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Reading and Diversity

Reading & Diversity

Reading books about criminals, thugs, and lowlifes is an escape for me. Hell, reading books about people like me acting in complete desperation is even an escape, an odd one I will grant you that. I also enjoy reading books by authors that are different than me, an old white straight guy.  I try to search out for these authors, but given my choice of genre is dark crime fiction, the pickings are slim in the small press world.

So I branch out in the mystery genre to the more popular stuff like serial killer thrillers, cozies, psychological thrillers, police procedurals, and PI book. And when I read these, I am usually disappointed. Hell, I’m even more disappointed when I read these books published by the Big 5, look at my reviews of Meg GardinerCJ Tudor, and Steve Hamilton as proof. The way many of these books resuscitate old worn tropes I find tiring and lazy, but many readers do find pleasure in them.

Here’s my problem. If I don’t try are read books outside of what I like, the authors I review will skew 85% male and 15% female, 85% white and 15% writers of color. I know this because those were my stats from last year. Not only is that an issue for readers of this blog, but most importantly this is an issue for me as a reader. Reading over a large pool of writers gives me an opportunity to hear voices that I would not normally be acquainted with and I like that.

So I continue my search of books in the expanded mystery genre that includes many writers who I am unfamiliar with in hopes of finding something good, something I enjoy. And, boy, do I like finding them.

For example, the only reason I picked up Marietta Miles’s “Route 12” was that it was written by a woman and I’m more than happy I read it. “Route 12” has stuck with me these past two years like no other book and it is one I believe that should be in the canon of contemporary crime fiction. Seriously, it’s that good.

I’ve also been lucky a few more times in my search of the mystery genre with JJ Hensley’s “Bolt Action Remedy”,  Leye Adenle’s “Easy Motion Tourist”, Stephen Mack Jones’s “August Snow”, and Lilja Sigurdardóttir’s “Snare”.  Even with all the crap I have to sort through, these are the books and writers that make it worthwhile to read outside my comfort zone.

This post started as a review of Carol Wyer’s “The Birthday” (Bloodhound Books), but it changed drastically as I wrote. “The Birthday” wasn’t for me at all, but if you dig the typical police procedural that is out there today, this may be for you. Buy: Amazon

Thanks for stopping by Unlawful Acts and reading this article.

Reading & Diversity

Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle

Years ago when I began listening to Fela Kuti and other Afrobeat music what attracted me were its rhythms and sensibilities which I was unfamiliar with even after listening to 1950s jazz, punk, and the early stages of rap music. Leye Adenle, a Nigerian author, sets Easy Motion Tourist (Cassava Republic Press) in his home country. Though Nigeria is an English-speaking country there is, for me, a different cadence and awareness in the language of the book. The best I can liken it to is if you have ever ordered a cup of coffee in a foreign country, though basically everything is the same there are nuances to the entire process. It took me a few chapters to develop a familiarity to Adenle’s prose, but once I was at ease with myself, Easy Motion Tourist flew along.

Two points of view take up much of the storytelling in Easy Motion Tourist. The first protagonist we meet is the first-person view of Guy Collins, a white English pseudo-journalist, sent to Nigeria to cover the upcoming general elections. Warned against venturing out into Lagos at night, Collins ignores all advice and ends up arrested essentially for being a witness to the dumping of a body, a prostitute with her breasts hacked off. The other main character is Amaka who has a mysterious job of helping and protecting the young prostitutes of the city. There are several other points of view throughout Easy Motion Tourist from cops to government functionaries. The ones that interested me were the criminals like Go-Slow and Knockout, petty carjackers looking for a big break, and Catch-Fire, a small-time crime lord getting ready for the next level.

Adenle introduces us to the criminal underbelly of Nigeria where armed robbery and prostitution fuel the lower-criminal-class and high-scale bribery and other treacheries are the engines that propel the upper-criminal class.

‘Everywhere you look in Lagos, there’s a church,’ she said. ‘New churches appear every day. The people are poor, they are desperate. They turn to God for help, and when that doesn’t work, they turn to crime. The young boys become fraudsters, armed robbers. The girls become prostitutes. Some turn to black magic. Just like they believe in God, they also believe in the devil. God asks them to be patient but the devil says, “I will give you what you want; you only have to do one thing in return.”’

There are several well-thought-out mysteries in Easy Motion Tourist and the supporting characters, many of which are criminals, provide much entertainment and disgust. Adenle’s Easy Motion Tourist gives us a detailed view of criminal activity and behavior in Nigeria — it is both a good read and a great story.

Easy Motion Tourist gets its name from a song by Nigerian musician Fatai Rolling Dollar. A rich Nigerian tells Collins: ” ‘In the end it’s a song about nocturnal misadventure. That’s what you’ve had, and that’s why you, my friend, are the easy motion tourist.’ ” Who knew stepping out onto the street one night to witness a police action would create such ferocity of activity?

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