Friday, July 23, 2010

Nelson who?

Michael Stanley 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

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      Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

      Mind if I include the link to this today.

      July 23, 2010  
      Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

      Not at all. Thanks for asking.

      July 23, 2010  

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