Book chat- Toni Kan, and Leye Adenle
Books- The Carnivorous City, Easy Motion Tourists
Moderator- Tendai Huchu
Toni Kan’s new book, The Carnivorous City and Leye Adenle’s debut novel, Easy Motion Tourists, have quite a number of similarities: they are crime thrillers, both were published by Cassava Republic, and, more importantly, they are both set in Lagos.
“There is something about Lagos that brings out the beast in you, it’s not that you are a bad person, it is a coping mechanism”- Toni Kan said of the character in his book during the book chate moderated by Tendai Huchu. Abel, who comes to Lagos to look for his missing brother, Soni, a Lagos big boy- whose car was found in a ditch- and as they searched for Soni, Abel meets some shady characters his brother has had to deals with. Abel doesn’t come out of the encounter the same.
Tendai Huchu asked about the absence of a “police hero” in both novels, and Toni Kan said because “in Nigeria when your relative is missing, you will be a bad brother/sister if you report to the police and leave it at that, we don’t limit our search to finding missing persons to the police. We don’t do CSI in Nigeria. We go to a babalawo or prophet who can help find the missing person.” This doesn’t mean that the police system doesn’t work in Nigeria. It works, but in a peculiar way and “our crime novels must reflect our peculiar reality in which we are writing.” Leye Adenle added that, “If I do a story where the police is competent and follows the books in Nigeria, I will probably win the Nomma awards for speculative fiction and sci-fi.”
Tendai pointed out the extreme level of violence in both novels, with their graphic depictions. For Leye Adenle, his Easy Motion Tourist wasn’t violent for the sake of violence. Each chapter of the novel can stand alone as a story but still links up to the next chapter. The extreme violence was to tell the story in a complete circle. “Most people who write about Lagos in other genres write a one sided story of Lagos,” Toni Kan interjected. “There are people who work on the Island and have never entered a house on the Island. I have friends who live in Ikoyi and only come to the mainland to use the airport. In my novel I tried to show both sides of Lagos: the senseless unsolved deaths that happen in the city daily.”
While The Carnivorous City gives a graphic image of what a reader should expect from the book, Easy Motion Tourists does not. Leye explained that the first title for his novel was 48hours, because everything happens in 48 hours in Lagos. But when a friend told him it sounded like an Eddie Murphy comic, he thought of Beast of no nation. But he later looked into the novel, remembering he is not writing for only Nigerians, and choose Easy Motion Tourist, which was inspired by Fatai Rolling Dollars.
One of the most interesting questions from the audience was on Leye’s fascination with sex workers, and if he thinks the supply of sex workers will diminish if there’s no demand.
“I have no fascination with sex workers. I have seen firsthand what prostitution is. In Europe, Amsterdam a sex worker is a rich woman. She has cars, can take 4/5 vacations in a year, but in Nigeria, it is from vulnerability—women who were raped and have to sell their bodies for sex to make ends meet.” This led to a reaction from human right activist, Chitra Nagarajan, who expressed worry over this analysis of prostitution in the West and in Africa. Chitra said sex workers are also being raped and killed in the West, and it is not always a thing of choice for most of them.
In response to why he wrote a crime novel set in Lagos, in spite of the genre not being explored in Nigeria, Leye said: “I didn’t set out to write a crime thriller, When I started writing, I didn't think I was writing a crime thriller. I was just telling a story, and it’s easier to turn crime novels into movies.”
Lucia Edafioka is a writer, music junkie, historian and art lover. She's the staff editor at sabinews.com.