Tamar Myers. Her latest novel, THE GIRL WHO MARRIED AN EAGLE (William Morrow), is a dark, compelling fourth installment in her Belgian-Congo mystery series. Based on true events that happened in Tamar’s life, this mystery revolves around the frightening reality of child brides in what used to be the Belgian-Congo.
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PLEASE CHECK YOUR MACHETES AT THE DOOR
When I was seven years old, a head-hunter waving a machete chased me through the African jungle. I got away. When I was fifteen my parents came into my bedroom one evening and announced that our home might be attacked that night. In that event they would be hacked to death by machetes, but if I managed to survive by hiding in the crawl space, then perhaps I could follow the river all the way to Angola. That last event happened in 1964. Obviously I survived, but that is another story—one waiting for a savvy editor to pounce on. Machetes, unfortunately, have never gone out of fashion in Africa. Never. They are omnipresent, from Mali to South Africa, and from Nigeria to Kenya.
Perhaps it will not surprise you to learn that I have been a light sleeper my entire life, fearful that I might wakeup to the sight of a machete suspended above my head. I have undergone various therapies on account of this, some more successful than others. Nonetheless, during the year in which I wrote The Girl Who Married an Eagle, I suffered what is commonly referred to as a “nervous breakdown.” This book is by far the most autobiographical of my African novels, and the events in it described closely parallel what happened to my family, as well as in surrounding area. The reason that writing it took such a toll on me, I believe, is that in order to gain access to the memory banks where this information is stored. I would begin each day by immersing myself into my past and reliving large chunks of my childhood. Some of this was indeed therapeutic. A lot of it was downright disturbing. All of it was exhausting.
You see, when I write about Africa, it is as if I go “home” again. I can smell soil—both wet and dry. I can smell the fecund odour of forest and that of the rotting mangoes underfoot on the mission trees. I hear the weaver birds overhead in the palms, the call of francolins at dusk, the yip of jackals, the cough of the leopard, and the laugh of hyenas. Human sounds are the most evocative: the smell of wood cooking fires, the laughter of women, babies crying, and drums throbbing through the night. Kill the white man, kill the white man, kill the white man they pulse.
At the end of each writing day, I “climb” back out of Africa and into 21st Century America. This evening, after walking my basenji dog (a barkless African breed), I will settle into my Lazy Boy recliner with a hug mug of herbal tea and watch two episodes of HB0’s Game of Thrones. Tonight, if I am very lucky, I won’t have any nightmares. But if I do, they won’t involve spears and maces, and knights on horseback; they will be all about machetes.
Just hopefully not tonight. Please check your machetes at the door.
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