Takka Takka by Kieran James Haldenby
Reviewed by Bridget Lӧtz
Takka Takka is Haldenby’s debut novel. Based on a true story, set in South Africa and Zambia, it follows the life of Kyle Goodall. Kyle is a career criminal always looking for the next big thing to make money while managing to stay one-step ahead of the law until eventually he is set up and imprisoned in Zambian prisons for a crime he didn’t commit.
The story opens when Kyle is already in prison and he starts telling us, the reader, his story of how he came to be there in the stinking hot hell of the infamous Kamwala prison in Zambia. He begins by describing the scene of how the prisoners sit in rows as you would in a rowing boat all squashed together with the stench of sweat, urine and faecal matter hanging over them like a cloud making it difficult to breathe. Each hour on the hour when the bell rings, the prisoners chant, “Takka Takka” which loosely translated means, “I’m okay, I’m still alive.”
From restoring and selling old motorcycles as a teenager to selling cigarettes and biscuits to transporting stolen vehicles across the Zambian border, Takka Takka takes us on a vivid journey with well-described scenes that make one feel that you are experiencing them yourself. The harsh realities of prison life with little or no food, dangerous gangs who maim, kill or rape their fellow inmates and even the abuse from those in charge. The multitude of colourful characters are vividly described in detail making them come alive in the reader’s mind.
He does try an honest job as an apprentice to an electrician but realises he can make more money by buying and selling stolen cars therefore, begins his illicit career. Along the way, he meets and marries his personal banker and he tries a legit career until he meets up with his first business partner again who suggests a new venture together. What could possibly go wrong? It seemed too easy.
Despite his wife’s misgivings and pleas, Kyle goes ahead with the deal. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan, the others involved set him, and a friend up which leads to his downfall and subsequent imprisonment in Lusaka, Zambia where he tries to stay alive. The rest of the story focusses on his friend and lawyer’s attempts to free him and prove his innocence.
I really enjoyed the book and it kept me hooked throughout, eager to find out if Kyle would be exonerated. The author certainly did his homework before writing this book and it shows in his attention to detail. He knows how to capture the reader’s attention and keep it. The prison scenes are factual, really graphic and could be upsetting to sensitive readers. The story is worth reading for those who enjoy this type of genre. I have a sneaky suspicion that we may see more books coming from this author. I, for one, look forward to reading other books from Kieran James Haldenby in the future.
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