In the Shadow of the Tokolosh

Written by K. Conrad
Review by Richard Tearle

Set in the years between the mid nineteen fifties and early nineteen seventies in what was initially Northern Rhodesia, we follow the lives of four young lads as they grow up in a small town where there are no secrets. The father of one of the boys is their mentor, taking them on trips and teaching them the skills of the ‘old ways’. He also teaches them about life and how things will soon not be the same, something they cannot accept due to their youth but begin to recognise as they grow older.

Early on, the book ‘fast-forwards’ to the early seventies when two of the boys, Wrex and Johan are both in a special army unit, hunting out terrorists. It soon becomes clear that Wrex – the main protagonist – is wounded and in hospital and that the almost continuous narrative thereafter is a series of flashbacks.

We see the boys growing up through adolescence, young men, and into manhood. We follow their adventures and the scrapes they get themselves into as, inevitably they grow up. We see them discovering Elvis Presley, chrome covered cars – and girls. More importantly, the author tracks the progress of the Universal Declaration of Independence invoked by Ian Smith in the mid-sixties. Throughout the whole book, you get the sense that ‘the Times they are a-changin’,’ and that nothing will ever be the same again.

The subject matter may not be to everybody’s immediate taste, however, I thoroughly recommend giving it a try: the characters are all strong and believable, the dialogue is sharp and well-crafted and behind all this are breathtaking descriptions of Africa, its topography, wildlife and traditions. The text could do with a quick proofread as there were a couple of spelling errors – missed by a spellchecker, but this is a minor issue overtaken by the love of the author’s main subject – Africa itself, which shines through on almost every page; he is to be commended for knowing his subject and explaining it so succinctly. The cover is attractive and becomes self-explanatory. A five-star read.