13th President of Kenya…. Stories That Won’t Bore You to Death

By Tabitha Makumi,

If I could start a library, crime fiction seekers would be in for a treat. Never liked romance novels, something always seemed corny and cheesy about them. But 15-year-old me didn’t think so some few years back. Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, Jackie Collins (still secretly read her books) … who else am I forgetting? oh yes, Sidney Sheldon. Plus, don’t get me started on those Mills and Boons 160 something pages novels.

Self-help books?  I’ve never got around to purchasing “12 Steps to….” Or “How to…” kind of books. I know they are the holy grail to most people especially the ones that delve on management and leadership …Don’t fret, if you dig such books, no problema amigos…it’s all good. We read what we read and we don’t answer to no one.

Thing is, it so happens that after reading one too many crime thrillers, they all start to look the same. A serial killer in a Jeffrey Archer novel is as twisted as one on a Lee Child’s thriller. Just as a pissed off detective in a Greg Iles novel has the same temperament as one on Kathy Reich’s Bone collection series. What am I getting at? Every now and then I am looking for something new… something fresh… something with a different kind of oomph.

Found “it” in Flashes of Vice which is a collection of short stories written by Kenyan author, Vincent De Paul. (Can I get a whoop whoop for our Kenyan writers!) If you are looking for “have been told African literature” or “I think I have read that before” kind of stories, then Flashes of Vice won’t do it for you. Vincent De Paul (Don’t you want to know if that is his national ID name though? Or just a fancy pseudonym?) Point is, he writes as well as I can down a cheap bottle of dry red wine on a Friday night.

His short stories won’t bore you to death. Short, entertaining and adopting that straight forward Humans of New York style of writing. Whether he is writing about hookers, terrorism, or love rigmaroles, he will make you appreciate raw and well written African literature. Plus, you will have more cred for knowing and having read more than two notable African writers. C’mon, who do you currently know of? Chimamanda? Ngugi? Wainaina? Well, add Vincent ought to be on that list.

If I had to pick a favourite, it is the “13th President of Kenya” and you will soon find out why. At a time when our politics as a country are in shambles, Vincent writes about a time when we have a female president. How did that happen? I hear you ask and maybe a smirk to go with that. Well, we have a female president, she is fictional, so let’s just keep the misogynistic views at bay for now.

The year is 2097 and Madam President’s name is Olivia Chivalathi Munyi – Lee. Kenya by now is a super power, if nuclear energy is anything to go by. Shit has just hit the fan and one of the nuclear reactors in Nairobi has just exploded. What follows is a Hiroshima x10 kind of horror. Deaths by the millions, birth defects and a trail of cancers on its wake.

Faced with sanctions from the UN for shutting down all the nuclear plants in the country, Madam President must take a stand. “Let’s put an end to this. Let’s all say never again. Let’s all unite and say No to the West for threatening us with sanctions if we take this bold step” … Now, I wouldn’t be doing you any good if I dished out on how that story ends.

I will tell you what, when you are done stuffing your face with delectable Nyama Choma this festive season. When all your money is spent and you don’t know how you are going to make it through January. When all the hype and brouhaha has died down…. Pick up a book…better if it’s Flashes of Vice… and enjoy mastery art of awesome storytelling.