It is interesting that American/Ghanaian mystery writer Kwei Quartey is presently visiting Ghana – obviously doing research on his next book? I heard him speak, and do a reading on CitiFM’s Writers Project programme two Sundays ago, which was at least better than nothing, but part of me wished that he could have given a public reading here in Accra. I guess that is being a bit selfish, but I guess that is what comes of being in this location.
I do remember Quartey being asked about the availability of his books here in Ghana. And of course the usual issues of where publishers chose to promote books came up.
Unfortunately there is also a major issue of what local booksellers chose to sell. I think I read Quartey’s first novel, Wife of the Gods, as a borrowed copy which a fellow Accra Book Club member had bought on a trip outside Ghana. His second book, Children of the street, I did buy from a local bookshop [though I haven’t read it yet], and the third , Death at the Voyager Hotel, I managed to download on my e-reader [actually this happened because Quartey mentioned it on the Writers Project radio programme!] I am not sure however whether any of them are currently available here in Accra, which is very sad, in my opinion.
Thanks to fellow blogger and reader, Chris Scott, for reminding me, via his website that I had actually considered writing about this.
At the last Accra Book Club meeting, a small group of us – four actually – discussed, among other things, Nii Ayikwei Parkes’ Tail of the blue bird. The group had chosen it – mainly on yours truly’s recommendation, I am proud to say – as a contemporary Ghanaian novel. And that we all agreed, it is, despite its movement from the hussle of Accra, which resonated realistically, to the rural setting of a forest village somewhere in the Eastern Region. The use of English interspersed with Ghanaian expressions helps to reinforce the impression of the now.
Interestingly, at least one colleague brought up the theme of the Ghanaian detective story/crime novel, and of course we did mention the recent book by Kwei Quartey, Wife of the Gods, which several of us had read.
Although we all felt that the Parkes book was better written, this was not a condemnation of Quartey’s novel, which was readable and enjoyable.
I mention this because another literary blogger from Ghana, Nana Fredua-Agyeman, recently talked about the lack of African detective novels, and specifically mentioned Quartey’s book as being innovative in this regard.
Certainly for Ghanaian fiction I would agree, but come to think of it, the heroine of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith is of course from Botswana, even if the author isn’t. And what about Nairobi heat, by Mukoma wa Ngugi? And aren’t there many South Africans who write crime fiction?
Still a good topic to talk – and think about. Thanks Nana for bringing it up!
Diasporan Africans, including Ghanaians, are certainly writing, and getting reviews. The frustration here in Ghana is actually getting copies of their books to either read or buy. I mention two specific examples: one I borrowed a copy from a fellow member of the Accra Book Club, while the other finally landed in EPP where the author said it was supposed to be. Only this happened about four months later than what the author had said was supposed to happen. Oh well, the expression “better late than never” definitely comes to mind.
So now I am about to start Kwei Quartey’s Wife of the gods simply because it does not belong to me, and I feel that I should not be “hogging” it, while others might be happy to read it. I am happy to say that this is another “mystery”, which pleases me, as this is one of my favourite genres. It will be interesting to see how the Ghanaian setting works. I won’t say that I would be more critical about this aspect than in other such books, but I would certainly note what seemed to work, and what didn’t. I also remember someone or some review making a mention of the popularity of the McCall Smith novels based in Botswana contributing in no small way to the popularity of novels with an African setting! I will report more when I finish the book; starting it will be take place shortly.
I have been going to the EPP bookshop just opposite the Ghana Trade Fair at La fairly regularly since I moved to Accra – for personal reasons for a lot of the time, and more recently I have actually been buying books from them for work. A colleague gave me the name of one of the staff, and I can only praise this young man for his customer service. On more than one occasion we’ve phoned him to ask if EPP has a particular title in stock, and he responds quickly. When I heard from Nii Ayikwei Parkes that his book, The tail of the blue bird, was supposed to be available through EPP I asked my contact, and after checking he told me it had not yet arrived. And so I put this away (this was in July 2009 – about four months ago) and was very surprised when we called our contact earlier this week, and he mentioned that the Parkes book had arrived last weekend! Now I am wishing that I had more time to read!