Blessing Musariri, one of SABLE LitMag’s first e-interns and one of our first participating writers in the SABLE Litfest in The Gambia in 2007 is the first winner the 2014 Crime Fiction Contest of Cordite Books, the new crime and spy fiction imprint of Parresia Publishers Ltd. Blessing wins $1000 and a Cordite Books publishing deal for her manuscript, Useful Knowledge for a World Class Detective.
Demola Adeniran came second with “Descent of the Hills” David Oritogun came third with “The World is Your Oyster.” They receive $250 and $200 respectively. The competition was announced in 2013 and received over 70 manuscripts from all over the continent.
Helon Habila, award winning author and editor of Cordite Books, describes the winning story as “Intelligent and well written. A hardcore detective story in the tradition of No 1 Ladies Detective Agency – but totally original in its own way. The protagonist is a 25 year old, plucky, ambitious, girl with an interesting back story.”
Useful Knowledge for the World Class Detective – The Black Mamba Journals is set in Zimbabwe in 1995. It follows the exploits of Otillia Mandimutsa, left in the care of a young aunt, who sends her off to indifferent relatives after the passing of her grandmother – her initial guardian. Running away from an abusive cousin at the age of eleven, she is beaten up and left for dead in a ditch. She is found by an elderly teacher, who, takes her in and gives her a fairly normal life.
Having no memory of her life beyond waking up battered and bruised, Otillia escapes into the complicated art of solving mysteries as a constable in the Criminal Investigations Department of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Her dream is to become a full fledged detective and she focuses all her efforts towards that objective. Her obsessive desire to solve mysteries is an avoidance of the real issue of her own life, of which she has no recollection beyond the last ten years and occasional flashbacks. She knows that she will one day have to deal with the questions that constantly run through her mind but she is not prepared to do so anytime soon.
After being implicated in the escape of a suspect from custody, Otillia decides to go undercover to clear her name. But a confrontation with criminals leaves her hospitalised and this is when she begins to have recollections of her past life. Troubled, she sets out to retrace her life and discover who she really is and what this now means to her in her current life.
Blessing said, “I was interested in the concept of the past, the present and the future not being what we believe it to be. In this story, Otillia discovers that it all exists at the same time. I wanted to create a really gutsy character who takes no prisoners in the way she lives her life and also create a mystery that will unravel as Otillia solves three major cases that earn her accolades as a detective.”
Blessing Musariri has published four children’s titles, two of which have won national awards in Zimbabwe. She has also written short stories and poems published in various international anthologies and online magazines. Blessing had originally thought to be a lawyer but her prolific and overactive imagination took over after being called to the English Bar in 1997, leading her to a more varied, fulfilling life in the world of arts and culture. She holds a Masters degree in Diplomatic Studies from the University of Westminster.
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