius appears in court in Pretoria, South Africa on Sept. 12, 2014.

Will Oscar Pistorius write a book about the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp?

Rumors suggesting as much have already created a controversial firestorm around the Paralympic athlete, with observers speculating that any such work would be a lucrative bestseller written in exceedingly poor taste.

Pistorius was acquitted of murder at a high court in Pretoria, South Africa last week but was convicted of culpable homicide, a lesser charge that comes with no minimum jail sentence. The South African athlete has been commanding headlines since Valentine’s Day 2013, when he shot his girlfriend through a locked bathroom door in his home. 

As soon as his trial concluded and Pistorius was cleared of more serious charges, Pistorius’s manager and agent Peet van Zyl suggested his client may write a book about the killing of his 29-year-old girlfriend, a model and law student.

"He will write his own book,” Peet van Zyl told The Observer newspaper. “We've discussed it. We've talked about ideas and concepts. I'm not going to go into details." 

Van Zyl continued, “I will sit down with him once everything is done and decide what we are going to do. We have to wait until 13 October before we can think about anything. After that we will tell the world what we are going to do.”

If Pistorius proceeds with plans to write a book about the incident, the decision could bring the athlete handsome profits – and plenty of censure.

His finances have been exhausted by more than a year of legal fees and a book by the controversial figure could prove extremely lucrative.

Of course, it would also prompt outcries from critics charging Pistorius of exploiting his girlfriend’s killing for financial gain.

South African laws may prevent Pistorius from cashing in on Steenkamp’s killing, however. 

“If Pistorius were to publish a book, he would risk breaking South Africa's laws which stipulate that no person subject to a criminal conviction may derive profit ‘directly or indirectly for any published account’ relating to the offence in question,” reported the UK’s Independent. “This means he would be legally barred from making money from a memoir in connection with the death of his girlfriend while serving jail time or community service for the killing of Ms Steenkamp.”

Nonetheless, the paper continued, “interest in the story about South Africa's fallen hero shows no signs of stopping and a potential memoir could be extremely lucrative for the athlete.” 

He wouldn’t be the first famous murder defendant to profit from his alleged crime. O.J. Simpson, who was cleared of murder after his own blockbuster trial in 1995, went on to author “If I Did It, Here’s How it Happened,” in which he hypothetically described how we would have gone about killing his ex-wife and her friend. 

It also wouldn’t be the first book about the publicized incident. 

“Oscar: An Accident Waiting to Happen” was published last week. It was co-written by Patricia Taylor and her daughter Samantha, one of Pistorius’s ex-girlfriends. It was described as “the all-exclusive inside story of ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor's tumultuous romantic relationship with the gold-medal athlete which turned into every mother's nightmare.” 

South African journalists Barry Bateman and Mandy Wiener co-wrote “Behind the Door: The Oscar and Reeva Steenkamp Story,” due out next month.

And British journalist John Carlin wrote “Chase Your Shadow, the Trials of Oscar Pistorius,” which will be published in December. Carlin called it “a classic tragic hero’s fall.”

Of course, Pistorius has already published an autobiography, “Blade Runner,” a reference to his nickname due to his prosthetic limbs. The book was written before Steenkamp’s killing.

Pistorius reached the pinnacle of his career when he became the first amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics in London in 2012.

Though he reached the abyss of his career with the killing of his girlfriend at his home on Valentine’s Day 2013, he has vowed to come back and is rumored to be preparing for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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