The Pacesetters Project.
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.
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|