rated James McClure's The Song Dog
(1991) one of the ten best African crime novels
. I'd rank it behind The Gooseberry Fool
among the four of McClure's South African-set Kramer and Zondi mysteries that I've read, but it contains some good, bracing stuff. Among the highlights:A Zulu character's dismissive reference to some Xhosa lawyer named Nelson Mandela. (1962 is the year both of the novel's setting and of Mandela's arrest.)
Lt. Tromp Kramer consoling a colleague thus:
"`Listen,' said Kramer, certain he had heard somewhere it was better for a bloke to be allowed to express his deep feelings than to suppress them, `get up off your fat arse, hey, and help me go get this bloody animal!'"This memorable pen portrait (Before dismissing the passage for a word that would be racially insulting today, remember that the book portrays apartheid-era South Africa — and that the passage's tone is one of amazement and admiration):
"Then, all of a sudden, the crowd had parted of its own volition, and through it had come a coon version of Frank Sinatra making with the jaunty walk. The snap-brim hat, padded shoulders, and zootsuit larded with glinting thread were all secondhand ideas from a secondhand shop. Yet with them went the feeling that here was an original, even if someone, somewhere else, had thought it all up before."
***I neglected to note it at the time, so the precise name slips my mind, but the novel includes an off-stage minor character named either Khubu or Bhengu. Michael Stanley's own protagonist, hero of A Carrion Death and The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu (or, in its more prosaic non-North American title, A Deadly Trade) is David “Kubu” Bengu. A tribute to McClure, perhaps?
(In a late-breaking bulletin from Stanley Trollip, the answer is no, the names are coincidental.)
Read James McClure's obituary and browse a list of his books.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010
Labels: Africa, James McClure, Kramer and Zondi, Michael Sears, Michael Stanley, South Africa, Stanley Trollip, The Gooseberry Fool, The Song Dog