Thursday, May 30, 2013

Michael Stanley's "Deadly Harvest"

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Their mysteries are set in Botswana, each against a backdrop of a current issue in southern Africa. Their protagonist is David “Kubu” Bengu, assistant superintendent in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The third novel in the series, Death of the Mantis, was short listed for an Edgar and an Anthony, and won the Barry Award for best paperback original mystery of 2011.

Here the authors dreamcast an adaptation of Deadly Harvest, the fourth Detective Kubu mystery:
Our main character, Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department (CID), is a large man. It’s no accident that his nickname “Kubu” means hippopotamus in the local language, Setswana.

James Earl Jones would be a wonderful Kubu. He has the perfect balance of gravity and levity, as well as an imposing presence and size. The only problem is that Kubu is in his thirties and Jones is in his eighties. That wouldn’t work.

Fortunately, there is another actor who would fill Kubu’s shoes. That is Forest Whitaker, who played Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. He too has what it takes to dominate a scene, as well as the ability to blend humor and chilling intensity. In reality, of course, the movie makers would choose whomever they wanted – just look at Lee Child’s tall Jack Reacher being played very successfully by not-so-tall Tom Cruise. Ultimately it’s the acting that carries a scene, not how closely the character matches the writer’s mental picture.

Unlike most protagonists in mystery novels, Kubu is a very nice man. He’s happily married and visits his parents every Sunday if he is not away on a case. Kubu’s wife, Joy, is a strong woman – a role that Jill Scott would fill with panache. Of course, she has plenty of experience of being a woman in Botswana, having played Mma Precious Ramotswe in Alexander McCall-Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

Kubu has a love-hate relationship with his prickly and often sarcastic boss, Director Jacob Mabaku. Mabaku is constantly irked by Kubu’s habit of circumventing normal procedures and is often forced to defend him to the Police Commissioner and to the press. But he also admires Kubu’s intuition and ability to solve tough cases. Denzel Washington would handle this ambiguity skillfully. Morgan Freeman would be an ideal Wilmon Bengu, Kubu’s father, and Whoopi Goldberg, would make an excellent Amantle Bengu, Kubu’s mother.

In our latest mystery, Deadly Harvest, we have three additional characters to cast. First is a small female detective, Samantha Khama. She is understandably unhappy about the treatment she’s receiving as the first woman in the CID. We’d ask Kerry Washington (of Django Unchained) to fill this role. The second is Witness Maleng, whose daughter has been abducted and feared murdered for body parts. We like Chris Tucker (Silver Linings Playbook) for this role. Finally there is the frightening witchdoctor. How about Samuel L. Jackson of Pulp Fiction?

The final character in our mysteries is the country of Botswana itself. We think that Botswana is unique, what with its Kalahari Desert and verdant Okavango Delta. And its vast areas of uninhabited land and wonderful wildlife. Much of the location for our novels could be recreated on set, but other parts would need to be shot in Botswana for the full flavor to come through and to complement this star-studded cast.
Learn more about the book and authors at Michael Stanley's website.

Read: Michael Stanley's top ten African crime novels.

The Page 69 Test: Deadly Harvest.

--Marshal Zeringue