Through Jade's Eyes

This blog is about the fictional character, Jade del Cameron (www.suzannearruda.com), and the historical time period in which she lives.

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Location: www.suzannearruda.com, United States

I'm the author of the Jade del Cameron historical mystery series set in 1920's Africa. Lots of action, intrigue, mystery and a dash of romance. Follow me at www.twitter.com/SuzanneArruda *The audio link (view complete profile) is an interview by Baron Ron Herron (9/17/2009, Santa Barbara {CA} News-Press Radio, KZSB, AM 1290

Monday, August 31, 2009

1920’s KILIMANJARO: THE MOUNTAIN’S LORE – PART 1

It’s always problematic to speak of a geographic discovery, because there were usually other peoples and cultures that had long before “discovered” the area for themselves. Such is the case with Mount Kilimanjaro. The Maasai had long lived on the plains nearby, tending their great cattle herds.

Missionary, Eva Stuart-Watt was a young lady when she, her sister, and her mother moved to the slopes of Kilimanjaro in the mid 1920’s to teach the Wachagga. They lived in a “rather dilapidated tiled bungalow.” It was ex-German property, a “waysde inn (formerly) used for mountaineers on expeditions to the snows.”

Ms. Stuart-Watt recorded some of Kilimanjaro’s history in her book, Africa’s Dome of Mystery (no publication date given, possibly 1929). She says that the original inhabitants of Kilimanjaro’s slopes were the Wakonyingo, a pygmy peoples. The Wakonyingo were supposedly able to smelt iron and the Wachagga, supplanted the Wakonyingo after they, too, learned to smelt iron.

Read TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH for a fictional climb up Kilimanjaro in 1920. It’s available September 1 at bookstores everywhere. Check the events page at www.suzannearruda.com to see how you can get a signed copy. If you cannot attend an event, just contact the store in advance for a signed copy.

The images and quotes were taken from Africa’s Dome of Mystery, by Eva Stuart-Watt.

NEXT WEEK: More Kilimanjaro tales from the 20’s.

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, and The Leopard’s Prey, all available in trade paperback. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH will be released Sept. 1, 2009 in hardcover. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda

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Monday, August 24, 2009

NAIROBI NEWS: 1920 “WHEN COW CATCHERS AREN’T ENOUGH. TRAINS VS WILDLIFE IN 1920’S KENYA”

In American history, there are tales of trains out in the western plains being held up, not by bandits, but by bison. In particular, giant herds of bison placidly grazing along the tracks, criss-crossing from one side to the other and not giving two fleas for the locomotive that’s trying to get by. And don’t even think about stampeding them.

East Africa had its own problems with wildlife and trains. From the beginning, the Uganda railways (or “lunatic line” as it came to be known) had wildlife problems. One only has to read Lt. Colonel J. H. Patterson’s THE MAN-EATERS OF TSAVO to know about the lion problems. But even after the line was completed, wildlife got in the way. In most cases, a good blast of a whistle sent herds of giraffe (whose necks sometimes broke telegraph lines), zebra, and various antelope scampering for safety. More problematic were rhino and elephants.

Rhino were known for poor eyesight and quick tempers. Puffing locomotives sounded like a threat and “from time to time (get) in the way of trains with unfortunate results to themselves.” The August 1, 1920 issue of The Leader of British East Africa reported that Thursday’s up-train from Mombassa, “met with an exciting adventure at mile 161/2 near Muito Andei Station.” The time was three a.m. on a moonlit night. The train was “careering along at about 25 miles an hour” when “a terrific jolt” knocked it to a standstill. The problem: a half-grown elephant with foot-long tusks lay dead alongside the tracks after it struck the train.

Such an event made for lively talk among the colonists and by the following week, a tale was in circulation regarding the train’s guard. He’d seen “some obstruction near the window (and) enquired what the ‘flap’ was for and how it came to be there. On proceeding to lift it, he found it was the elephant’s ear.”

Read TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH for another, albeit fictional, encounter of a train with full grown elephants. It’s available September 1 at bookstores everywhere. Check the events page at www.suzannearruda.com to see how you can get a signed copy. If you cannot attend an event, just contact the store in advance for a signed copy.

The images and quotes were taken from The Leader of British East Africa August 1, and August 7, 1920.

NEXT WEEK: More East Africa tales from the 20’s.

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, and The Leopard’s Prey, all available in trade paperback. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH will be released Sept. 1, 2009 in hardcover. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda

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Monday, August 17, 2009

NAIROBI NEWS: 1920 “NATIVE MURDER – THE HAWKINS CASE: PART 2”

[TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH AVAILABLE SEPT. 1 - Huzzah!]

In mid-April, Captain Longley Hawkins accused several Kikuyu workers of stealing a box containing 400 rupees. Soon after, he and a Kavirondo askari, beat and brutalized the men and one man’s mother to induce confession. By mid-June, an enquiry into the death of one of those Kikuyu, a man named Meharu, put Captain Hawkins under arrest with bail and surety amounting to 12,000 rupees. The askari committed suicide.

The trial captured the attention of the entire colony. While many felt that Captain Hawkins deserved punishment for his cruelty, others maintained that threat of the kiboki (a whip of hippo hide) was the only way to enforce order on their farms and that this trial undermined the settlers’ authority.

One of the more horrifying aspects of the trial was Hawkins use of the “smelling out ordeal” where the natives were told to lick a hot knife to see if they were guilty or innocent. The rational, according to the accused, was that an innocent man had plenty of saliva and would come off unscathed whereas a guilty man would be dry-mouthed. Of the four Kikuyu accused, Meharu refused to lick the knife. Hawkins saw this as a sign of guilt. When Meharu refused to confess, he was beaten to his death. Meharu’s mother was also beaten and that, more than anything else, moved the general opinion against Hawkins whose motto was “kiboko first and enquire afterwards.”

The trial included testimony of several Kikuyu, Captain Hawkins associates, and Dr. Henderson who had examined Meharu’s mother. Witnesses regarded Hawkins as “rather a callous person” not above beating animals either.

Justice Maxwell, who presided over the trial, determined that, according to medical evidence, all the Kikuyu had “received grievous bodily harm such as to endanger life.” The question for the jury was, “whether the hurt was received only from Hassandra the askari or from the accused, or did accused by his presence countenance the acts of the askari.”

The jury deliberated for “over an hour.” They found Hawkins guilty of “simple hurt on the counts of Maheru and the woman, and guilty of grievous hurt with reference to the boys Richu and Kamangu.” Justice Maxwell sentenced Hawkins to two periods of two years “rigorous imprisonment” to run concurrently and in the case of the woman, a fine of 2,000 rupees or nine months prison.

The images and quotes were taken from The Leader of British East Africa August 14, 1920.

NEXT WEEK: Trains vs African Wildlife

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, all available in trade paperback.. The fourth book The Leopard’s Prey, is available in hardcover. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH will be released Sept. 1, 2009. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda

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Monday, August 10, 2009

NAIROBI NEWS: 1920 “NATIVE MURDER – THE HAWKINS CASE: PART 1”

It is dangerous to type-cast the inhabitants of 1920’s Nairobi in the Jade del Cameron mysteries. Dangerous, because it gives incorrect impressions of the people and times, which are always more complex than we realize. As seen in a previous post on the War Memorial, there were those eager to recognize the heroic contribution of the native Africans and there were those appalled by such an idea. There were also strong advocates for native’s rights, and equally strong advocates for European supremacy over the natives. Lumping the colonists in any one category would not be accurate. Many colonists probably waffled onto both sides of the issue. But sometimes a case came up that clearly defined where people stood. Such was the Hawkins Trial in 1920.

On April 16, 1920 Captain Longley Hawkins, who resided on a farm near Ruiru, reported a box containing 400 rupees was stolen from his house. He accused four of the native Kikuyu workers on his farm. Since the European constable in charge of the district was ill and all others were away, there was no immediate investigation on the part of the police. Hawkins, on the other hand, investigated using a native custom of “smelling out” the guilty party. Part of the ordeal involved licking a hot knife. Four native men were accused by Hawkins and three of them submitted to the ordeal. The fourth, a man names Meharu refused. The other three pointed him out as the thief.

Over the course of many days, Meharu and another man named Kamangu, were tied at the ankles, wrists and the rope from the wrist wrapped around the neck. Then Hawkins and a Kavirondo askari named Hassanda beat the men with a kiboko, a whip made of hippo hide. At other times the native mens’ fingers where pressed in a vise. Meharu’s mother was also beaten. She survived but Meharu did not. Hassanda was arrested and shot himself.

Now Captain Hawkins is on trial. While Resident Magistrate, Mr. Doorly, awaits final testimony of the other native, Kamangu, who was in the hospital, bail was set for Mr. Hawkins at 6,000 rupees and “a surety for the same amount.”

The images and quotes were taken from The Leader of British East Africa June 12, 1920.

NEXT WEEK: The Hawkins Case: Part 2.

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, all available in trade paperback.. The fourth book The Leopard’s Prey, is available in hardcover. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH will be released Sept. 1, 2009. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda

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Monday, August 03, 2009

NAIROBI NEWS: 1920 “DANGEROUS DEATH TRAPS IN THE DARK”

NOTE: TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH will be released Sept. 1, 2009. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda


These past few blogs have investigated the problems of a growing Nairobi in 1920 during the time when Jade del Cameron was roaming its streets. These problems were those of any rapidly growing city: more traffic on the streets and more streets as the city expands. Another problem: adequate night lighting on those same streets.

Nairobi was blessed with electric lighting early on in its development, the generator flume being upriver at Ruiru. (also the site of a murder – see blogs for Febr. 23 - March 15, 3009). And by now, the old sport of riding the streets on horseback and shooting out the electric lights was over. But many of the early streets that were lit were no longer thoroughfares. Instead, they were “a little backwash of a quiet suburban street” and busy intersections were left unlit. In particular, Valley Road, “one of the main arteries of the town leading to the suburbs” was a dangerous black hole, especially where it intersected with Crawford Road at an acute angle.

The Municipal Council had a plan to solve that problem, a plan that they offered to The Electric Light Company, a plan that The Leader of British East Africa labeled as “from the Municipal Authorities point of view, is doubtless excellent, being framed pretty much upon the policy of getting something for nothing.” The reporter writing on this dilemma sarcastically stated that the proposal was made with “a profundity of wisdom and economy . . .the brilliancy. . . hardly equaled by the electrical illuminant itself.”
In short, the city wanted the Lighting Company to simply remove the lights from the quieter streets and relocate them to the busier ones “with no extra revenue” to compensate for the company’s expense of laying new wire and erecting poles. The reporter charges that “there is surely enough money left over from that municipal goose that lays the silver rupee eggs, the Conservancy Department,” to fund the neglected streets.

In the meantime, the Municipal Council also asked the Electric Light Company to “experiment with 100 to 200 candle power lights on each pole between the Corner and Nairobi House and to furnish an estimate of the cost.” Good luck getting any of those “silver rupee eggs” to pay for it, though.

Ultimately the following notice appeared in the paper: "LIGHTING AGREEMENT: It was decided that the absence of an agreement between the Municipal Council and the Electric Lighting Co. should be brought to the notice of the Council.

At least they agreed that there was no agreement. Some things, like city politics, never change.

The images and quotes were taken from The Leader of British East Africa July 3, 1920.

NEXT WEEK: A Settler murders a native worker and goes on trial.

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, all available in trade paperback.. The fourth book The Leopard’s Prey, is available in hardcover.

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