Born in Cape Town, South Africa, La Guma was a short story writer and novelist. After receiving a high school education, he tried his hand at a wide range of odd jobs before becoming a journalist. The son of James La Guma, a one-time president of the South African Coloured People's Congress, he was imprisoned for his antiapartheid struggles and accused in the notorious treason trials involving Nelson Mandela. After another imprisonment, he was forced to migrate to England in 1966. La Guma often focuses on his personal experience as a black man and his deep opposition to the South African regime. A Walk in the Night (1962), which is set in the slums of Cape Town, pictures the losing struggle to retain fundamental humanity in the face of racial oppression. And a Threefold Cord (1964) is also based on life in the ghetto, while The Stone Country (1967) is inspired by La Guma's own imprisonment. La Guma's early political activism is reflected in the novel In the Fog of the Season's End (1972), which is based on organizing opposition to apartheid. In his fictional worlds, La Guma mirrors the realities of nonwhites in South Africa. Crime and brutality erupt as people keenly aware of their powerlessness confront intolerable situations. There is little sentimentality in his work, although it sometimes contains love and even comedic elements. His writing is concrete and vivid, whether depicting a prison, a shantytown, white suburbs, or a Bantu homeland, as in the novel Time of the Butcherbird (1979). Living in exile since 1966, La Guma was appointed Officer of the Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984. Less than a year later, in 1985, he died in London.