By Alex Ikawah
Tony Mochama’s latest literary foray, the novel “Princess Adhis and the Naija Coca Brothers” weaves through two stories that attempt to navigate the underworld of Kenyan crime;
– In one story, Ochinedu is a Nigerian drug dealer whose wife is cheating on him with the mayor of Nairobi and whose deputy is concealing money from him. Chinedu sends his wife Adhis (and he knows the Mayor will insist on accompanying her) on a complicated goose chase for a shipment of drugs with the express intention of setting them up for arrest. He has them captured in a Muslim country where the charges mean execution for the mayor and imprisonment for his wife. One of his cronies meanwhile manages, after a session of garish and vividly described torture that lasts the length of the book, to extract the location of the hidden cash from the thieving deputy.
– Karl Heinz, Kristof, and Bradson, on the other hand are part of a cartel of sex tourists who dupe and rape on camera, a pair of young girls with the promise of money and later on, death threats. The abused young girls are dumped in some location in Watamu and the three get on a charter plane with which they intend to make a drug-pass for Ochinedu who is acquainted with one of them when they crash into a hill and die.
A keen follower of local news will notice that both stories are loosely based upon local scandals. Ochinedu’s story is based upon the dispute over the ‘Deep West’ pub that pitted one Akinyi against her ex-husband, a Nigerian called Chinedu while Bradson’s character is a broad caricature of the much vilified owner of the Java coffee chain; he owns a coffee chain called Virjo.
Though the book is named after the Adhis character, she seems to possess no agency at all and for most of the book, is a pawn in the wider plans of her lover the mayor, and her husband Ochinedu. Her existence in the book seems at the end of it all to have been for the sole purpose of titillating the reader with random sexual episodes between her and the mayor and derogatory descriptions of her body and intellect (or lack of it). In addition, the only other female characters in the book are a pair of under-age girls who are sexually abused by three men old enough to be their grandfathers. The author though, despite intending to portray them as innocent victims, seems to have trouble approaching their characters in a realistic manner. The two girls come off seeming almost complicit in their own abuse creating a conflicting portrayal of their characters and obstructing the emotional connection that so often defines good literature. Considered in entirety, the treatment of female characters in this book gives it a rather misogynistic bent.
It’s not only the female characters who suffer from this unsatisfactory treatment though. The male characters are such exaggerated depictions of ‘underworld’ templates that the book would lose nothing if their names were to be replaced by placeholders like “Drug-lord 1” or “Thug” or for the character of Adhis, “Harlot”. It is one thing the characters (and possibly the book) seem to have in common; they struggle too hard to be controversial in order to cover up the fact that they are terribly shallow. Perhaps in this one respect, the book does appear to reflect upon contemporary Kenyan life.
The conclusion of the book seems contrived as well. For some reason, every antagonist dies in a series of conveniently fatal coincidences. While narrating the sordid details of his wildly exaggerated torture method to his gloating boss, the crony drives the car they are riding into a truck that kills them both. The three sex tourists, on their way to make a drug-pass for Ochinedu who is acquainted with one of them, crash their plane into a hill; all three perish. Being the cornerstones of the book’s plot, their deaths mark the end of the book; though in hindsight, perhaps they die in order that the book may end.
After it was all over, I made the unfortunate realization that the book had really left me with nothing. Nothing to contemplate or remember, and no questions to ask. None perhaps except one; “What happened to the man who wrote ‘The Road to Eldoret?’
Maybe I’m just another strongly opinionated amateur writer, so I request you do not take my word for it. After all, one man’s manuscript is another man’s first draft. The book is published by StoryMoja Publishers (and there are a lot of clever folk there so I might be quite wrong) and is available at Westlands Sundries, Wells, Books First, Savanis, Bookstop, Uchumi supermarkets and on Amazon. Read it if you can and draw your own conclusions.
About The Author
Tony ‘smitta’ Mochama is a poet and journalist who lives and works in Nairobi. A self-confessed vodka aficionado (no lemons, no avocado), the dread-locked poet also did Law at UoN, but says: “Don’t practice. Just preach!” Mochama is also a gossip columnist extraordinaire and popular performance poet.
Mochama has a collection of short stories coming out soon titled – ‘The ruins down in Africa’. He has also been called a ‘literary gangster’, from time to rhyme. His collection of poetry, ‘What If I am a Literary Gangster?’ and its sequel, ‘The Literary Gangsta – II’ were published by Brown Bear Insignia. Mochama has also lectured on creative writing and poetry, most recently as a guest speaker at Concordia University, in Montreal. Mochama is the secretary of Pen International (Kenya).