Thursday, August 18, 2022

Shoshong and A Death in the Family - Special Offer

Buttress over the river

This week I want to return to one of the most interesting places in Botswana, Shoshong. Shoshong has a long and complex history (and prehistory) in southern Africa. It is also the setting for the Detective Kubu mystery A Death in the Family, which was chosen as the theme for a cultural festival held in Shoshong. (Another reason why it's one of my favorite places!) 

To celebrate all these things about Shoshong, and the upcoming launch of our new Kubu book A Deadly Covenant (set in another of my favorite places in Botswana, but more about that next week), we are offering A Death in the Family ebook for 99c in the US and Canada until the end of Bouchercon, (September 11). This applies to all formats for the ebook. If you've already read the book and enjoyed it, please let your friends know about this special offer. After all, they only have 99c to lose...

Angry scene from the book reenacted at the
Bollapela Cultural Festival

So back to Shoshong.

View from the air

Few people outside Botswana have heard of Shoshong, yet in its day it was a very important town in southern Africa – much more so than the current capital of Gaborone (which hardly existed at that time) and many South African towns that are now regarded as significant (such as Johnnesburg).  Founded in the mid nineteenth century, it was chosen for two critical reasons – it is protected on the north by a horseshoe of hills which are difficult to climb because of screes of dolorite boulders, and it had comparatively plentiful water from the Bonwapitse river which flows into the town through a gorge in the hills.  In fact, the hills were home to stone age people long before the Tswana people.  The leader of the Bangwato people, Sekgoma I, made it his capital when he conquered the Bakaa people in 1849.  
Since the Matabele to the north were pretty unfriendly neighbors at the time, the hills formed a welcome shield. Sekgoma's son, Khama III, consolidated and built Shoshong into a strategic center of around 30,000 people.

Across Shoshong to the hills

The town thrived because it was strategically placed on the main road north between what is now southern Botswana and Zimbabwe.  It became an important trading center and was host to hunters, missionaries, and famous explorers - including David Livingstone, who passed through.  Some Europeans settled there and traces of their tin-roofed rectangular houses and artifacts have been found in the area.  Christianity was introduced by John Mackenzie in 1868 when he built the Moffat Institution for the London Missionary Society there.  A church bell was found in the area – the only surviving evidence of the church.  It seemed Shoshong was here to stay.

Paper-bark tree in the hills

But Shashong’s Achilles’ heel was the very reason for its existence – the river.  A prolonged drought and the settlement’s stress on the environment left the town almost dry and surrounded by semi-desert.  By 1889 the town was described as “a filthy place with only one trickling well.”  Khama III told his people to pack up and move, which they did, leaving behind a ghost town. 

Little remains to be seen of Old Shoshong, only the remains of the stone walls and the graves both old and new that are filling the space between the Kgotla (meeting place) at the north of the new town and the gorge.  Even though the town was resettled and is quite a thriving little place these days, it never regained its importance. However, it lies in one of Botswana's mining provinces, and in A Death in he Family, we postulate a Chinese-owned mine in the area. The increasing influence of China in southern Africa (and indeed in Africa as a whole) and the relationship that Chinese immigrants have to the local people is the backdrop to the story, which begins with the murder of Kubu's father in Mochudi. There's a CIA connection too, and Kubu makes a visit to New York...

Lots of events coming up for the release of A Deadly Covenant. Here's the September schedule:

Wednesday, 7. 4:30 – 5:30 pm 

Totally Criminal Cocktail Hour at Valley Bookstore

The Zephyr Theatre, 601 N Main St, StillwaterMN 55082

Find out more about the event HERE.


Friday, 9, 1:45 – 2:30 pm 


The Mystery of Multiple Points of View and Multiple Timelines (Writers use dual perspectives/multiple narrators and alternating timelines to tell their stories.)

Marty Ambrose; William Boyle; Mary R. Davidsaver; B.A. Shapiro; Julie Carrick Dalton; Stanley Trollip (Moderator)

Saturday, 10, 11:30 -12:15 pm 


Under the Sun or Below Zero (You’ve heard of “setting as a character.” Well … what about the weather?  These authors’ works represent a dichotomy of climates where rising temps or bone-chilling cold are just as effective as any villain.)

Alexander McCall Smith; Stan Trollip (Michael Stanley); Catriona McPherson; Jo Nesbø ; Matthew Goldman (Moderator); Caro Ramsay

Thursday, 15, 12:30 – 1:00 pm (UK time) 

Virtual event at the International Agatha Christie Festival

Agatha in Africa

Michael, Stanley and Zimbabwe author Bryony Rheam discuss Agatha Christie’s trip to South Africa and Southern Rhodesia and its connection with her mystery thriller The Man in the Brown Suit.


Monday 19, 6:00 pm 

Nokomis Library event

5100 S 34th Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417 Phone: 612-543-6800


Wednesday 21, 6:00 pm 

Thomas St. Angelo Public Library of Cumberland event

1305 2nd Ave, Cumberland, WI 54829. Phone: 715-822-2767


Thursday 22, 6:30 pm 

Spooner Library event

421 High St, Spooner, WI 54801 Phone. 715-635-2792


Saturday 24, 1200

The Bookstore at Fitger’s

600 East Superior Street, Duluth MN 55802

Tuesday, 27, 6:00 pm 

Launch of A Deadly Covenant at Once Upon A Crime

604 W. 26th Street, MinneapolisMN 5540 Phone: 612.870.3785 Email:

With Mary Ann Grossman

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