The 2016 Ake Arts and Book Festival may be over but the memories are still fresh with us. One of the most outstanding book chats during the festival was the book chat on Crime fiction in Nigeria. Crime Fiction is one of the most unexplored aspects of the Nigerian literary circle, and these Cassava Republic writers, Toni Kan and Leye Adenle are on the way to revive it.
Toni Kan’s newly released book, The Carnivorous City and Leye Adenle’s Easy Motion Tourist are both crime thrillers set in Lagos. In Toni Kan’s The Carnivorous City the elder brother of a missing man, Soni, combs the city in search of his younger brother, meeting and interacting with various characters as he searches for his missing brother. Leye’s Easy Motion Tourist is centered around a woman named Amaka, whose greatest fear is not protecting one of the girls she pimps out to Lagos big men
The book chat was moderated by Zimbabwean author, Tendai Huchu.
During the book chat, Leye Adenle made some revelations about the title of his book. He said the first choice of title for the book was 48 hours, then he thought of Beast of No Nation, later, Amaka, but after being persuaded to look at the book not just as a Nigerian story but as a global one he chose Easy Motion Tourist from Fatai Rolling Dollar’s hit song. For Toni Kan it was easy to pick The Carnivorous City as his book title for Lagos really is a carnivore.
When asked how difficult it was to write crime fiction set in Nigeria- without the efficiency of the police, detectives, and CSI, Toni Kan said “our crime fiction must reflect our peculiar reality in wich we are writing. We don’t limit our search of finding missing persons to the police, no we consult pastors and Babalawos” He added that his editor who was a white lady wanted him to explain a sentence in his book, the police is doing something, which he did not explain because in Nigeria when the police say they are doing something, something could be anything and it really cannot be explained.
Lagos is a megacity- one of the biggest in Africa and attracts Nigerians from all nooks and crannies of the country, and also foreigners. The city boast of about 21 million people and has a high crime rate. Leye explained this when he talked about the graphic violent scenes in his book. He said his book wasn’t violent for violent sake but to show the reality that is Lagos. Leye went on to say despite the overpopulation and high crime rate in the city, people are still unwilling to leave because we are all high on the pollution in Lagos, the audience concurred with him with cheers.
For Toni Kan, there’s impersonality about Lagos that makes it violent. “There is something about the city that brings out the beast in you, it is a coping mechanism,” he said.
As this book chat progressed, the authors read excerpts from their books and took questions from the audience.