With every rising sun, there’s a chance you could wake up dead in the Cape Flats – that large expanse of townships housing the so-called Coloured communities in Cape Town, South Africa. Roger Smith writes about this possibility and the people and events that make this spectre of doom a reality. If there are gang movies, Wake Up Dead: A Cape Town Thriller is a gang novel.
The Cape Flats is not a nice place to raise children and for those like Barbara Adams who have to, they watch their daughters hawk-like, trying to stop them from the lure of drugs and the clutches of gang bosses with salacious intents. In the end, they die with their children. Life expectancy here is short; very short.
Young boys prefer guns for toys; not for the same reasons their peers in the normal world would childishly do – in the Cape Flats, the children hope to graduate to the real thing.
A girl of fourteen dies brutally as she picks up the gun to fight her father’s – drug – battles. Many, of her age, skip school to shoot drugs; mere cannon fodder for the local peddler who uses their nubile bodies as in-kind payment for the poison he feeds them.
A family man, like Clay Adams, is killed in the open; in front of his wife, children and the whole community. And no one dares lift a finger to the crime lords! A straight cop not on the take, Adams was a rarity. The man who kills him is Piper, a walking kaleidoscope of tattoos who rules Pollsmoor, the local prison, with the iron hand of a jailbird supremo. Each time he’s due for parole, Piper kills another inmate. If this doesn’t give him enough time inside, he kills a prison guard. The outside world scares him; he’s at home in prison. And when he ventures outside in a dramatic escape, it is with the sole intention to bring his young ‘wife’ Disco home.
This is a sordid tale of a deranged career criminal whose nineteen teardrops tattooed below his eyes represent a cold-blooded murder, in and out of prison. Put Pollsmoor and the Cape Flats into the mix and the result is an explosive concoction of drugs, sex and murder.
I checked to see if the writer could have taken liberties with the truth but recalled from my 1998 trip to the area that he could not have embellished a lot, if he did at all.
The Cape Flats is a God-forsaken stretch of land where people hope for tomorrow.
Just one more night!
But, as Smith says, many wake up dead. Wake Up Dead: A Cape Town Thriller was first published in 2010 by Henry Holt and Co., and reprinted in 2011 by Picardor.
© makatilemedia 06/2011