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If you’re speaking of African classics, surely you’ve got to mention the Pacesetters series.
A very big thing in the 80s, the Pacesetters no doubt left an indelible mark on African, and Nigerian, literature.
The series was a collection of 130 novels written by African authors for an African audience. The authors were mostly Nigerian, but there were also Ghanian, Kenyan and South African writers. Some of the authors are still very much renowned today. Buchi Emecheta, for instance, is famous as well for her other inspiring works like The Joys of Motherhood and Second-Class Citizen.
It was in 1977 that Macmillan conceived the idea – with publication mainly happening between 1979 and 1988. What happened was that editor Agbo Areo managed to convince the UK-owned Macmillan to begin publishing African thrillers, with he himself writing the first and the model book, Director! When the series finally rolled off, initial copies were sold at ₦1.
“It was a welcome change from reading about Nick Carter and James Bond, white characters who used weapons with names like Wilhelmina and who wore tuxedos and drank martinis that were shaken not stirred.
“It was great to see a Commander Jack Ebony aka Jack Abani, who was a Nigerian secret service agent battling bad guys in a sports car with a sultry female sidekick,” wrote Toni Kan in Vanguard.
“I was in love and not just with the stories of young Africans navigating various issues in mostly urban settings from Lagos to Nairobi to Soweto, but with the cover images of young handsome and pretty African looking people.
“It was fresh and real and different, far different from books in the African Writers series, books whose covers were partial towards sketches and line drawings and abstract representative images.”
Needless to say, the series was much welcomed and much loved. There is hardly any negative review, comb through the past and present all you want.
The series featured deep romantic stories, legal thrillers, crime fiction and stories with mystical themes. It featured police officers, secret agents, dashing young men and nubile damsels. It created them and breathed life into them. It breathed life into the country too, some people might say.
The Pacesetters, as you have probably inferred (or already knew), were published much around the same period as the reign of other beautiful African classics, namely the African Writers Series, the Drumbeat Series, Fontana Book Series, et cetera.
A sad thing has happened to the Pacesetters series. Much like many other rich things that were commonplace in the country, it has suffered a death. The series disappeared in the 1990s – a disappointing affair, although there have now been some attempts to revive them. Many readers have their fingers crossed.
50 per cent of our customers here on Iwe.store have said that they would love to own and read these books again. That’s why we have spent some time trying to make them available to readers. And we’ve gathered a few copies. Phew!
Wouldn’t you love to read these books (again)?
Some readers have shown interest in having them in their personal libraries. Do you think the younger generation will find these books as special as their parents did? Let us know your thoughts!
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