Wednesday, June 9, 2021


 Now fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, I am once again ready to travel, and this season will be a busy one. Of course, it was impossible to do any travel during 2020 to travel to Ghana to research the third Emma Djan novel called LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ--that's Lapaz, Accra, not La Paz, Bolivia. However, having to stay home in 2020 facilitated my finishing Emma #2, SLEEP WELL, MY LADY in record time, as well as starting on LSIL, which I'm scheduled to turn in to the editor on or before July 1, 2021. The deadline looms large!

Now that I've passed the halfway point writing LSIL, I know which areas of research I need to focus on. In addition to the standard visit to Ghana, I need to travel to Nigeria and Niger, because substantial portions of the novel take place in these countries. You can get an idea of my itinerary from the map below, which is numbered in sequence according to the destinations during the trip.

So, for your reference, I will be in Lagos and Benin City, Nigeria, for ten days in July; Niamey and Agadez, Niger, for eight days; and Ghana for the remaining four weeks or so.

My destinations in West Africa (edited, original image Shutterstock / Porcupen)

I went to Nigeria as a small child but remember little to nothing about the trip, so Nigeria will be a new experience for me, as will Niger. The issue with these two countries is that neither scores high in the safety category. The US Department of State puts Nigeria at its Level 3 warning: reconsider travel; and Niger earns a Level 4: do not travel.

Then, why am I going to these two countries? I considered not doing it, but anyone can do Google and YouTube research. I believe I owe readers a lot more than that. Being "afraid" to travel somewhere is not going to cut it. On the other hand, I'm not throwing caution to the wind. I've secured a guide and escort to be with me at all times in both countries.

The unofficial jacket cover copy will help you understand what I'll be looking into during my travels.

When Nnamdi Ojukwu’s daughter Ngozi elopes with boyfriend Femi, Nnamdi appeals to Emma Djan and her detective agency boss to investigate Ngozi’s whereabouts. Weeks later, Femi is found murdered at his opulent residence in Accra, but Ngozi is still nowhere to be found. How is she connected, if at all, to Femi’s killing? As Emma digs further, she discovers Femi was part of a horrifying network of sex traffickers in Europe and several West African countries. Migrants from Ghana, Nigeria and other West African countries are duped into thinking they are on their way to success and riches in Italy. But once there, they are manipulated into prostitution with little chance of escape.
As successful as Femi has been, he has made a lot of enemies, all of whom have had possible motives to murder him. The question is, which one of them did it? Not only does Emma have to hunt the killer down, she’s in a race against time to find Ngozi—that is, if she’s still alive.

As you can see, LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ tackles the complex and uncomfortable subject of human and sex trafficking with scenes in Ghana, Nigeria, and Niger. The West Africans one sees on TV attempting to cross the Mediterranean, sometimes perishing in the process, depart mostly from the shores of Libya, but they originate primarily from Nigeria, and to a lesser extent from Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Mali. Agadez, in Niger, is the legendary transit spot for migrants before they make the hellish trip to Libya across the brutal Sahara desert, which is fraught with danger from armed gangs, the intense heat, and the threat of dehydration. Needless to say, I'm not going to Libya.

Migrants crossing the Sahara packed into a pickup truck (Shutterstock/Torsten Pursche)    

Many migrants get stuck in Agadez or Libya because they find they don't have enough money to proceed. Sometimes, it takes months to gather the wherewithal to continue on. During that time, they may be subject to physical and sexual brutality, particularly in Libya. If and when they get to Italy--surprise, surprise. Contrary to the glowing picture painted of making tons of money working in a store or being a travel guide, migrant women discover they will be working as prostitutes for the "madam" who paid for much of their arduous journey. Now they owe her money--lots of it. The madam is often a woman who has been a prostitute herself. The blatant disregard for human life in this trafficking world is quite stunning.

Migratory routes from West Africa to Libya

Regardless of the present, this region of Africa holds a long and storied past--periods of epic achievements in culture and learning on the one hand, but strife on the other. Apart from researching for my novel, I'm hoping to make a connection with aspects of West Africa's history.

In addition, there'll be something new: I will be vlogging my journey, allowing for any slow or absent Internet connections I might encounter in different locales. My vlogs will be on YouTube. It's going to be quite an adventure.


  1. The new book sounds great, Kwei. Can't wait. I'll be interested in the "vlogs". Not sure I know what they are, but if it's YouTube I can guess.
    And thanks for joining us last night!

  2. That was a really excellent discussion with you and Stan.

  3. Sounds like a fascinating trip, Kwei. However, there's one little thing I'm confused about (no, not THAT "little thing," Jeff). You say you're scheduled to turn LSIL into your editor by July 1, 2021, and that you've passed the halfway point in writing LSIL, and that you'll be traveling for about 6-7 weeks. Given that it's now only a little over three weeks from July 1, 2021, will you be traveling very fast in a Delorean? Or will H.G. Wells by your companion? (I'm easily confused...)

    1. EvKa, I was equally confused. Kwei, if you've found access to time travel, please share!

      Please let me know if you go to Benin City or Ife in Nigeria. I'm planning to go there next year for the spectacular works of art.

    2. Who was it who said: "I like deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they fly past."?

  4. Stay safe and be careful as you venture into the belly of the beast. A book that might help you in your research is,"Illegality, Inc." by Ruben Anderson. It helped me with my "An Aegean April" research for it addresses unspoken efforts employed to keep African migrants out the EU.

  5. What an important topic for your novel. I wish you complete safety and success on your trip.