Last month Weaver Press launched the short story collection series, Writing Mystery and Mayhem edited by Irene Staunton. The popular Writing series, now in its 8th edition, has been presenting the best of Zimbabwean short story writing since 2003 when the first of the series, Writing Still was released.
The series aims to tell stories that reflect Zimbabwean life. Writing Mystery and Mayhem is perhaps the series’ most daring incarnation yet, delving deep into the darker side of human existence with stories that have a sharp element of suspense bursting off every page.
The stories in this anthology are unflinching daring and bold. Everyone has read a news story where someone disappears, is murdered, or faces calm, everyday brutality or arrest on the sunniest of days. Our daily papers are full of them. But what makes the tales in this book exceptional is the fact that they manage to convince you that some element of them, some part of them, is real and happening to your neighbour, your neighbour’s neighbour or someone you know. The ‘mayhem’ of the title shows up in dark intentions, and a deep, muted violence that comes out in the most unexpected ways.
The stories start off calmly but then lead us down paths that alternately unsettle and intrigue. The first story grabs the reader’s attention with a bang, showing us that we can never underestimate the irresistible allure of a diamond-studded, golden gun. Then, there is the detective with a twist in Naishe Nyamubaya’s brilliant mystery that entangles sibling rivalry and the supernatural in what is easily the best story in the collection. Another standout is Goddess Bvukutwa’s evocative tale that introduces us to the unbridled forces of political violence – youths with nothing to lose who traffic in fear and misery. It is a story about those who have nothing to lose.
In Donna Kirstein’s tale, a character crouches in the shadows of an alleyway, blood dripping down his face, fearful and anxious, hoping for escape. In yet another, Jo Saunders introduces us to an impeccable and thoughtful ZRP officer and his companion, a dog called Ninja, who sniff out petty crimes, and then something more on a farm belonging to a nouveau riche family. In Farai Mudzingwa’s tale, we meet the cool, calm certainty of a fratricide, and Isabella Matambanadzo takes us through the mournful account of a daughter whose mother is ripped from her by an overzealous community.
Extraordinary and gripping, this book is a must-read, and a must-give for Christmas this season.
Available at the National Gallery shop or from Weaver Press at 38 Broadlands Rd, Emerald Hill.