HORSEPLAY: Jassy Mackenzie likes to ride horses or cycle when the going gets tough, because it ‘frees your brain’. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
HORSEPLAY: Jassy Mackenzie likes to ride horses or cycle when the going gets tough, because it ‘frees your brain’. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

IT IS a first, as I have not before been taught the finer points of dominatrix phone sex. My teacher is sassy Jassy Mackenzie, whose book, Folly, is selling up a storm.

We are sitting in the sunny garden of a coffee shop with little children whooping around us and Mackenzie, who has the perfect voice — clear, sharp, dictatorial — is trying to convince me I’d be perfect for the job.

"You revolting little worm, get down on your knees, lick my shoes and then clean the house, it’s filthy." She’s describing a typical dominatrix chat. She has had male callers vacuuming their homes at 3am in response to her commands.

"You have to humiliate them, shout at them, and slap your hands together to count down the blows. It’s easy because it is they who have made the call, wanting to submit."

The male callers tend to be bosses who crave a balance in life, she says, and submitting helps them to attain that. It is fascinating that a man with workplace authority wants to be dominated to such a degree — "They have to have the power in order to give it away," she says.

Sexual dominance is a complex subject, one she originally studied for personal reasons. Her insider knowledge on the matter becomes clear within a few pages of her Folly heroine, Emma Caine, creating a dungeon due to her financial despair. It is in the grounds of Folly, her northern Johannesburg home, and the bank has come calling with threats to repossess it. Her husband is lying in a vegetative state in a nursing home after a car accident. Emma is paying a fortune for the care because his nasty family will not help. She is passionate about her cats and two horses, but is barely earning enough to keep the grass growing on her smallholding.

Usually gentle and on the compliant side, she marches down to demand rent from the tenant in her cottage, finds the Gothic creature has painted it black, gets rid of her but doesn’t have the money to repaint it so she can let it again.

It is filled with whips and saddles "so as any right-thinking woman would do when faced with a dungeon, Emma starts hitting back," Mackenzie says.

The heroine, who has not been properly prepared for adulthood in terms of tertiary education, is stunned at the quick response to her House of Pain advertisement as men, ranging from a judge to an architect, roll up in their luxury cars. Faced with physically chastising her clients in revolting ways, she orders the men to strip, grips whips, orders them to bend over a saddle then is so terrified when she inadvertently hurts one she races for plaster and healing creams.

It is a busy life as she juggles tortures and abuses, feeds the animals, visits her brain-damaged husband, mows the grass and makes trips to the local sex shop for lubricants, dildos and advice from its warmhearted, knowledgeable manager, Thandeka.

Then disaster happens as Emma falls in love with one of her clients, wealthy, handsome Sandton architect Simon Nel, resulting in an untenable situation that will threaten her healthy source of income.

If this all sounds too smutty for words, and there are a couple of pages of hard-core penetration — she uses bleach afterwards — then the big surprise lies in the witty, pithy humour that sparkles off the pages. It is steaming along in the screaming success of Fifty Shades of Grey, as anything with sadomasochism (S&M) will fly off the bookshelves now we’re "allowed" to read such stuff.

In the case of Folly, the reader gets a bargain, for not only do we have the chastisement but really satisfying romantic sex and excellent writing from a seasoned crime writer. As word of the book spread — it sold out within a month of publication earlier this year — so bookshops began to sell it more on humour than erotic content: "The reps are finding that bookshops are becoming a touch jaded with erotica."

Her heroine takes several pages from the author’s life, though I don’t think it’s half as colourful as Mackenzie’s own.

When she completed her schooling and her parents gave her the choice of university or a horse, she opted for the latter. But it meant she had to find a job. She tried selling and then secretarial work, "but I’m not a submissive person, which made the latter impossible, and then I saw an ad for telephone sex. It was fun, the money was great and the domination callers were not frauds because what they needed was specialised and they were willing to pay for it."

Her voice, with its tinges of a British accent, is sometimes tart, her remarks are pertinent and often really funny. Even the kids running around stop yelling and gape at us as I crack up laughing at her off-the-cuff comments.

The Joburg-raised Mackenzie did the usual post-matric two-year stint in the UK, writing for horse and cycling magazines and doing phone sex when necessary. She decided to do a charity cycle ride from St Petersburg to Moscow, so she had something to write about as well as helping children suffering from skin burns.

She went from door to door raising sponsorship for the ride, in the Basingstoke, Winchester, area where she was living and ended up at the front doors of Lady Sainsbury, Peter Cadbury and the father of Prince Andrew’s wife, Fergie. When she returned to SA, she "got a normal job, editing a trade hairdressing magazine, which I’ve done for about 15 years now. It’s a fantastic job and I love working there."

At night, she writes.

Mackenzie was always a passionate reader of crime fiction, "almost to the exclusion of everything else".

In her first book, Random Violence, published in 2007, we met her private investigator, Jade de Jong. She has flawed genes. Her mother killed people and now De Jong does too.

Mackenzie followed it with My Brother’s Keeper, Stolen Lives and Worst Case. Her latest Jade de Jong, called Pale Horses (Umuzi), appeared almost simultaneously with Folly, which is a considerable writing achievement.

Her books are published in the US and Germany, and Pale Horses has just been given a starred review in American Publishers Weekly. The New York Times Book Review has described Mackenzie as "hitting the ground running with her remarkable series on Jade de Jong".

Mackenzie intends to "stay with crime in future as I’ve done a lot of work in the genre and it’s an intellectual challenge". But she wouldn’t mind writing a couple of sequels to Folly.

When the going gets tough, Mackenzie, who lives in Joburg with her partner of eight years and her horses, goes for a ride, walks or cycles, "because repetitive exercise frees your brain. But, if you write books then you just have to buckle down and do it," she says in her almost prim dominatrix manner.

Bring on more Follies, I say, and keep them the same compelling mix of humour and erotica.