Weston Kogi, a police officer in a supermarket in London, returns to his home in West Africa for his aunt’s funeral. After catching up with his family, his ex-girlfriend Nana, and an old schoolmate over good food and plenty of beer, it seems like a bit of harmless hyperbole to tell people he works as a homicide detective. But when he his kidnapped by separate rebel factions to investigate the murder of a local hero, Papa Busi, Weston soon finds out that solving the crime may tip the country into civil war. A noir novel set in the blazing sunlight of the tropics, Making Wolf is an outrageous, frightening, violent, and sometimes surreal homecoming experience of a lifetime.
Tade Thompson is one of the arresting new voices coming from the UK SFF scene today. I first met Tade at the Nine Worlds convention held in London Heathrow in 2013. We were on the same panel and long after the panel ended, I found myself thinking of the straightforward, cutting truth that this writer was saying. People say that there are pivotal moments in our lives and meeting Tade Thompson and getting to know his thoughts and his views on complex subjects such as cultural appropriation and writing as a minority in the SFF field was one of those moments for me.
Tade’s work is raw, visceral and packs quite a wallop.
Making Wolf is Tade’s first published novel. None of his characters are spared and we see a writer intent on revealing his characters in the fullness of their humanity.
The passion behind the work shines through–a clear portent of the kind of writer Tade Thompson is well on the way to becoming.
First, I’d like to congratulate you on the publication of Making Wolf. One thing I found fascinating about this novel was what I would call resonance. I recognize the narrative of the one who returns home from away and who feels the need to create a certain impression. The way Church seizes the opportunity with your main character is also another recognizable thing. Would you be willing to talk about the choices you made in the writing of this novel? What issues did you struggle with and how did you overcome them?
Thank you, Rochita. It was a long road. It’s not exactly an established genre, so one has to thank Rosarium for taking that chance.
I made a deliberate choice to write the book in the noir tradition. I read a lot of Chandler and Spillane when I was young. I knew this wasn’t going to be an “African” novel as I had no interest in what is now called “The Single Story”. I wasn’t going to shy away from anything, but I was not going to conform either. Making Wolf is also a kind of memoir, You would be surprised at how many of the more surreal events actually happened.
I struggled with honesty. If you’ve read the book you’ll see that some of the scenes are…difficult, for want of a better word. I had to fight myself to put them down and to leave them there after the revisions. I also struggled with writing noir in bright sunshine, and trying to manage the collision between what is essentially an American art form and Yoruba culture. I’d like to think I managed to pull it off without coming across as neo-colonialist.
Making Wolf is a visceral novel and I wondered ( if it’s not giving away anything) if you could tell us if there was a scene that stood out for you in particular as the one that shines for you the most? What is it about the scene that makes it so?
It’s not easy to talk about this, as my favourite scenes are in the last part of the book and would definitely give things away. I can say, though, that what I like about it is the nature of the reveal. I think it subverts certain gender expectations, especially in West Africa.
What I find attractive about your work is how there’s an edge of rawness to it–it’s not raw in the sense of the work is unpolished, but it’s raw in the sense that I can practically touch the emotions on the page. In your own choice of reading matter, what are the key elements that you look for? Why?
I’m glad it comes across like that. I have no time to read or write pap. While I am interested in plot, I read for the emotions, for the humanity. I can’t stand stories or books where the writer moves characters around like chess pieces. I want to know how they feel, I want to explore their true feelings, the things they are ashamed of. That’s what rings true to me.
In my own pleasure reading I need that visceral quality, like Cormac McCarthy or Dambudzo Marechera, people who do not hold back. You don’t need to be told; you read their work and you know they just slit a vein and spilled blood on the page.
Added to the above, I wanted to ask if you have go to writers and how the works of these writers resonate or touch your own work?
I read way too much to be able to narrow this down. I hope the books and writers I enjoy just serve as spiritual influence, and that my work doesn’t come across as pastiche. Continue reading