Author Jeff Gardiner introduces new novel, Igboland!

I'm delighted to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author, Jeff Gardiner, today! He is celebrating his recent release, Igboland, a tale of conflict and passion set in 1960s Nigeria.

So, be transported to another place in time, and enjoy!


Blurb:

A new life begins for her thousands of miles from home.



Lydia and Clem Davie arrive in an Igbo village in Nigeria in July 1967 just as civil war breaks out, but Lydia has trouble adjusting to life in West Africa: a place so unfamiliar and far away from everything she truly understands.

Initially, most of the locals are welcoming and friendly, until one or two begin a frightening campaign of anti-white protests.

Lydia’s life is changed irrevocably after she meets enigmatic Igbo doctor, Kwemto, and war victim, Grace. Through them Lydia learns about independence, passion and personal identity.

Conflict and romance create emotional highs and lows for Lydia, whose marriage and personal beliefs slowly begin to crumble.

Will this house in a Nigerian bush village ever seem like home?

~~~

Excerpt:

The following extract from IGBOLAND describes Lydia’s first morning in her new home in the Nigerian bush village, Ngkaluku. She’s struggling to come to terms with the very foreign environment and the culture shock, although her husband Clem is relishing his new role:



I vividly remember waking up after over ten hours of sleep, fighting my way out of the mosquito net and looking at the walls: whitewashed blocks of stone very badly plastered. The roof was merely a thin sheet of corrugated aluminium. This was our home, but I found it difficult not to be horrified as I looked around it for the first time. 
Dust thickly covered everything and in the corners lay broken chairs and torn soft furnishings. The spare bedroom ceiling had caved in, hanging down in spikes of twisted metal pointing to a puddle of rainwater pooling in the centre of a large brown-stained ring on the rough stone floor. A rusty bed leaned upright in the far corner on its end against the wall. A harsh numbness gripped my heart. 
The bathroom seemed a little better: small but containing a bath at least, and a chipped hand basin whose drainage consisted of a bicycle inner tube leading out through a hole to, presumably, a pit outside. I couldn’t see the toilet even though the pain in my bladder was becoming uncomfortable. There was no evidence of a shower or running water either. 
The next room looked like the main living room. It felt bare and hollow with its flaking plaster walls and very uneven floor with whole chunks missing which certainly needed re-cementing. The amount of dust surprised me, especially the way it piled in random clumps. However, after further inspection I saw the dust wriggle, writhing repulsively with mites, eggs, scorpions and alien crawling-things, which scuttled ghoulishly towards me. I stepped back wondering what the eggs belonged to.
‘Lizard eggs.’ 
Clem’s voice made my heart pound furiously. He took me in his arms and kissed the top of my head.
‘It took me a while to work it out. Probably geckos. Have you seen the giant millipedes? I saw one in my office - must be nearly six inches long. What a monster.’
‘Are scorpions dangerous? I think we’ve got some in there.’
‘Only if we disturb them.’
‘Well they’re disturbing me.’ I held him tighter, glad of the reassuring human and familiar contact.
‘Look we’ll start cleaning up soon.’  
I continued to hang on to Clem. 
‘How are you feeling?’ he asked softly, kissing me on the forehead.
‘Okay,’ I mumbled, finally pulling away.
‘So you’ve had a look round then.’
I could only nod, as I felt dazed.
‘Well, we wanted a challenge.’ Clem sounded annoyingly chirpy.
‘And it seems we got one.’
‘You sound disappointed, Lydia.’ Clem put a hand on my shoulder. ‘I believe this is where God wants us.’
‘But my head is full of questions,’ I replied stubbornly. ‘For example where on earth is the toilet?’
‘Ah.’ Clem’s expression changed.
Clem beckoned me outside, which should have been my first clue. I found a pair of sandals. 
‘Once my office is ready we’ll be up and running.’ Clem sounded excited again and I hoped his enthusiasm might soon prove infectious. Clem’s role was much clearer than mine. He possessed a job-description and a duty. My only purpose was to be the Missionary’s wife and I had no idea what that entailed.
Already struck by the West African heat - I felt my dress stick to my skin with the suffocating humidity. We truly were in the tropics and I wondered if my husband resented wearing his black shirt, flannels and dog collar.
‘The loo?’ I reminded him, bobbing up and down in an unnecessary mime.
‘Oh.’ He suddenly looked crest-fallen. ‘It’s a tad basic.’
I recalled some slides of horrific sewage pits we’d been shown at training college but always imagined these only existed in slums or ghettoes where charity workers fed starving, skeletal children. Surely a missionary manse would cater for the westerner? 
He gingerly took my hand and walked me round to the back of the house. About a dozen steps away stood a wooden cubicle with a corrugated metal roof. The ghastly stench struck me immediately.
‘Come and have a look,’ Clem said gently, but at first I resisted. ‘It’s all part of the West African challenge.’ 
I allowed him to guide me towards the door, which he pulled open. Overpowered by noxious fumes – both natural and chemical – my first sight was not a pleasant one. In the dingy space I could make out a mass of flies darting in various directions. The ground around the hole in the middle of the floor was thick with weeds, hacked back slightly. Clem walked in confidently and kicked away something unidentifiable, then turned to face me.
‘I’ll get some weed killer and fix up something here to hold on to for when we um ... you know.’ It became his turn to perform an unnecessary mime. I began to feel queasy, but then felt another twinge from my aching bladder. 
‘I’ll give it a go then.’
‘That’s my girl,’ Clem said happily, stepping out and holding the door open for me. 
I wasn’t happy about closing the door but realised there must be limits to ‘going native’. Inside was smelly and grubby. I couldn’t get beyond the idea that touching anything in here would only lead to a bout of fevered sickness – or worse. Looking down to see where I should place my feet I saw something scamper through the dirt.
It was no good. The flies flicked against my face and tickled all areas of my bare skin. Insects flapped or hung menacingly in the corners amidst what seemed like sheets of wispy webs. To one side I could see a mass of white wriggling things on a thin ledge - maggots or larvae of some kind.
I couldn’t do it. I just knew deep in my soul I would not be able to go toilet here. Nothing could induce me to relax my muscles. The smell, the dirt, the skittering, swinging creepy-crawlies and my lack of courage conspired against me.
Firstly I gagged. My stomach turned over but it was quite empty. Then my throat burned as acid rose upwards, forcing me to blink and swallow rapidly. The nausea turned to tears of self-pity and even though I loathed myself for being so pathetic, I unlocked the door and ran out past Clem, into the house and back into bed.

~~~

About the author:

Jeff Gardiner is author of 'IGBOLAND', a tale of passion and conflict set in Nigeria during
the 1960s Biafran War; and of 'MYOPIA', a novel about bullying and prejudice. Both are published by Crooked Cat Publishing.
Jeff is also author of 'A Glimpse of the Numinous' - a collection of short stories (horror, humour, romance and slipstream)from Eibonvale Press. One review stated: "... his stories are genuinely fascinating, weird and original."
His third novel,'TREADING ON DREAMS', a contemporary romance, will appear in March 2014 from Tirgearr Publishing.
'The Age of Chaos: the Multiverse of Michael Moorcock' is a non-fiction work presently being revised and updated; it includes a lengthy introduction by Michael Moorcock himself, plus new chapters and interviews.
Many of his stories are available in anthologies and on websites.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for hosting me, Cathie. All the best with your writing projects.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jeff. It's great to have you here. :-)

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