Kenyan award-winning writer Stanley Gazemba's collection of 13 short stories, titled Dog Meat Samosa, describes and dramatises everyday life in Africa in great detail.
Released last September, the stories in the 203-page anthology are relatable for those who live on the continent.
In the story Mercedes, he writes about a metallic stove-heated comb that Mugure, a cracked-heeled peasant, uses as she prepares to travel to Nairobi to receive a brand new Mercedes Benz that she won in a competition. He transports us to the rural area where Mugure lives as she dusts her calves from red dust and lights the tin lamp.
Gazemba warns us to be careful of relatives, especially where money is concerned. This is brought out as Mugure’s relatives react when they sense that the money she won is running out.
In her review on Amazon, Elizabeth Fifer of World Literature Today describes the book: "Venal, exasperating, wise, and humorous, Gazemba’s characters scrape a living from harsh soil."
Indeed Gazemba doesn’t leave humour far behind. Crucifixion is a thrilling dramatisation of imposters frisking unsuspecting pilgrims of their belongings, and Hearse for Hire is about innovative ways of transporting dead bodies.
In Hearse for Hire, Amakanga and his accomplices seat the body of a woman next to a bus driver, covering her with a khanga. While the front seat is conveniently easy to access, the drawback was that the odour of body rotting would disseminate faster next to the heat of the engine.
Amakanga and his friends strategically take up seats around the dead woman, preventing the other passengers from getting close enough to smell the morgue fluids.
My emotions were raw after reading Shikwe and Andatis Assignment and Pema Peponi. In Shikwe and Andatis Assignment one of the characters is brutally killed and used for a ritual.
Pema Peponi is about a mortician who demands for bribes from grieving relatives to treat dead bodies of their love ones at the hospital.
Gazemba also brings out the wicked in society in Chinese Cuisine. The story revolves around Jomo and Pinchez, who kill dogs, snakes and marabou storks fto make the delicious sausages that Jomo sells at his brazier in the evenings at the trading centre. Many people in the region do not eat meat products that are roasted by the roadsides for fear of consuming dog meat. Hence the name of the book.
The Stronger Hand is about a bunch of crafty and dangerous dwarves who run a lucrative underground bootleg brewing empire in Apac District in northern Uganda, which stretches to every city in East Africa.
The story revolves around Apuka, three-and-a-half feet tall, who became a master brewer by the age of nine. He is kicked out of an army recruitment exercise because of his height, dashing his dream of becoming a helicopter pilot.
Both his parents were killed by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels and his sister was captured by Joseph Kony's soldiers. He was the only one in his nuclear family to escape the brutality of the Ugandan guerilla group.
When asked if he had experienced any of the events in the short stories or if they were based on his imagination and research, Gazemba replied: “That was mostly my imagination. But, as you know, all stories always have a grain of truth or reality in them.”
Gazemba’s other novels are The Stone Hills of Maragoli, which won the Jomo Kenyatta prize for Kenyan Literature in 2003, Khama, Callused Hands and Ghettoboy.