The setting is the landlocked African country of Rhodesia in 1972, the UN sanctions against this white minority-controlled country are beginning to bite, and tensions are running high. The Scatterlings Of Africa is a very interesting book, part action adventure, part love story, and part social commentary. Peter Davies has done a great job of melding this all into a cohesive and compelling novel.
Most of us know the story behind Rhodesia, and yet we really do not. What we know is what the world press reported, Peter Davies reveals a much different picture. A white Rhodesian by birth, he allows us to see the other side of the story. He also includes a fascinating foreword that sets the stage in historical terms. It was not a two-way fight, Black versus White, but actually a much more complicated situation involving the native people, the whites, and the blacks. Peter has created a novel, but much of the material is drawn from his own personal experience in the Rhodesian armed forces throughout this very turbulent time.
What we in North America saw as a simple case of apartheid, was anything but simple. Although I may not agree with everything that Peter Davies says, it certainly has given me a great deal of food for thought.
The main protagonists in The Scatterlings Of Africa are: Ron, the over-zealous white army member who is determined to track down a black terrorist who goes by the nick name of ‘big feet’, and his wife Angie who is becoming increasingly frustrated with Ron’s obsession. The love angle comes from Mark, who is a sanction buster – I guess you could call him a legal smuggler whose job is to find countries that will trade with Rhodesia. The villain is ‘Big Feet’, a terrorist that targets not only the whites but also the natives that help or work for the white minority.
The story opens with Ron and his small group of soldiers hot on the trail of a terrorist. Unfortunately Ron goes way beyond his brief, and as a result finds himself in some very hot water with the military, The terrorist has escaped, and one of the men in Ron’s squad is dead. He is court marshaled and gets to cool his heels in the brig for three months. This is three months that eat at his heart. He has disappointed his family, he has ruined his career, and he has committed the mortal sin of losing a soldier under his command. All because of a damn terrorist. Ron decides that ‘Big Feet’ has to be dealt with, it does not matter that he is losing his wife in the process – the quest for the terrorist is like a cancer consuming Ron.
The Scatterlings Of Africa is very well written, and contains some very disturbing themes, themes that ring so true in the world today. There are two quotes in the book that I found very profound, “The terrorists won” and “They became the scatterlings of Africa”. This is not the usual ‘run of the mill’ novel, it is something that has a power behind it.