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 will you long after the last word has been read.
“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.
A few years ago, a friend of mine told me an incredible story about his time in Africa in the 1960’s.
· He’d crashed his plane in the middle of the Liberian jungle and survived. Then he told me some more stories:
· His friend was almost run over by an elephant.
· Smuggling diamonds was easy!
· He’d seen ant hills that were taller than him.
· He saw people EATING the ants!
Over and over again, I said, “You have to write this stuff down! These are great stories, and people should hear them!”
Well, finally it occurred to me that with his permission and his stories that I could write the book. Over a period of a year and a half we would go to lunch and he would regale me with one incredible story after another; and I would take notes.
It was a fun book to write but it soon became apparent that in order to write a cohesive and thematic account of his adventures, I had to rearrange his story into a novel. Most of my hero’s adventures and the Liberian political scene at the time are true, the characters and dialogue are not.
While researching Liberia, both its history and what it was like in the 1960’s I became increasingly fascinated with this country who is our African sister. This is a story that I think everyone should hear. Most have heard it, but have forgotten.
In the posts that follow I shall be showing how my new book, THE DUNG BEETLES OF LIBERIA captures the start of Liberia's tragic path toward civil war and destruction.
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