Oscar Pistorius plans to write a book giving his account of what happened when he shot dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and his ordeal in standing trial for her murder, his manager said yesterday.
The memoir could prove hugely lucrative for the Paralympian but also prompt accusations that he is cashing in on the killing of the 29-year-old model and law graduate.
Pistorius was acquitted of murder at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, last week but convicted of culpable homicide after shooting Steenkamp through a locked toilet door at his home. He was released on bail and will be sentenced at a hearing that starts on 13 October.
As Steenkamp's parents expressed dismay at the verdict and headed home to Port Elizabeth, Pistorius's manager and agent, Peet van Zyl, revealed that the double amputee athlete intends to put his side of the story on paper.
"He will write his own book," he said. "We've discussed it. We've talked about ideas and concepts. I'm not going to go into details now." If Pistorius receives a suspended sentence, as some experts predict, he could also return to competition, possibly even in time for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio. He is known to be regularly working out to stay in good physical condition. The International Paralympic Committee has said it will allow its most famous athlete to return to the sport.
Van Zyl said: "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."
Pistorius published an autobiography, Blade Runner - a reference to his nickname due to his prosthetic limbs - five years ago. But after that he reached the pinnacle of the London Olympics only to be author of his own downfall when he killed Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria on St Valentine's day last year.
A book about the shocking episode could be a bestseller, enabling Pistorius to restore personal finances that have been exhausted by legal fees, but also risk charges of exploiting the situation. OJ Simpson, the American actor and sportsman cleared of murder after another blockbuster trial in 1995, was criticised for publishing a book entitled If I Did It, in which analysis, page 20
he hypothetically described how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend.
Pistorius has always maintained that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he shot her four times. But speaking to ITV News after the verdict, her parents, June and Barry Steenkamp, said they did not "fully" believe his account of that night. June said of the judge's ruling: "We were shocked. Shocked. Disappointed. You know your heart drops because you just want the truth. It's going in the wrong direction, that's how you feel."
Ben Williams, books editor of South Africa's Sunday Times, said a book by Pistorius "could go either way. If you do it right, you could have the sports biography of the century. On the other hand, he's not the most popular person in some circles so you could have a tremendous backlash that sinks the book. Look what happened to Julian Assange's autobiography."
As Pistorius contemplates the project, other authors are racing to put out books about a case that has captivated millions of people in South Africa and around the world. Williams said he is aware of half a dozen titles from mainstream publishers plus "innumerable" self-published ebooks. Few would be surprised if the nascent Pistorius publishing industry leads to a film or TV dramatisation.
"It's because Oscar was the person who defined South Africa," Williams added. "I thought he was going to be the next iconic figure after Nelson Mandela. It's all gone horribly wrong and the amount of interest is spectacular. I've no doubt there will be a made-for-TV movie - that's definitely going to happen."
Last week saw the publication of Oscar: An Accident Waiting to Happen, co-written by Patricia Taylor whose daughter, Samantha, was a girlfriend of the sprinter and testified during his trial. It is billed 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 journalist Barry Bateman's coverage of the trial gained him 139,000 new Twitter followers in a week; he now stands at 227,000. He is the co-writer, with Mandy Wiener, of Behind the Door: The Oscar and Reeva Steenkamp Story, due out next month.
Bateman said there has already been interest in the book from producers looking for a screenplay. He described the making of a movie about the case as "inevitable".
One memory of Oscar Pistorius is abiding. He was bounding with improbable grace on his carbon-fibre prostheses around a municipal track in Gemona, as the summer rain fell in torrents and as the mayor of this somnolent town in Italy’s Friulian mountains let it be known that the lanes had been laid especially for their guest of honour.