Friday, May 18, 2012
What I've been reading lately
Synopsis (from Amazon)-
Just before 3am on January 24th, 1941, when Britain was preoccupied with surviving the Blitz, the body of Josslyn Hay, Earl of Erroll, was discovered lying on the floor of his Buick, at a road intersection some miles outside Nairobi, with a bullet in his head. A leading figure in Kenya's colonial community, he had recently been appointed Military Secretary, but he was primarily a seducer of other men's wives. Sir Henry Delves Broughton, whose wife was Erroll's current conquest, had an obvious motive for the murder, but no one was ever convicted and the question of who killed him became a classic mystery, a scandel and cause celebre. Among those who became fascinated with the Erroll case was Cyril Connolly. He joined up with James Fox for a major investigation of the case in 1969 for the SUNDAY TIMES magazine. After his death James Fox inherited the obsession and a commitment to continue in pursuit of the story both in England and Kenya in the late 1970s. One day, on a veranda overlooking the Indian Ocean, Fox came across a piece of evidence that seemed to bring all the fragments and pieces together and convinced him that he saw a complete picture.
This is basically a book about a case that shows that (some) white colonials thought they were above the law. That possibly the heat and (gin) and quinine had gone to their heads. So...has much changed in the last 60 years?? (Fox kept mentioning that this trial was really the start of the end of the well-known Happy Valley in Kenya. Really??? Since I moved to Nairobi I've been to plenty of parties where we threw keys into a bowl! Only joking!!) I have never seen the film or previously read the book, but I am pretty sure I might be the only European in Nairobi not to have, until now. (Duh, duh, duhhhhh!)
As Fox retells the story of Broughton's trial, I actually began to grow quite tiresome of the case. I felt quite frustrated and angered at the 'characters' and was not sure if I would continue to read the book. Then there was a shift in style. Fox began to continue Connolly's search for key players in the case, such as Hugh Dickinson, the pace seemed to speed up and become a thrilling detective novel. I couldn't put down the book...and one night I had to sleep with my duvet over my head (true...am a scaedy cat!!). My own theory of 'who killed Erroll' changed by the chapter, but generally swung back and forth between Broughton and Diana, (then Caldwell, later Delamere...well, the Delamere family are known for being fine shooters...right!!??) until the end, when Fox reveals some important evidence.
I think the book is particularly interesting to those that know Nairobi and know Karen (the, still, predominantly, white-Kenyan suburb of Nairobi were Karen Blixon had her farm) and the characters that live there and strive to fit in to that community. (How can I even start to explain that...without offending anyone...lets just say, it is a whole world of its own. A great quote from the book was from a letter written by Francis Wyndham to Cyril Connolly and he talks of the main players in Happy Valley and the trial;
"I find it hard to believe these people were (and are) real - they seem more than real, like characters in fiction...")
I was staying in Karen on the weekend and at the junction of the Ngong Road I kept thinking, 'Was it here? Was this where Erroll was shot?' I wouldn't say it is a topic of conversation around the table anymore, but there is a bit of a fascination to it, the fact that I live round the corner from the popular Lord Erroll bar shows the name is still used! (Anyhow going off subject...)
The book itself is filled with fantastic quotes, one of my favourite being said by Broughton in jail during his trial when he was visited by a friend;
"He looked happier than I had ever seen him before. He even told me, "Wilkie, I'm much happier here than I ever was in Karen." Haaaaaaa! Love it! I could go on...but that is boring...just read the book yourself!
Basically, this was the best read I have had for a while and would recommend it to anyone interested in colonial Africa or just anyone who likes a good detective story. I now am going to try and hunt down the film. Is the film any good?