Gold rush and a bucket of tears
The last thing I imagined when I saw Ambrose Madu’s book, Raising the Dust Crime: Who is Involved? was a work of fiction. It didn’t sound like one. I thought it was a book on either law, criminology or psychology, not until I leafed through the pages.
Humanity has regressed into a dog-eat-dog state where man is chiefly preoccupied with outdoing and undoing the other. Conscience is thrown to the dogs in the race to make it big. There isn’t any more self-assured hubris to make you a resounding success in business with the best of acumen. Oftentimes the naïve pays the price for aspirations, and the powerful and mighty easily get away with murder. These nuggets are woven into this fiction.
Central to the nucleus of this plot is Peter, a young man buffeted by pangs of hard luck. He seems to be at his wit’s end in whatever he does. Inasmuch as he tries to raise his head above failure in life, he finds himself swimming in the tide of misery. But this isn’t the kind of station of life he wishes for himself. Every step he takes looks more like a miscarried vision in a society where the downtrodden are lorded over by those with megabucks and connections.
The society presented in this novel is evil –one where injustice reigns –desirous of immediate purgation. Yes, the author, a former police officer, is interested in a level playing ground for all, protected by the law. But, in real-life, this is hardly achievable, especially in this part. But fiction doesn’t care. As the denouement shows later, Peter the scapegoat is saved from damnation by an unexpected luck. The author doesn’t compromise with his agenda-setting bent.
The plot begins on a lachrymal note, a foreboding of more anguish to come in this hard luck story: of tears “dripping in small molecules … dropping steadily from his eyes …blurring the sight” (p.1). This is how we met Peter, the protagonist of the novel. He is feeling cheated and maltreated, and when he shouts, “Oh! Is this how all my talented effort for survival is gone down the drain?”, you get a brighter picture of a forlorn figure.
Prompted by Thomas, his friend, Peter reveals the last straw that broke the camel’s back: his father’s mansion in Lagos has been collected by Ishmael, his father’s best friend, in connivance with Mr. Obi, through a dubious court judgement, and he has been served a seven-day eviction notice. Worse still, he has been served another eviction notice by his landlord in an apartment he has been living for six years.
To help him out, Thomas introduces him to a “lucrative business” that will see him making a hundred percent return if he can raise money to go into the gold business. Thus, he has to get a loan of 19,000 dollars, using his father’s remaining property as a collateral, to go into the enticing business. It turns out to be a terrible mistake by Peter.
The business scheme is to get some quality gold to buy from whatever source and resell to gold merchants, but getting original gold is a herculean task due to the abundance of fake gold. After surviving a Ghanaian duo with fake gold for sell, out to dupe him and his partner of their money, Peter and Thomas fall into the trap of another coning friend, James; and this time, there is a third party, Mr. Udi, who has been convinced to invest a huge sum of money, including borrowed sum, into the business, to complement their lean purse, for 100,000 dollars is required to buy the gold brought by James, which he claims to have been brought from South Africa.
It appears the trio of Peter, Thomas and Udi are heading for new heights before Alhaji Dauda pronounces the gold fake. To be sure, they go visit a goldsmith, who returns the same verdict. When the bubble bursts, James turns the game against them for returning a fake gold to him, different from the one he gave them initially.
Sadly, Peter is imprisoned. But there is a turnaround for him when a visiting catholic priest, on hearing his pathetic story, masterminds an investigation that leads to the unravelling of the mystery behind Peter’s travails. Eventually, he is freed by the court. However, this second chance doesn’t happen all the time, which is why we have so many innocent people languishing in Nigerian jails.
Raising the Dust… ought to be a thriller, but I don’t know if it is exactly. The fast paced narrative that is the hallmark of the genre is missing here, and the whodunit element is not stretched to the limit with a cliffhanger. The plot isn’t close-knit, and there are so many irrelevant details that have no business in the story. The writer is too preachy that he forgets he is writing a fiction and not a text book.
Again, the editors of the book deserve severe flogging, because the book is error-ridden from the beginning to the end. Misuse of words (like “soliloquy”), typos and wrong grammatical usage (like “return back”, “reverse back”) dot the tapestry of this fiction like a plague. The title of the book itself ought to have been Raising the Dust only.
This is a good story that is badly told. It is advisable for the writer to re-edit the book as soon as possible to redeem this debut fiction. Fiction ought to be a good read, not a mental torture.
(Publisher: AuthorHouse, Bloomington, USA, Pages: 370)