Category Archives: Crime fiction and film from Africa

Book review: Silent Valley

International crime fiction sometimes feels like a contest between the Scandinavians and the Irish. If so, the South Africans are closing ground on both of them.

Think of writers like Margie Orford, Roger Smith and Mike Nicol, just to name a few.

Although less well known, Swaziland born, Australia-based author Malla Nunn deserves a place among this group. Silent Valley is her third book, set in fifties South Africa and featuring the character of Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper.

Her first book, A Beautiful Place to Die (2008) won rave reviews. It involved Cooper investigating the murder of a prominent Afrikaner policeman Captain Willem Pretorius, in the small town of Jacob’s Rest on South Africa’s border with Mozambique.

Her second, Let the Dead Lie (2010) saw Cooper expelled from the police and reduced to working on the docks of Durban. It didn’t do nearly so well (although I’ve heard some very good reports about it).

Silent Valley sees Cooper back in the force and in familiar territory, investigating the murder of a young girl – the bride to be of a powerful, overbearing Zulu chief, in a remote part of South Africa. There’s a truckload of suspects, everyone from the head of the local police to members of the white family she worked for as a domestic, with a bit of black magic and sexual deviancy thrown into the mix for good measure.… Read more

Pulp Friday: mercenary pulp

This week’s Pulp Friday is a selection of covers from the seething, sweaty, bloody, intrigue laden world of mercenary pulp.

I picked them celebrate the fact that I have a story in issue 2 of Blood and Tacos, which launches today, called ‘Bastard Mercenary: Operation Scorpion Sting’. Well, it’s not my story. It was written by a guy called Arch Saxon, one of the mainstays of the local pulp fiction scene in the seventies and eighties.

I discovered Saxon living in a down at heel rooming house in Brunswick, while researching a piece for this site. After he’d drunk his own body weight in beer and caged a hundred dollars off me, he agreed to let me submit a story of his featuring his little known creation Bruce ‘Boomer’ Kelly to Johnny Shaw’s Blood and Tacos series.

Kelly aka Bastard Mercenary is hard-bitten Bangkok-based Australian mercenary who’ll undertake any job so long as the beer is cold and the money right. Much like Saxon himself.

The rest as they say is history.

Blood and Tacos is an affectionate homage to the crazy, over the top world of late seventies, eighties pulp fiction. A time when titles such as Penetrator, The Liquidator, Death Merchant, Black Samurai and The Executioner rubbed muscular shoulders with each other on the pulp paperback rack of the local newsagency.… Read more

Jungle Jim

You’ve probably heard of Jungle Jim, the nickname for the Asia-based hunter Jim Bradley, who featured in a series of fictional adventures starting in 1934. Jungle Jim battled pirates, slave traders and other assorted jungle foes on radio and in print.

He was later re-tooled for a series of 16 B movies set in Africa and starring Johnny Weissmuller.

Odds are, however, you probably haven’t heard of Jungle Jim, the Cape Town based bimonthly magazine that publishes crime, horror and genre tales penned by writers from all over the African continent.

Stumbling across things sites like Jungle Jim is one of the reasons I love the Internet.

When I first saw this in mid-2011, I immediately contacted the editors and asked them to send me some samples of their mag so I could review them for this site. They quickly sent me issues 5 through to 8 (issue 10 is about to come out).

I’ve finally got around to reading them and what a ride. The stories in Jungle Jim capture the incredible mystery, beauty and harshness of life in Africa minus the ‘Kony 2012′ cliches and Western condescension.

‘The End When It Comes’ by Werner Pretorius (issue 5), concerns a waitress in the tiny town of Kaiser Bay who picks up a drifter who is much more than he seems.… Read more

Book review: Dust Devils

You can bet crime writer Roger Smith is not on the Christmas card list of the South African Tourist Board. His third novel, Dust Devils, is one of the most violent and blistering crime novels I’ve read in a long while. It’s also a pretty bleak picture of post-Apartheid South Africa.

The plot kicks off with a home invasion that leaves one man dead and his female companion running for her life.

She happens to be the wife of sacked journalist Robert Dell. Within a few pages, their car has been run of the road, the wife and two young children have been incinerated and Dell, thrown clear of the blast, is being fitted up by corrupt police to take the blame as a murder/suicide.

The killer, a Zulu called Inja Mazibuko, is a psychopathic cop attached to special unit of the corrupt Minister of Justice. Dell is a loose end that he must now tidy up.

Dell escapes with the help of the father, Robert Goodbread, a former CIA black operative involved in Vietnam and the former South Africa’s dirty little border wars.

Recently released from jail where he was serving a sentence for taking part in the massacre of black civilians, Goodbread is dying of lung cancer and despised by his son.… Read more

New crime anthologies and Ned Kelly Awards

An interesting trend that seems to be occurring parallel with the rise of e-publishing is the growing popularity of short story anthologies.

I’m told by people who know about these things, that anthologies are not popular with mainstream publishers. Well, e-publishing is now allowing small niche publishers to get their product out there.

Exhibits A and B are two upcoming crime anthologies, both of which I have stories in.

In September, the first Crime Factory anthology will be available through US indie crime publisher, New Pulp Press.

Crime Factory: The First Shift contains 28 noir stories from established and emerging authors in the US, UK, South Africa and Australia. There’s names Australian crime readers may be familiar with, including Ken Bruen (author of The White Trilogy and London Boulevard), Adrian McKinty (Falling Glass), and local writer, Leigh Redhead (Thrill City).

First Shift is also a chance for Australian audiences to check out several members of the new wave of noir writers in the United States who are relatively unknown here, including Hilary Davidson, Dave Zeltserman, Scott Wolven and Dennis Tafoya. South African writer, Roger Smith, whose upcoming book Dust Devils is on my to read list, also contributed a story.

You can pre-order Crime Factory: The First Shift here at Barns and Noble and Amazon.… Read more