Dillibe Onyeama revives occult novels of the 80s
Last week in Enugu and Owerri, two titles, Nigger at Eton and All Screwed Up, were released into the market. Onyeama, who is also a publisher, will launch the titles in Lagos and other parts of the country in the coming weeks. Juju will be released later in June. All the titles are published in England by their original publishers, while Onyeama’s publishing outfit, Enugu-based Delta Publications Ltd, will distribute the titles.
Already, to commemorate this year’s Black History month, Rainbow Book Club has Niger at Eton for its February reading event on Saturday, February 25 at Port Harcourt Book Centre (after Obi Wali Centre, beside Air Assault Golf Course, G.U. Ake Road). Time is 2pm.
Also, Onyeama will delight his readers with a new addition to the occult thrillers, when he brings out The Flaming Sword, which took 40 years to write.
According to him, “A U.K.-based American publisher, Mark Barty-King, who ultimately emerged Chairman of Transworld Publishing Group, which first commissioned my novel, Godfathers of Voodoo, was bowled over by the synopsis of The Flaming Sword, and wanted to see some specimen chapters. I elected to write the whole book without taking a commission and possibly disappointing him, and hand over a completed work. Some months before I finished the work some 38 years later, I was reading his obituary in disbelieving horror!
“Based on the 2100 Pounds commission I received for Godfathers of Voodoo in 1980, which was 256 pages, this could have been anything as high as 5000 Pounds for 600 pages. But I elected to forego the carrot of a handsome commission and complete the book and hand over the finished project.”
For Onyeama, “Demand is what is making us to revive the old titles. Demand is great within that realm of the mysterious, the occult, and the hidden life. There is that aspect of African life that is unexplored. In those days in London, my books were selling as much as 30,000 copies. There was great demand for them.”
Although he left Nigeria for London at the age of eight, Onyeama knew enough about his African occult heritage to draw upon it through imaginative fiction to mystify his readers. Onyeama spoke on the place of occult in today’s reality in the African imagination, saying the phenomenon still has as much grip then as it does now in spite of globalisation.
As he put it in a telephone conversation from his Enugu base, “Even at eight, kinds are very receptive to culture. Occult or voodoo still serves the African man in a big way. The African man can hold the cross (of Christ) with one hand for the whole world to see and still hold his totem or occult symbol with the other hand. All are still used in a great deal; politicians and businessmen and women still use occult till this day. It’s a real world out there, the occult world, and it still works and mystifies the white man.”
Although Onyeama is excited about bringing out these once famous titles that thrilled generations of readers back in the days, he said Nigeria’s publishing scene easily dampens the spirit. He said booksellers are the sour point in the book business with a huge debt profile, which they refuse to settle. He said what booksellers owed him was as high as six digits, a situation he said was unacceptable.
“The publishing industry is going through hell,” he lamented. “Booksellers don’t pay their debt; they make the business difficult for us.”As a result, Onyeama’s new policy at Delta Publishers Ltd is cash and carry, saying it was the only way he could stay afloat and continue to satisfy avid readers.