There was nothing like a good short pacesetter novel to momentarily shift you away from the hardships of boarding school life. African stories so intriguing, so dramatic that you could easily finish a book in two-morning prep sessions.
We eagerly waited in line as the book was passed from classmate to classmate, and on the day it got to you, you even treat yourself to a snack as you prepared to indulge in the wonderful pages of stories so close to home.
1. The Pacesetters Series were a collection of 130 novels written by African authors (mostly Nigerian, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa) for an African audience.
2. It was 1977 when Macmillan decided to publish the paperback series – with publication mainly happening between 1979 and 1988.
3. They were very popular in the 1980s until the series disappeared in the 1990s as a result of structural adjustment programmes that obviously affected many industries including publishing in Nigeria.
4. Even the cover designs were classics in contemporary African pop art, colourful and amateurish
5. Anyone who grew up in the 80’s had a bite. It was the Facebook and Twitter of those days. It was what you and your friends would talk about for hours.
6. An all time favorite was “The Undesirable Element” in which a young virtuous Hausa woman (Bintu) went to work in a big city (Kano , perhaps) and fell into the evil clutches of a lascivious Alhaji.
7. The good thing about them was that they were churned out on a regular basis, and they were cheap
8. Looking back now that was the golden age of African publishing and popular reading everyone read them- from semi literate traders in the markets to snooty secretaries in posh Nairobi offices.
9. They constantly introduced new writing from across the continent, exposing us to everyday life in other African countries.
10. Sadly, in the 90s as structural adjustment programmes swept across the continent and the value of local currencies crashed, these books disappeared and with them.
11. But it still feels good to reminisce upon the good times when life was a little simpler.