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June 07, 2007

Epilogue

Michael Wood brings his novel of 21st Century life in an imaginary African country to a most satisfying conclusion.

This is one story worth re-reading, chapter by chapter, from the beginning. Please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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May 31, 2007

Chapter 20 - End Of the Line

Sandy Mackelson, the British High Commissioner to Zugula, decides that there is only one course of action to be taken. He has been having an extra-marital affair, and the President of Zungula is now aware of the indiscretions; not only aware, but willing to use his knowledge to bully Sandy into submission.

Michael Wood's novel of life in an imaginary African country moves towards a variety of resolutions.

To read earlier chapters of this splendid novel please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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May 24, 2007

Chapter 19 - A Barb Sunk Deep In The Throat

Joseph Tembo overplays his hand, bidding for the Presidency of Zungula. And British High Commisioner Sandy Makelson is made to realise that his sexual infidelity has denuded him of his influence and freedom.

Michael Wood's novel of political and sexual intrigue in a fictional 21st Century African country is utterly enthralling.

To read earlier chapters please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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May 17, 2007

Chapter 18 - Friday Phiri And Thoughts Of A Dynasty

...Tembo stopped in the hallway and examined himself in the mirror. In his grey suit, white shirt and Chinese silk tie, he looked immaculate. There was a scuff on his shoes which he wiped away with a hankerchief before placing this back in his breast pocket. Today, he told himself, he would make headlines. Outside, the blue Jaguar’s engine was running...

Joe Tembo dreams of becoming President of Zungula. Meanwhile the British High Commissioner to that impoverished land faces suspicious eyes because his wife has left him. And Sam Phiri does a good deed...

Michael Wood interweaves characters and situations to create a most satisfying and believable story of life in a 21st Century African country.

To read earlier chapters please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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May 10, 2007

Chapter 17 - In Hot Soup

The British High Commissioner to Zungula has been discovered in his philandering. His wife has disappeared. And Sam Phiri, the decent man in a tangled skein of wrong-doing, prepares to do a good deed...

Michael Wood's novel about poltics and double-dealing in an imaginary African country leaves the reader longing to know what happens next.

For earlier chapters please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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May 03, 2007

Chapter 16 - The Sacred Cottonwood Tree: Spirits Re-awoken

...“My brothers, we have fallen into the trap of settling our differences with the spear, rather than with our tongues. War is never the answer. We have also been unfortunate with poor harvests and hunger – maybe that was the reason we quarreled. And most recently we have been stricken with disease. These have taken a terrible toll. For sure. But I ask you, what other people on god’s earth could show such resilience in the face of all these troubles? The United Nations has brought medicine to combat the strange illness which the white people call meningitis. I can also ensure that the north will get its fair share of maize which donors are importing to help us during this period of shottage. To stop us eating the very seeds which we need for a harvest next year. So two of our problems are being dealt with. Can we not demonstrate that we have the will to end our fighting as well? We can all benefit if we do. The donors will come. More money will improve our lives. Maybe we will get more wives and therefore more children. Let us agree without further ado, to put any remaining differences aside.”...

There are good men in Africa, and Sam Phiri, who makes a speech to resolve a tribal war, is one of the best of them.

Michael Wood's dazzingly readable novel about the intrigues and corruption in an imaginary African country is full of humanity and understanding. To read earlier chapters please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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April 26, 2007

Chapter 15 - Patience Plays Her Hand

The British High Commissioner to Zungula is being unfaithful to his wife. There are reports that the Zungulan president is going mad. And poor Sam Phiri, who has just been promoted to high office, catches his wife in the most compromising of all situations in the office of a senior government minister.

Michael Wood's page-clicking novel of life in an imaginary 21st Century African country makes for compulsive reading.

For earlier chapters of this brilliant novel please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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April 19, 2007

Chapter 14 - A Touch Of Impropriety

...There were appreciative chortles as Lucy stepped down again, and was immediately reabsorbed into her mass of admirers. Sandy gravitated towards her and then felt himself sucked in to the vortex like a doomed insect swirling down a water filled sink. Lucy had had her eye on him and welcomed him to the throng.

“Gentlemen, this elegant man may be the British High Commissioner to you, but to me he is my hard working and successful tennis partner.”...

While High Commissioner Sandy Mackelson indulges his considerable appetites, tribal warfair and disease ravage Zungula.

Michael Wood's enthralling and disturbing story of life in a a fictional present-day African country is compulsively readable. To read earlier chapters please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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April 12, 2007

Chapter 13 - A Precipitous Fall

... The hospital compound was filthy. Garbage was heaped against the wall where he had rested his bike. There were pigs nosing about in the gutters and scrawny chickens picking and pulling at bulging cellophane bags still full of kitchen rubbish. Old syringes lay scattered on the concrete paving, their rusty needles intact. A goat was urinating close to the entrance of the building. The old man went inside. He had expected order, some kind of greeting from someone in authority. He thought he would see spotlessly attired nurses and white coated doctors. This was the picture the Regional Minister had painted. Instead he found chaos. Hundreds of people were jostling and milling around as if in a market. ..

The old man has ridden his bike for four days to bring news of a menigitis outbreak that is killing hundreds of people in his part of Zungula.

Michael Wood continues his brilliantly woven novel set in a fictional country - a horrific, heart-rending, deeply involving story of life for many in present-day Africa.

To read earlier chapters of this unforgettable novel please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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April 05, 2007

Chapter 12 - Trial By Deduction

The British High Commissioner gets more than he bargained for in a tennis match... The President is eager to know who tipped off the British that grain given by the West had been sold on to another African country... The BBC World Service reports that the country of Zungula is falling apart...

Michael Wood continues his vivid narrative of corruption in an imaginary African country - a disturbing story but an excellent read because of brilliant plotting and characterisation. To enjoy earlier chapters please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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March 29, 2007

Chapter 11 - Contrasting Fortunes

...At 8.45am, four police motorcyclists drove into the High Commission compound, only after the gate staff had vigilantly checked their bikes for devices – these procedures instituted for all visitors arriving in vehicles, as part of tighter security measures following the anthrax scare. The police would form an escort on the short drive to the palace. They set off at speed, the motorcycles in front and behind, blue lights flashing, sirens blaring. Other vehicles were quick to get out of the way. It was a grave offense to impede a convoy on Presidential business and motorists did so at their peril. In the black Range Rover, Beauty sensed the power that politicians must feel when they were transported in this way. People on the streets, some ragged, some without shoes, stopped to stare as the VIPs flashed by. The little Union Jack strapped to the bonnet of the car gave notice of who was at the centre of all the fuss...

The British High Commissioner is summoned to present his credentials to the Presient of Zungula.

Meanwhile, far away from the pomp and ceremony of the capital, tribal warfare erupts, and an outbreak of meningitis is raging unchecked.

Michael Wood's sweeping story of life in an imaginary African country engages every one of its readers' emotions. For earlier chapters of this great story please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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March 22, 2007

Chapter 10 - London

The British Government is made fully aware of the extent of corruptionin Zungula, where the president has been involved in selling on millions of dollars worth of grain given as aid to another African country.

Michael Wood's vivid narrative of present-day Africa, set in an imgaginary country, demands to be read.

For earlier chapters please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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March 15, 2007

Chapter 9 - Mr Middleton Returns To Dombe

...At the far end of the courtyard Suswe ordered a guard to pull open one of the dungeon doors. A metre or so inside, Middleton lay on the floor having been dressed in a fresh uniform. His broken swollen face was barely recognizable. He looked as if he had done ten rounds with Tyson...

British High Commisioner Sandy Mackelson sees for himself the horror that has befallen an English teacher in the dreaded Dedza prison.

Meanwhile the extent of corruption by certain Zungulian politicans, who have profited hugely by selling on grain donated by the West to another African country, finally comes to light.

Michael Wood weaves a number of story lines into a credible and unputdownable story of life in an imaginary African country.

To read earlier chapters of Michael's gripping novel please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on his page.

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March 08, 2007

Chapter 8 - A Kindness In Hell

...No account was taken of a prisoner’s age, or the crime he had committed when they were locked away for the night. Vicious, brutal men were mixed with youths who never had a chance.

Many had been imprisoned for longer than they could remember without their cases ever coming to trial. The inefficiency of the criminal justice system in Zungula was such that case notes were lost more often than not, and sometimes intentionally misplaced, thereby ensuring a long incarceration for prisoners whose freedom might prove an embarrassment to the powers that be. In the end perhaps it didn’t matter. Imprisonment at Dedza was a virtual death sentence, particularly for young inmates, as the night rapists passed on their deadly infections...

Middleton, a British citizen who has been flung into Dedza prison, is soon to experience the full horror of hell on earth.

Meanwhile President Chilembe decides that Zungula's Parliament building could be better used as his dwelling place.

Michael Wood's brilliant novel is as shocking as it is entertaining. To read earlier chapters of this vivid narrative please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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March 01, 2007

Chapter 7 - The Queen's Birthday

...The President was more than pleased with Tembo’s performance and began to reward him handsomely. The two men became close associates. In time, Chilembe saw advantage to be gained by moving Tembo into the political arena. The logical place for a man of such skill was one of the most high profile Cabinet positions. As Minister of Finance, Tembo became responsible for attracting aid money from as many sources as possible. Hundreds of millions of dollars were involved each year. So much money was flowing in that it was surely appropriate a little might find its way to the top men, who worked so diligently in the service of the people of Zungula...

Now in his early fifties, Joe Tembo was enjoying the fruits of his success. He lived alone in a beautiful replica colonial house in Area 43 of Dombe. Alone if one excluded the small army of servants, some of whom occupied quarters tucked away to the rear of the property. Tembo boasted that his swimming pool was the biggest in town. Bigger even than the American Ambassador’s. He was chauffeured in a metallic blue Jaguar car which was much more admired than the run of the mill black Mercedes allocated to Cabinet colleagues. And far more in keeping with what he thought to be his sparkling personality. He was feted wherever he went, eating at the finest tables in the private homes of those who sought his ear. His own parties were legendary. Once a month, except during the rains, he would invite dozens of guests to his home. A local jazz band was hired to play, and a DJ recruited to fill in when the musicians took their beer breaks. Booze flowed generously and of course there were girls, girls, girls, whose role needed no amplification...

Meanwhile, it is June 3rd, the Queen's official birthday, and British High Commissioner Sandy Mackelson is making a speech at the annual garden party when there is a rude and most unfortunate interruption.

Michael Wood continues his gloriously readable sad-funny novel of present-day life in a mythical African country. For earlier chapters please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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February 22, 2007

Chapter 6 - Roadkill

...In short Michael and Elizabeth Huxley were unsung heroes. They were closer to the dirty side of aid than most; they encountered death every day of their lives, much of which could have been avoided if relatively paltry sums of money had been made available to those few committed Zungulan staff who battled on in the hospital. However the Huxleys were forgotten by their former paymasters. They deserved recognition for their devotion to duty. Beauty wondered about her government’s “Honours” system. These days, she thought, priority was given to fashionable footballers who could barely string two words together and whose record against hungrier opposition was lamentable; it was given to pushy actors with Scottish accents, and lollipop ladies. Recognition was showered like confetti on time serving civil servants...

Beauty Musajakawa, on a trip to the north of Zungula, meets the noble Huxleys, discovers illness and incipient famine conditions then encounters the horrific aftermath of a massacre.

Michael Wood's superlative novel is set in an imaginary country, yet it brings readers face to face with the "real'' Africa. To read earlier chapters please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in th4 menu on this page.

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February 15, 2007

Chapter 5 - A Date With The Commissioner Of Police

... Chabwele was a breeding ground for crime. Theft was most common; sex workers plied their trade – sometimes with clients who refused to pay and beat the women instead; there were beggars and appallingly disabled people, some of whom crawled to Dombe’s traffic robots each day in the hope of handouts from drivers brought to a halt by the lights. There were drug dealers who infiltrated from West Africa, and the drug addicted.

Yet among this flotsam of humanity there were those who still tried to make an honest living. Little kiosks sprang up everywhere, operated by women selling essentials – like cooking oil, salt, maize meal – in tiny portions, carefully weighed, wrapped in recycled plastic packets which hung from strings. On the fringes of the slum, Ministry of Transport trucks periodically dumped quarried stone for gangs of desperate men to break into gravel for thirty cents a day – mind numbingly hard work which produced calloused hands and damaged eyes from the shards of splintered stone which shattered with each hammer blow...

Shacks in Chabwele are washed away in an unexpected storm - yet on the morning after the disaster Sandy Mackelson, the British High Commissioner, still breakfasts on bacon, sausage and eggs.

Michael Wood's story of corruption and the profound contrast in culture and affluance an imaginary African country is made all the more vivid with laugh-out-loud incidents and situations. To read earlier chapters please lick on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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February 08, 2007

Chapter 4 - Trouble In The North

… “We were told that even the Defence Force, dispatched to Chiweta to maintain order, had divided on tribal lines. The Bishop claimed that at least four hundred people have been killed in the last couple of weeks. Truck loads of panga wielding Umnaravi tribesmen were apparently leaving their villages by day to confront the Ngoni – but only tattered bands of survivors were returning, the rest overcome by the superior fighting skills of their opponents. President Chilembe said the conflict was fanning outwards like an out of control forest fire….

Beauty Musajakawa, head of a British aid mission, brings a report of fighting and possible food shortages in the north of Zungula.

Sandy Mackelson, the British High Commisioner in Zungula likes neither the messenger nor the news which she brings.

Michael Wood continues to weave an enjoyable web of intrigue in this story of present-day African politics. To read earlier chapters please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in he menu on this page.

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February 01, 2007

Chapter 3 - A Visit From Mr Noah

…To her credit Madeleine was not the epitome of a diplomatic service spouse. Nor did she confine herself to the straight jacket of running the Residence, for which service she received a small commission. She tried very hard to immerse herself in activities which were out with the parochial confines of the “High Commotion”, as she liked to call it, to the mild irritation of her husband. Armed with boxes of home made biscuits and cakes, Madeleine made thrice weekly visits to SOS Children’s Village located on the outskirts of Dombe, and helped entertain orphaned toddlers, many of whom were stricken with AIDS. She was a prominent supporter of a small animal welfare shop which sold second hand clothes, crockery and assorted junk in their little shop. The dear old lady who took centre stage in the organization had been doing the job for many years and knew a kindly face when she saw one. She sprang her little trap one morning when Madeleine was working. Could a decrepit donkey named Egbert be taken into the extensive Residence grounds on a permanent basis? The poor thing had a history of maltreatment. Madeleine didn’t give the request a moment’s further consideration….

Madeleine, the British High Commissioner’s wife, is adapting to life in Zungula better than her husband, who is ill-prepared for the tasks which face him.

Then Mr Noah, a trader in African artifacts, enters their lives.

Michael Wood’s novel involves the reader in the frustrations of a man who is encountering more than he bargained for.

For earlier chapters of this gripping tale please click on When The Crocodile Smiles in the menu on this page.

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January 25, 2007

Chapter 2 - The Prospect Of Tastier Stews

…Sam’s mind flooded with warmth when he thought of his mother’s familiar home. In the middle of the yard was the gnarled old mango tree which provided shade during the heat of the day, and a place to store her clay pots containing water carried daily from the river. Her tan and white bush dog would trail after her on these expeditions but otherwise slept most of the time under the tree, curled up beside the cool earthenware – until night fell when he would join the howling of other village hounds.

His mother never gave that dog a name. “It’s just a dog,” she insisted…

Sam Phiri is a product of rural Africa. But Africa is changing. There’s corruption. AIDS is rife. Carpenters who once made beds and chests now run businesses called “Last Stop Shop” and “Sleep Well Coffins”.

And Sam has just received an unexpected promotion in the Grain Marketing Board – a promotion which is as worrying as it is pleasing.

Michael Wood’s fine novel presents a vivid portrait of present-day Africa.

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January 18, 2007

Chapter 1 - "You Are Welcome''

Michael Wood's novel, which we begin serialising in weekly episodes today, is set in the fictitious Southern African Republic of Zungula – a poor nation emerging from dictatorship.

When Sandy Mackelson takes up his appointment as British High Commissioner, he is ill-prepared for the challenges which confront him.

The story reaches beyond the tension which can exist between international donors (Britain in particular) and a badly managed African government, on appropriate use of scarce aid money. It brings to the surface how the lives of hard- working, honest Africans are affected, and contrasts the impact on some of those who have opportunity in African society,
with others who entirely lack it.

Michael's story is packed with excitement, humour, atmosphere and an array of unforgettable characters.

Do read on....

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January 02, 2007

Chapter 3 - A Visit From Mr Noah

…To her credit Madeleine was not the epitome of a diplomatic service spouse. Nor did she confine herself to the straight jacket of running the Residence, for which service she received a small commission. She tried very hard to immerse herself in activities which were out with the parochial confines of the “High Commotion”, as she liked to call it, to the mild irritation of her husband. Armed with boxes of home made biscuits and cakes, Madeleine made thrice weekly visits to SOS Children’s Village located on the outskirts of Dombe, and helped entertain orphaned toddlers, many of whom were stricken with AIDS. She was a prominent supporter of a small animal welfare shop which sold second hand clothes, crockery and assorted junk in their little shop. The dear old lady who took centre stage in the organization had been doing the job for many years and knew a kindly face when she saw one. She sprang her little trap one morning when Madeleine was working. Could a decrepit donkey named Egbert be taken into the extensive Residence grounds on a permanent basis? The poor thing had a history of maltreatment. Madeleine didn’t give the request a moment’s further consideration….

Madeleine, the British High Commissioner’s wife, is adapting to life in Zungula much better than her husband, who is ill-prepared for the tasks which face him.

Then Mr Noah, a trader in African artifacts, enters their lives.

Michael Wood’s novel, leavened with humour, draws the reader into the frustrations of a man confronted by much more than he bargained for.

Continue reading "Chapter 3 - A Visit From Mr Noah" »

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