Thursday, December 9, 2010


Having found this blog, you might be wondering: what's the scope of the blog, why AfricaScreams, and why is this American writing about Africa.

AfricaScreams is going to look at Africa, primarily South Africa, through its literature, primarily crime fiction. I'm using crime fiction as an umbrella term to encompass all the sub-genres, mystery, detective, legal, procedural ... Since this is my blog I reserve the right to toss in anything that interests me.

Why did I pick the name AfricaScreams for my blog? I'm horrible at naming things and work myself into a swivet whenever I have to come up with a title. Most of the Africa themed  names that occurred to me were taken. Then a 1949 Abbott and Costello movie named Africa Screams sprang to mind. I remember the movie chiefly due to the amorous gorilla but the name fits. Events in some of the books I will write about should make you scream. And there is a horror novel set in South Africa coming out next year that I have in my sights and screaming and horror go together.

Why Africa? The crime fiction market is huge and competitive for readers' attention. I credit Roger Smith for igniting my interest in South Africa. I had read several of Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe series but they didn't focus my attention on Africa. Then I encountered Roger Smith and his first two novels, Mixed Blood and Wake Up Dead. Roger writes cracking good action thrillers and I might have left them at that if it hadn't been for his descriptions of Cape Town, Cape Flats, gangs, Pollsmor prison and his memorable characters. I wanted to know how someone like Gatsby (Mixed Blood) came to be and is Piper (Wake Up Dead) realistic. I was hooked and decided to make African crime fiction my special interest.

I need to own up that I might be predisposed to an an interest in South Africa. From 1952 to 1956, my family lived in Pretoria. My father was in the U.S. Air Force and a crewman on the C-47 assigned to the U.S. Embassy. I was 6 our first year in South Africa and your basic self-absorbed kid, interested in comic books and Cadbury chocolate. Later in life though, when my father went into a nursing home and I helped my mother clean and organize, I revisited South Africa through the photographs, slides, and home movies I pulled from a closet. When I started reading more about South Africa, it sunk home that I was there during apartheid, that pass laws were enacted the year we arrived, that we had a nice house and two live-in servants on a TSgt's pay. Sobering now to realize that I benefited from apartheid, even if unaware that it existed.

So this is how I came to start this blog. With the next post I will return to the book that got me started, Mixed Blood.

Between books, I will show you photos and movie clips from Africa in the 50s. To get that aspect of the blog started, here are two photos of me as a schoolboy attending Waterkloof House Preparatory School. "First day" is written on the back of the B&W photo. I still have the blazer.