Vincent Saldana & Mullet Mendes

Created by Sam Cole
Pseudonym of Mike Nicol and Joanne Hichens

The Dark Continent just got darker…

In Cape Greed (2009), Cape Town cops VINCENT SALDANA and JEFFREY “MULLET” MENDES have had enough. They figure the time is right to go private, now that even “the scum” have human rights now and the streets are getting more dangerous than ever.

The plan is to make some dough, and avoid the “gun stuff.” But recent widower Vince has a little problem with booze, and Mullet’s been known to supplement his income with a little pot dealing.

For those who find Alexander McCall Smith‘s take on Africa to be a little too sweet and genteel, this gritty, dark and tautly written series is the antidote. And vice versa.

It’s a noirish sliver shoved under the fingernails of western readers’ expectations; a book that strips away the smug, laissez-faire cultural insularity and slaps us across the face with the ground zero reality of post-Apartheid Cape Town. This is not your grandfather’s Africa – there are no lions, elephants or studly white explorers in pith helmets trotted out here – nor is it the current sound bite Africa of dictators, child soldiers and heartbreaking video of famine and AIDS epidemics.

Instead we’re caught up in the no-exit growing pains of a nation in flux. Disillusioned and demoralized, Saldana and Mullet’s big plan is to make some dough while avoiding “the gun stuff.” But recent widower Vince is a barely functioning alcoholic, and beach bum Mullet’s been forced to supplement his income by dealing a little pot, so they’re not exactly picky about their clients.

Then two cases, a wandering hubby job and a security gig for a local abalone farm, appear out of nowhere, and even more unexpectedly overlap. The two gumshoes, unaware they’re being played, are soon immersed in a morass of  big-time abalone poaching, triad treachery, a string of dead street kids dumped on the beach and two loose cannon killers who take a perverse pride in their work. There’s plenty of clipped, taut prose, shifting viewpoints and unexpected violence, yet weave in a few surprisingly dabs of compassion and true grit that run like slim threads of hope in this most bleak, dark novel. A potent and nasty brew, with surprising heart. I declared it one of my favourite reads of 2010.

But there’s more to the story, it seems.

At the time I read it, I thought Cape Greed was the first in a proposed series by Sam Cole, the pseudonym for South African writers Mike  Nicol and Joanne Hichens, but apparently Vincent and Mullet were first introduced as cops in a 2006 novel, Out to Score, also written by Nicol and Hichens, but under their own names. They then released Cape Greed under the joint pen name of Sam Cole. Then Hichens wrote at least two novels featuring Rae Valentine (first introduced as Mullet’s girlfriend in Out to Score), who becomes a private eye herself.

Confused? So am I. So far, I don’t think Mullet, Vincent or Rae — together or separately —have popped up since, but who knows?



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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