Kayode pens crime fiction thriller
By Rosalia David
With crime fiction continuing to provide an excellent tool for shining a light on social issues, racial tension and cultural burdens, author Femi Kayode has released a book titled ‘Light Seekers’ in which an investigative psychologist is investigating a murder of three undergraduates in a university town in the southern part of Nigeria.
This week, Confidente’s Rosalia David (RD) sat with the author (FK) who shed more light on what inspired the title and the narrative.
RD: What inspired the title and the story of the book?
FK: Lightseekers follows the investigative process of Dr. Philip Taiwo who was called on by a powerful banker to investigate the public torture and murder of three undergraduates in a university town in the southern part of Nigeria. Philip is not a detective. He’s an investigative psychologist, an academic more interested in figuring out the why of a crime than actually solving it. But when he gets to the place where the crime was committed over a year earlier, he soon realises that the murder of what the media calls the Okriki Three isn’t as straightforward as he thought.
With the help of a streetwise driver and chaperone, Philip must work against those actively conspiring against him to piece together the truth of what happened to these students so as to get to the why. His investigation pitches him against several obstacles, many informed by the circumstances that came together to even make the crime possible in the first place. And consistently, there is the imminent danger of the true source of the violent act who is a damaged and dangerous villain that is a master at manipulation and mayhem.
The story itself was inspired by the true-life necklace killing of four undergraduates in Nigeria, and because I couldn’t do a non-fiction novel for my thesis at UEA, I used this as the basis for my crime fiction novel.
The title is a metaphor for searching for truth, and also alludes to the perennial lack of electricity (light) in Nigeria.
RD: What message are you trying to convey through this book or what are some of the lessons one can learn?
FK: One; that we can tell contemporary stories devoid of war, disease and famine from the continent. Two, vigilante justice is as a result of poor infrastructure especially as regards security. Three, that social media is a double edged sword that needs to be re-evaluated within the African context and the prevalence of laws that are archaic or out of touch with current realities. And lastly, that you can read a mystery novel that (hopefully) stimulates and gives cause for reflection while entertaining all at the same time.
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RD: Is there a specific reason why you chose ‘Okriki’ as the town where everything happens?
FK: Okriki is a totally fictional town, and this was deliberate because I didn’t want it to seem like this terrible practice (of necklace killing) is specific to a particular group or society. Sadly, it is common everywhere in Africa and several parts of the world.
RD: Why did you specifically choose an investigative psychologist to investigate the case?
FK: After that incident (and a lot of similar incidents) I started feeling a certain level of angst towards my country. I live outside of Nigeria, in another African country. I studied in the US and I was doing a post grad programme in the UK. So, using Philip was a creative choice because he represented me somewhat.
The second thing I needed, from a commercial point of view, was somebody that would ask the kind of question that an international audience would want answers to – Philip was asking the kind of questions that my tutors and classmates at post grad school were asking. As an investigative psychologist, he allowed me to ask the questions that I also needed answers to as a human being.
RD: How has the book been received so far?
FK: Generally, the reviews have been quite favourable. I have been told not to go to Goodreads, but I don’t listen…
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so believe me, my ego has taken some knocking in the past weeks since the release of the book!
RD: Lastly, how long did it take you to complete the book?
FK: I had proposed another novel to write for my thesis, but during one of the classes, I became really fascinated by Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’, and toyed with the idea of writing a non-fiction novel. I had always been emotionally invested in the necklace killing of four undergraduates in a university town in Nigeria, so I wondered if I could write about that. But I quickly perished the thought when I realised how much work goes into writing a non-fiction novel, and how long it took Capote to write ‘In Cold Blood’. I wouldn’t ever graduate if I went that route!
By the time I decided to go back to the fiction route, I had lost interest in the earlier story, and I was under pressure to submit the proposal for the new one. So, I would say about three months to the submission of my first chapter to my tutors.
‘Lightseekers’ is currently available at Book Den in Windhoek.