Monday, July 26, 2010

Homage, sweet homage

I was excited recently when, reading James McClure's 1991 South African crime novel The Song Dog, I found an off-stage character whose name was (and the detail escapes me) either Khubu or Bhengu.

Michael Stanley's protagonist, hero of A Carrion Death and The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu (A Deadly Trade outside North America) is named David "Kubu" Bengu, and Stanley collectively and the Stanley Trollip half of the team on his own have called The Song Dog one of the great African crime novels. Surely, I thought, their hero's name must be an homage to McClure.

Nope, said Trollip, just coincidence.

But I'm not giving up so easily this time. I've just glanced again at a passage from Roger Smith's Cape Town novel Mixed Blood that I cited in February:
"The wind howled across the Flats, picking up the sand and grit and firing it at Zondi like a small-bore shotgun. He felt it in his ears, up his nostrils, and it sneaked in and found his eyes behind the Diesel sunglasses."
McClure's protagonists are Tromp Kramer and Mickey Zondi. Furthermore, the passage is part of Smith's acknowledged homage to Raymond Chandler's "Red Wind," so what's one more homage? Now, don't tell me this one is a coincidence, too.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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13 Comments:

Blogger Stan Trollip (of Michael Stanley) said...

Detective Kubu always says: "I don't believe in coincidences!" But he's not always right!

July 27, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Question: Do the Michael Stanley books discuss much about Africa's geography and its history?
And what is their tone? Is it witty? Or just straight story and plot?

July 27, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I want to learn about the cultures and geography of the countryside? Can I find that in Michael Stanley's books?

July 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, the books ought to give you a good feeing for the land, a bit of its history and a fair amount about its wildlife. The Stanley half of Michael Stanley is from South Africa but has spent a fair amount of time in the United States. I wonder if his time away makes him appreciate his own country more,

And the tone is story and plot with flashes of dry wit, I'd say. I quoted an example here sometime in the last few days; I'll put it up again when I find it.

July 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Stan, don't be so smug in your authorial omnipotence. You could be right, though. I've come across yet another reference to a Zondi, apparently a fairly common name.

Weighing in favor of the homage argument, though, is that the Zondi reference occurs within an acknowledged homage to Raymond Chandler.

July 27, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Spotted used, reasonably-priced paperback copies of:

The Steam Pig (1971)
The Caterpillar Cop (1972)
The Gooseberry Fool (1974)
The Artful Egg (1984)

on the "mass market paperback" shelves of the Mystery section at Camelot Books in Fountain Valley, CA, yesterday (27 July).

They can be reached at:

camelotbooks@verizon.net

or

714-963-3122

July 28, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I am proud of how I acquired most of my McClures. I'd bought "The Caterpillar Cop" in Hay-on-Wye. Then, back in Phila., I had "The Steam Pig" in my hand at Borders, and I thought, "Hey, I'll go to an independent store instead."



I dragged myself a few blocks on a long, dead tired on a long, hot day and then, outside the independent store, I realized another couple of blocks would take me to the fine secondhand bookshop Whodunit? I was rewarded for my discipline and persistence with used copies "The Steam Pig" plus McClure's "The Gooseberry Fool," "Snake," "The Blood of an Englishman" and "The Song Dog" and John Lawton's "Black Out."

I may look for "The Artful Egg," though. I think it won a Silver Dagger from the CWA in the UK.

July 28, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Yes, your book-buying odyssey on a hot and tiring day trumps our leisurely meanderings (by motorcar) to the used- and "friends of the library" bookstores of Orange County on a picture postcard-perfect summer day (nary a cloud in the sky, light onshore breeze) when diligence and persistence were also rewarded, albeit under less trying circumstances. Several respites at ocean-side cafes punctuated forays into bookshops.

July 28, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

First I was self-less enough to pass up a chain store for an independent. Then I showed enough financial self-discipline to seek out a used bookshop, and all this on a day when I had got up early in the morning to take a train from Boston and was lugging my bag around Philadelphia. Mine is a tale of virtue rewarded.

July 28, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Please! I'm on the verge of weeping. That tale of lugging a bag from bookstore to bookstore (and don't forget, on a hot and tiring day) sounds like the travail of a poor soul along the Via Dolorosa. I bow to your superior virtù.

July 28, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It was a small bag, really, just enough for a short trip. My true agon consisted in my having had to get out of bed in the morning as opposed to my customary early-afternoon greeting to the day.

July 28, 2010  
Blogger Roger Smith said...

Peter, sorry I have just stumbled across your post now (I've been on honeymoon and writing a new book -- no excuse I know!) Of course my Zondi is a tug of the forelock in the direction of McClure's. McClure was a real influence on me and I still rank him as the greatest South African crime writer. He wrote excellent crime novels that were also critical of South African society in the 1970s and 80s.

August 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Congratulations and good luck on those two excellent excuses.

I had not read McClure at the time I wrote about Mixed Blood; good thing I noted the passage with the Zondi homage for other reasons. (The Gooseberry Fool is my favorite of the four McClures I've read since.)

Interesting that he didn't start writing crime novels until after he'd left South Africa.

August 15, 2010  

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