The Caterpillar Cop (A Kramer and Zondi Mystery)
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Kramer and his Bantu assistant, Sgt. Yet working closely together across and along racial borders, they prove that in Apartheid terms, in order to respect the law it has to be broken.
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In the early s, James McClure developed one of the most successful detective partnerships in South African crime fiction in a series which features 8 novels unveiling to national and international readership the harsh realities of Apartheid—the institutionalised social, political, economic and geographical segregation of ethnic groups according to artificial racial definition. The personal and professional dynamics between the Afrikaner Lieutenant Tromp Kramer and the Zulu detective sergeant Mickey Zondi play out in the limits of the socially admissible under Apartheid, but they are, as investigation after investigation proves, the key to the successful resolution of a wide range of murder cases.
When in conversation with a conservative colleague like Dr Strydom, the pathologist, he adopts the racial prejudices expected of him. In the field, however, he relies heavily on the incisive deductions and translations of his Zulu assistant, Mickey Zondi, who is also able to pick up valuable information from both house staff often maids and the streets. The last novel in the series, The Song Dog, published in but set in , retroactively tells the story of their first case together.
The books contrast the domestic and cultural differences between the two men Zondi a dedicated family man, Kramer a lodger with his meager possessions stored in cardboard boxes and in an occasionally fraught relationship with the Widow Fourie, whom he first meets in The Song Dog while at the same time foregrounding their mutual sympathy and respect for each other's abilities. In private they joke, chain smoke, and finish each other's thoughts, while maintaining the public front of Zondi as "kaffir" or "boy.
In any case, it's interesting that he did not begin publishing fiction about South Africa until after he'd left. One can imagine any number of reasons for this, personal and political.
The man might make a good subject for a biography. Peter, Thanks for the additional info on McClure. Not only did I really enjoy it, but it was a nice insight into S. What's the coincidence in "Wake Up Dead"?
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Regarding things' having come a long ay in South Africa, I was going to include in this post a passage from "The Gooseberry Fool" in which Kramer muses about "the country as a whole, its population 22 million, racking up 6, murders a year" and then ask readers to guess what year the quotation was from.
Alarming crime statistics are no new thing in South Africa. He spends a few prior paragraphs explaining the difference between destiny and coincidence.
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After Tataiana see's this, he writes, it wasn't a coincidence,it was destiny. I can only think that Smith must have thought the reader,and maybe he himself thought of it as too coincidental. Just my observation.
There's little doubt that McClure spoke Zulu, which sets him and his books apart from most white South African writers in any period. Whites growing up in the province of Natal when McClure did often had male Zulu house servants.
The Caterpillar Cop
For Zulu men, agricultural work was for women, which is why large numbers of labourers had to be imported from India to work in the Natal canefields. These Zulu men, from a true warrior race, were imposing figures, not at all domestic drudges. They never surrendered their dignity and the children of the white households hung on their every — Zulu — word, effortlessly learning the language. Elsewhere in the country, black women did the housework and spoke the language of the employers.