The Dung Beetles of Liberia by Daniel V. Meier Jr. Genre: Adventure, Historical Fiction
Based on the remarkable true account of a young American who landed in Liberia in 1961.
Ken Verrier is not happy, nor at peace. He is experiencing the turbulence of Ishmael and the guilt of his brother's death. His sudden decision to drop out of college and deal with his demons shocks his family, his friends, and especially his girlfriend, soon to have been his fiancee. His destination: Liberia - The richest country in Africa both in monetary wealth and in natural resources.
Nothing could have prepared Ken for the experiences he was about to live through. He quickly realizes that he has arrived in a place where he understands very little of what is considered normal, where the dignity of life has little meaning, and where he can trust no one.
Flying into the interior bush as a transport pilot, Ken learns quickly. He witnesses first-hand the disparate lives of the Liberian "Country People" and the "Congo People" also known as Americo-Liberians. These descendants of President Monroe's American Colonization Policy that sent freed slaves back to Africa in the 1800's have set up a strict hierarchical society not unlike the antebellum South.
Author Dan Meier describes Ken's many escapades, spanning from horrifying to whimsical, with engaging and fast-moving narrative that ultimately describe a society upon which the wealthy are feeding and in which the poor are being buried.
It's a novel that will stay with you long after the last word has been read.
2019 Grand Prize Winner - Red City Review
The story weaves drama, dark comedy, and romance throughout a rich tapestry of narration
--THE SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW
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“A short time after hiring Ku, I went into the kitchen. He was at his waiting station looking at me. I opened the door to our ancient kerosene-fired refrigerator.
“Wha you wan, boss? Ku get it fo you,” he said, slipping from the stool and putting himself between me and the contents of the refrigerator.
“Something to eat, Ku.”
“No worry, boss.” Ku said, “We ha good stew, good meat—no bush meat—and French baguettes, fresh may t’day, from da new market. Vey goo.”
“Great, Ku. If you would prepare it, I’ll have it out on the porch. That’s where I’ll be.” I retrieved a bottle of beer from the refrigerator, popped it open, and left to find a chair on the porch. Thirty minutes later Ku brought the stew and several slices from the baguette. I had been in Africa long enough to have learned that if something tastes good, don’t ask what it is. However, this time I thought I’d try:
“This is great, Ku. A little different, but delicious. What is it?” Ku grinned. “Oh, boss, don’t worry. It white man food. I kno why you askin. It no bugabug. It not time for bugabug.”
“Bugabug? What’s bugabug?” I asked.
“Bugabug is wha ya call termites.”
“Termites? You eat termites?”
“Oh, yeah, boss. Dey good. But dey only come out two time a year.”
“Well, you know they live in de big big mounds. Mounds bigga n me. An every now and den, de queen, she decides to move. So dey all move. Swarms and swarms and billions and billions all leave at the same time to find a new home. An das when evybody go get ’em, cook ’em, and eat ’em. Dey real good, boss. Kinda tase lie crunchy chickin.”
“Nice to know, Ku, but when bugabug season comes, I’ll pass.”
A retired Aviation Safety Inspector for the FAA, Daniel V. Meier, Jr. has always had a passion for writing. During his college years, he studied History at The University of North Carolina Wilmington and American Literature at The University of Maryland Graduate School. In 1980 he was published by Leisure Books under the pen name of Vice Daniels. He also worked briefly for the Washington Business Journal as a journalist and has been a contributing writer/editor for several aviation magazines.
Dan and his wife live in Owings, Maryland, about twenty miles south of Annapolis and when he's not writing, they spend their summers sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.
The Dung Beetles of Liberia is a thrilling novel following the life of an American in 1961 Liberia.
What was the inspiration that made you want to put this story in a novel?
Over the years, a friend of mine in the FAA had been telling me fantastic stories about the seven years he spent as an air transport pilot in pre-civil war Liberia in the 1960’s. The stories were incredible. I decided that somebody had to document what he had experienced, and being a writer, I was the one to do it. After over 40 hours of interviews, listening to one amazing tale after another, it became apparent that in order to write a cohesive and thematic account of his adventures, I could not write the non-fiction memoir as I had intended, but had to rearrange his story into a novel based on his experiences. And so the historical novel based on fact was born.
You did a fantastic job of capturing the setting and culture of Liberia.
What type of research did you undertake for this novel?
Once I got a storyline going, I used the internet extensively, as there are a multitude of photos showing Monrovia in its heyday during the period my novel takes place. I also did research into the history of Liberia, dating back to the 1820's when President Monroe"s American Colonization Policy shipped hundreds of freed slaves "back to Africa." These "Americo-Liberians," as they were called, had set up a societal structure not unlike the Ante Bellum South from which they had come. My hero spent most of his time dealing with the indigenous people and the expat community and was thus able to see the amazing disparity between the classes.
This is a consistently engaging book that is high in social commentary.
What do you hope readers take away from this book?
Researching this society's progression it became evident that it was a microcosm of a much larger truth. The Power-Elite Theory, claims that when a single elite group decides all issues for the nation as a whole, both political and social,this leaves almost nothing for the common person. It paints a dark picture. And in Liberia’s case, ironically, it even dipped its toe into the murky waters of forced labor and slavery. It is what caused its descent into the chaos of revolution.
Also, the metaphor of the dung beetle is referenced several times throughout the book creating a visual commentary of the society that is based on greed.and corruption--again, leaving nothing for the little man.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on the sequel to THE DUNG BEETLES OF LIBERIA, which covers a three week period of the takeover of the government by Sgt Doe in 1980. The beginning of the bloodbath.
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