Book Review – African Cookboy

African Cookboy by David Dinwoodie Irving (Jacana) ISBN: 9781770098695

This novel starts with a university student visiting a government minister in present day South Africa; the interview opens a flood of memories of a young man growing up in Vilakazi.

In his debut novel, Dinwoodie Irving gives us the fascinating personal history of his anti-hero, Dhlamini ‘Shatterproof’ Bhekuzulu, who chooses the brutal and short-lived life of a tsotsi rather than be a doormat for the white nationalist regime. It is a life of illegal alcohol, drugs, women and living on the edge.

Of course, when he attempts to go straight, the past has a nasty habit of showing up like a bad hangover.

For all his criminal activities, the reader feels drawn to the main character: talented, resourceful and guided by his own moral compass. He has all the makings of a classic fictional character – human, flawed, an outsider – and in many ways reminds us of the plucky heroes in Dickens or Cervantes.

African Cookboy is an unusual, stylish South African book, written with energy, humour and confidence. Dinwoodie Irving is one to watch.

Faith Parker