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The Pacesetters Project.

by Sanusi IsmailaJune 10, 2015

Let me start by saying, I won’t do this topic justice, I just thought to write something real quick on the issue, I will probably revisit this in the future.

Pacesetters is/was (not sure which one is appropriate these days), a series of books published by Macmillan from the 1977-1990s. The series featured notable African novelists and writers of the time. Rather than focus on literary goals, which was the trend of the time, they just wrote darn interesting stories in stereotype categories (cautionary tales, love triangles, grace to grace, contrasts between the town and city life, hero, etc). They were all mostly written in a particular style, yet they were all individually distinct in what each book offered. I guess that’s why they were successful, they broke the mould. While they weren’t the kind of books that won literary awards, they won hearts. Come to think of it, they remind me of Nigerian music today.

Unfortunately, the books disappeared with the middle class in the late 80s and 1990s. I remember spending quite a bit of time at the library reading these books growing up. I think the last one I read (before now) was sometime in the late-90s. Unlike a lot of African literature I have come across (I’ve read mostly Nigerian stuff lately to be specific), they packed a distinct sense of humour, infused many elements from every day living, and even though they cut across many cultures, each book had a common “African” thread that is hard to put down in words. They were also very relatable; it didn’t matter whether the story was set in Nairobi, Kenya and infused with their culture or Kano, or whether the protagonist was a village school teacher or a sophisticated spy jumping in and out of submarines, you could relate with the story and characters in ways, that I can’t seem to do with many other African titles. This was probably why everyone, from the posh civil servants and business men of that time, to students, clerks, drivers and even artisans (provided they could read) read them back in the day.

I read quite a number of them growing up, I want to say “all”, but there’s no way to be sure. These days, I only realise I have read a particular one before around halfway through the book and even then, they are still very much enjoyable to read on their own, and more so with the nostalgic value.

I’ve been hunting for them for about 4 years now with no luck, till just a few weeks ago at the international book fair which held in University of Lagos. I happened to be around and was arm-twisted into stopping by and right there at the Macmillan stand were copies of four different ones! I got all four on the spot and promised to visit their office to get more. While I was there, almost everyone that came to the Macmillan stand got copies of the ones they had. Based on the demand, they promised to bring more to the fair and they did. A friend went some days after me and snagged some for himself…including one or two rare ones.

pacesetters

That’s all they have left!

I eventually got someone, (whom I owe loads) to drive down to their office and help me get everything they still have. The good news is that they still have some for sale for around N350-N400 a pop. The bad news it that they only have about a cardboard box worth of them left. Worst still, the last batch of reprints they made were in 2010!

If you’re like me, you’re looking for them, you should go to their office at 4, Industrial Avenue, Ilupeju Industrial Estate, Lagos and you can help yourself to what’s left in the box. This site also has a couple of them in stock, they cost about thrice the cost here, but if you are desperate like me, it shouldn’t deter you much.

It’s a bit mind numbing that there aren’t digital copies of the series being sold now (at the very least), at a time when most of the people that grew up reading them can afford to buy them now.

In any case, if more people like me go to the office to ask, maybe they will realise that there is a demand for them and order reprints. Side note: While Macmillan has a printing factory here, the pacesetters are printed in Malaysia!

I’m on a mission to collect all of them, so please if you see them anywhere, or have any idea where I can find them, please let me know. At the moment, I’ve got just 17 36 of the 130 issues that were in the series, so I still have a long way to go. I’m particularly interested in the ones that were first published between 1977 and 1989. There were a batch of others printed around 1996 or so in a bid to jump start the series, but I’m guessing they weren’t able to spark a renaissance.

If you can help me find them, I’ll very much appreciate it.

List of all the books in the Pacesetters series by Macmillan

(I’m looking for the ones in black, will update as I can them)

Table last updated 16th, July 2015.

1. A Picture Of Innocence 44. For Mbatha And Rabeka 87. Rich Girl, Poor Boy
2. Agony In Her Voice 45. Forever Yours 88. Runaway Bride
3. Angel Of Death 46. Forgive Me Maryam 89. The Schemers
4. Anything For Money 47. Fran Molala/Merc Affair 90. Sea Running
5. The Betrayer 48. A Fresh Start 91. Second-Hand Love
6. Bitter Consequences 49. Frozen Fire* 92. Secret Blood
7. Bittersweet 50. Give Me Money 93. Shadow Of A Dream
8. The Black Temple 51. Gun Merchant 94. Shadow Of Death
9. Blackmailers 52. Harvest Of Love 95. Shameful Sacrifice
10. Bloodbath At Lobster Close† 53. Have Mercy 96. Sisi
11. Bonds Of Love 54. Hopeful Lovers* 97. Small Affairs
12. Border Runners 55. The Hornet’s Nest 98. The Smugglers*
13. Camera Never Lies 56. The Infamous Act 99. Something To Hide
14. Cherished Dreams 57. The Instrument 100. South African Affair*
15. Child Of The Rainbow 58. A Kind Of Marriage 101. Spears Down
16. Child Of War 59. The Last Aloe 102. State Secret
17. Christmas In The City 60. Life Is A Lottery 103. Stone Vengeance
18. Circle Of Betrayal 61. Lost Generation 104. Stop Press: Murder!
19. Coup! 62. Love 105. Stranger’s Son
20. Cross-Fire 63. Love Letters 106. Sunset At Noon
21. The Cyclist* 64. Love Match 107. Sweet Revenge
22. Danger Express 65. Love On The Rocks 108. Symphony-Destrst
23. Dangerous Inheritance 66. Love’s Dilemma 109. Teardrops At Sunset
24. Dangerous Waters 67. Mark Of The Cobra 110. Tell Me No More
25. Dead Of Night 68. The Mating Game 111. The Legacy
26. Deadly News 69. Meet Me In Conakry 112. Thorns Of Life
27. Dealers In Death 70. The Money Doublers 113. To Have & To Hold
28. Death Is Woman 71. Money Road 114. Tobacco Smoke
29. Dela Boya-African Detective 72. Moses and the Gunman 115. Too Cold Comfort
30. The Delinquent 73. Naira Power 116. Too Young To Die*
31. Desert Storm 74. Nanasi Girl 117. Treasure
32. Director! 75. Night Of Full Moon 118. Truth Will Out
33. Double Dating 76. On The Road 119. The Undesirable Element
34. Double Trouble 77. Operation Rhino 120. Vicious Circle
35. A Dream Called September 78. The Other Side Of Town 121. Wages Of Sin
36. The Equatorial Assignment 79. Pains Of A Maid 122. What The Future Holds
37. Europeans Only? 80. Poisoned Bait 123. When Love Dies*
38. Evbu My Love 81. The Politician* 124. Where Children Play
39. The Extortionist 82. Possessed! 125. Who Killed Mohtta?
40. Felicia 83. The President’s Son 126. Who Really Cares
41. Finding Francis 84. Race Against Rats 127. Women For Sale
42. Finger Of Suspicion 85. Rassie 128. The Worshippers
43. For Better For Worse 86. Remember Death 129. You Never Know
130. Zero Hour
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Sanusi Ismaila
Half Genius...Half Unserious.
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