Close button
The Guardian
Email YouTube Facebook Instagram Twitter WhatsApp

Once more, I salute you


Books. Photo; JAKPOST

No memory of the last book I read. So, I went into the bedroom and began to look for a book to read from page to page to the end. The room was full of books, books about German philosophy, books on essays about books. There are also general books, novels, general knowledge and those futuristic books about the environment and the future of the child. Finally, I picked on a book.

The title is Death The Pale Rider by Vincent Banville. The author is a school teacher who wrote in his spare time. He had written two other books – An End To Flight which deals with the Biafra war and Death By Design, his second thriller.

Why did I need a book to read from page to page to the end. I had knee operation in November and I was admitted into the hospital. I could do none of the things I used to do. For days, I lay in bed losing weight and wasting away. By the time I was discharged on 23 December I had lost 10kg. I needed to eat but what type of food? There were meetings and everyone hoped I would eat and put on weight again. Nothing doing. What was scary was for one’s mental capability to begin to deteriorate!


Anyway I took the book and began to read it. At the end of the book Helg Ronning had written his name. So, I must have borrowed it from him during one of my visits. It was first published in 1995 by Poolbeg Press in Dublin. I finally finished reading the book on Friday, which coincided with the end of April. I did not think that it would take me so long, especially since it seemed that I had read before. Nothing reminded me that it was a book that I had read before.

It is a crime novel involving a private detective and a couple of policemen who are never sure they can trust John Blaine. But criminal activities abound in local council and only the subtle one with extra ears will get the information. John Blaine is engaged for some good money to retrieve some incriminating photographs to save the face of a wealth socialite of the Dublin aristocracy. In no time at all, the inevitable violence enters. One has to be careful now. Sometimes the violence is gratuitous, unnecessary but it is part of the genre.

We learn that this is not a small matter of naked homosexual self-exposures but grand larceny at the city council. The canvas is larger, the number of characters are more.

It is possible to see how this old format of crime prevention is dying out. The detective drinks too much, smokes too much does not do enough self-introspection before taking his various steps. John Blaine is almost destroyed before his friends in the police rescue him.

But seriously though, is this type of crime prevention worthwhile, where the private detective almost loses his life and would do nothing to avenge himself because as he would like his friends know he is no longer in the ‘crucifixion game’. If there is no fear that somebody somewhere is coming to avenge the private detective, the criminals are likely to get away with.

This section of the novel would have wasted my time. It was the type of section you read and re-read without understanding the logic of the argument. Finally, you give up and continue to read with understanding that somewhere along the line understanding will come.

The philosophical preoccupation here is whether or not it is possible to engage in physical argument where the single defender of Justice takes all the suffering and refuses to seek vengeance for the ills that he has suffered. But this issue cannot be allowed to delay the reader. I needed to reach the end of the book. Yet, I also needed to feel that my time reading the book had been time well spent. This will or will not be made up for by the way the last part of the novel plays.

John Blaine has been married but Anne could not take all his behavior. She moves out to live with a muscle builder. But, in spite of this, John and Anne seek each other out during critical times seeking consolation in each other’s arms. The book is now merely less than ten pages left. John is still receiving punishment from his enemies. His right hand has just been nailed to a tabled and his life is being rapped up. There is a small knock on the door. Things change. The violence against John stops. Max executes two of his tormentors, against John’s judgment, and it is not as if John’s opinion is sought in the matter. Anne wants to tell John something. She’s pregnant. She assures him the child is his.


There is letter from Max with the important attachments that would restore John’s fortune. In these last few pages resides the problems of the crime novel, thriller and so on and so forth proliferate. A relationship that did not get enough space for open discussion gets resolved on the mention of a pregnancy. How did the man Anne lives with feels about it all? What about his relatives’ feelings when they hear what’s happening behind their back.

The amount of drinking and smoking that goes on in these novels are enough to drown the novels in their own tears. There is no doubt that the relief at the end of this novel mostly from the fact that John is avenged at the end. Yes his tormentors are summarily executed, they get their judgment. That is, the things that are important are the things that are important at the end.

The most critical aspect of African poetics, the teaching of morality, is absent from the detective. For this reason no matter what efforts Africans make, they are not likely to find success in the genre. They are better of with their morality stories.


Receive News Alerts on Whatsapp: +2348136370421

No comments yet