"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."Smith's Cape Town is a gritty place, literally and figuratively. Wake Up Dead, Smith's grim, funny, hyper-violent thriller of a second novel, was one of my favorite books of 2010, and it was pretty gritty, dusty, and sun-basked, too.
His third book elevates the dust to a title position. I haven't read enough to know how the dust figures in Dust Devils, but the early chapters are full of grit, violence, and a pace that's breakneck and touchingly human at the same time. One early highlight: a Zulu tourist village that's a loony melange of past and present and a zinger of a comment on contemporary South Africa, with a spot of menace to keep us from chuckling too hard.
(Smith owes his depiction of hot, dry, nerve-crackling weather principally to Cape Town's climate. But he owes a bit to Raymond Chandler, too. )
© Peter Rozovsky 2011