Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and eighty-sixth, is of African-American novelist Temba Magorimbo. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Temba Magorimbo was born in August 1966 in the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in Gwelo (then) now Gweru. His father was a British South Africa Police (BSAP) officer from 1960 to 1977 while his mother was a housewife. He grew up circulating Gwelo’s police camps like Mkoba, Mutapa, Old Camp and Monomutapa as the family moved residences until he started school in 1973 at Bumburwi Primary in Mkoba for a term. The family moved to Senga from 2nd term 1973 until he concluded his primary education in 1979. He did his high school briefly (two weeks) at Nashville High in Gweru before moving to Ascot in 1980 until 1983. He is currently married to Itayi with whom they have two daughters. He is a government bursar since 1989.
Now a satirical look at Temba’s reading culture…
Picture a small wide-eyed boy getting into the high school library in 1980. The uniform should have been cotton grey shorts and shirts with a navy blue tie / jersey. The girls wore pleated navy blue skirts and white blouses that were washed every day. The shoes looked like brown beef cattle on the range. Beards and long hair were forbidden. He was trying to find if he had any hair under my chin. He never shaved during his four years at high school. He bathed instead. There were four classes in form 1 with the 1-D comprised of boys only. That meant the boys therein had the advantage of being naughty. They could shed real tears when the teachers beat them for their pranks. He and his class couldn’t cry, watched by the girls, and could you, if you were a small boy in 1980? That was being sissy. There were no skin lightening creams / pills or plastic surgery then. They remained black or chocolate or coffee / ebony brown in complexion. They kept their ugliness / deformities then, for generations to come. They didn’t change their names. Temba was never called James Brown. Temba could have eaten live coals just to please the girls. He didn’t have a girlfriend. He looked like a clone made of Jeleele Whyte and Harry Porter.
The library was the theatre of dreams.
It was the hall of fame. Silence! Senior prefects manned it with a teacher nearby like secret service. Temba had no inkling of who was who among the authors but his peers knew more than love notes and forbidden sex secrets. He followed them. Temba never liked the D-I-Y magazines. The last time he had tried woodcraft he had ended with a limp. Temba delved into Franklin W. Dixon [the Hardy Boys]. Oh boy, he fought for every title in the series. His height meant he got second hand air, breathed out by others. His lankiness stopped him from bullying the tall boys. He hid under the fact of being a devout Christian. Besides, they could easily keep him away from the shelf he wanted because there was no ladder around. He tried Alfred Hitchcock mysteries. When they started athletics training, he found solace in the library. They never thought of checking for deserters there. The last time had had tried long distance running, he had ended up coming to the school gates after they had been securely locked for the night.
The girls liked him [that is what he says. He doesn’t give names, says their husbands or families may sue for defamation]. They [the girls] advised him to try Carolyn Keene [Nancy Drew]. The boys laughed at him for reading that. He knew they and him read Mills & Boon when they were off school premises. The History master talked about Douglas Bader, a British World War 2 air force hero. He could run away from the Germans leaving his legs behind. Temba researched. He discovered books by Captain W. E. Jones [Bigglesworth] about a pilot of the air force who was an investigator. He read the entire series while the bigger boys ran out of new Hardy Boys. They talked about Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Links and others. The boys talked of books by Nick Carter and James Hardley Chase. These had sex content. Being caught with one on at school resulted in one holding a wooden rail by stretching far out. The problem was there was a bench like plank under one’s stomach. A cane worked on the rump. Temba read Nick Carter and James Hardley Chase away from school, borrowed from those that owed him favours, believe it, they were few and far in between. His mom complained about the models on the book jackets. He put James Hardley Chase’s crime filled thrillers inside school texts. If engineers could solve problems, why can’t teenage readers?
Scope from South Africa was a forbidden magazine. Not because it supported apartheid, it had models without breast plates. He learnt of Ed McBain from Scope. His crime stories like Ax paid dividends. He read Luis L’Armour starting with The Iron Marshall until he ran out of steam or stock. He also found the girls reading Barbara Stressland & Danielle Steele. He liked to argue and talk a lot so he read both. He somehow fell in with Rosemary Roger’s Sweet Savage Romance which had sex boys wanted to hear. Did he mention it was practically impossible to find Wilbur Smith in the library? His first one by him was Shout At The Devil. He can’t remember the author but he read Diamonds In The Dirt too. For posterity, he also read Colin Seymour, Jack London’s White Fang was good so were Jack Higgins’s The Eagle Has Landed. Was he serious about kidnapping Churchill in fiction?
His English master liked him.
He introduced him to C. S. Forster who wrote British English full of teas, lawns and pretty ladies with hats blushing at the first kiss. In those days publishers for teens included Granada. Bigger boys looked for Pan Books or Hodder & Stoughton. They made boys and girls to read Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar and Macbeth in literature including Wordsworth and Dylan Thomas. He Thor Heyerdahl [Kontiki] which was rejected by so many publishers one wonders why it became a best seller. He liked read Thomas Hardy, Far From The Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge [make sure he doesn’t sell his own wife, that is if he has one at all], Jude the Obscure and Tess of the d’Urberville. He wanted to be a soldier so he read war stories like The Forgotten Battalion about the war against the Japanese. Then there was Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice which was hard to understand. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens was good. Then there was Enid Blyton and the Famous Five much better than reading about Noody in primary school. Living in an area without electrical power kept him from watching Dallas but he did see Mr. T in the A-team years later. Gone With The Wind wasn’t in the library but Coleen McCullough [Thorn Birds] he read in later years. How does a celibate priest make married women pregnant? A Girl Called Tamiko he read after school. The Japanese don’t just make Toyota and sushi. He read Sho’gun. In later years he found and read Chickenhawk by Robert Mason, a rendition of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a Huey helicopter pilot. No wonder the kids shitted in the flying machines. After school he turned to writing. Oh bookness!
And now from the author himself… Read the rest of this entry »