An Introduction to the Tebogo Mystery Series by Henry Ozogula (Guest Post)

Add a heading.pngHi guys, today’s post is a guest post by Henry Ozogula. It shines a spotlight on Nigerian author, Omoseye Bolaji and his “Tebogo Mystery series.”

An Introduction to the Tebogo Mystery Series by Henry Ozogula

Omoseye Bolaji is the creator and writer of the “Tebogo Mystery series” of books.  It is probably the most consistent series of this genre in Africa, there are now nine separate published volumes, or adventures, in the series.

Although the author of the series, Bolaji, is Nigerian, the entire series is based in South Africa, including the plots, setting, locale, and names of most characters in the books. All the books are initially published in South Africa.

That the books are popular in southern Africa, at least, is unequivocal. For example, thousands of copies of the books under the “Tebogo Mystery series” are available from South African libraries, public and specialised.

But who is the (fictional) protagonist of the series, Tebogo Mokoena? He is a private detective, a sleuth.  He is always portrayed as young, humane and with a sense of humour. On the whole, he is something of a gentleman despite being involved in some hair-raising, even cruel adventures.

In the first two books – Tebogo Investigates (2000) and Tebogo’s Spot of Bother (2001), Tebogo the sleuth is unmarried.  In the third adventure, Tebogo Fails, he meets the woman he would marry, Khanyi. Yet over the years, and in further adventures, we see little of Khanyi, the wife.

The author explores different themes and ideas in the series.  He explores homosexuality, sort of, in Tebogo’s Spot of Bother. Other adventures deal with infidelity, revenge, abuse, and general sleight of hand. There is an eccentric “scientist” in Tebogo and the Pantophagist (2010) who has discovered a formula that quite a number of people are interested in!

Also of interest to many readers is the gallery of assorted, often delectable women that dot the series. Tebogo himself is often drawn to some of these women, but never quite crosses the line. Some of these women are very memorable, like Charlotte in Tebogo and the Haka, and Thobeka in Tebogo and the Bacchae.

The Tebogo books ring true, especially to South African readers who relish the skilful mix of words and phrases, including South African languages.  Here, for example, is a passage from Tebogo and Uriah Heep, the latest in the series:

——–

I stared at her. “Suspect? You don’t mean as in Anne’s death…”
“That’s exactly what I mean,” Nthabiseng said. “She could be dangerous too. I remember the day she angrily fought with Anne and said to her: ‘Ke tla ntsha mala a gago, ke be ke go tshopa ka o ne mo thamong yagago,’
I winced. What she had said translates exactly into: “I will take out your intestines and drape them around your neck!” Or in correct English: “I’ll have your guts for garters…”

———

Also noteworthy is the fact that Bolaji has published many other books in different genres, apart from the “Tebogo Mystery series.” For example, he is the author of three novels: Impossible Love (2000), The Ghostly Adversary (2001) and the celebrated People of Townships (2003). He has also published books of poetry, a play, biographies, and several books on literary criticism and reviews, including Sorry You’ve Been Troubled (2017).

However, Bolaji is critically acclaimed for the “Tebogo Mystery series.” Extensive studies and reviews on the series have been published by diverse scholars and pundits over the years. At least two full-length books have been published on the “Tebogo Mystery series,” including Petro Schonfeld’s Tebogo on the Prowl (2006), and Charmaine Kolwane’s Omoseye Bolaji’s Tebogo Mokoena (2016).

Incidentally, when Bolaji published Tebogo and the Bacchae in 2012, it was believed that this eighth adventure would be the last one, especially as the author was apparently focused on other literary projects.  But last year, to the excitement of aficionados of the series, the author published Tebogo and Uriah Heep (2018). The last word may not have been heard regarding the series.

THE TEBOGO MYSTERY SERIES

  1. Tebogo Investigates (2000).
  2. Tebogo’s Spot of Bother (2001).
  3. Tebogo Fails (2003).
  4. Ask Tebogo (2004).
  5. Tebogo and the Haka (2008).
  6. Tebogo and the Epithalamion (2009).
  7. Tebogo and the Pantophagist (2010).
  8. Tebogo and the Bacchae (2012).
  9. Tebogo and Uriah Heep (2018).

 

Have you read the “Tebogo Mystery series”? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

About Henry Ozogula

Henry Ozogula[3889]

I love books, especially exciting African fiction. I grew up in Osogbo and Lagos (Nigeria). I was lucky to spend a few years in South Africa where I discovered the Tebogo Mystery series, and met the author, Mr Bolaji. His works inspired me, and I have published a book too, a small one, titled:  ‘Omoseye Bolaji, Brief Notes on his Literary Work.’

25 replies

    • Many thanks. We thought so too. I bet Henry (who wrote the essay) will be pleased with your comment. The books are not easily available outside South Africa though and that is a drawback.

      Like

  1. This is very exciting. I read many of the Tebogo books when I was in southern Africa too. I met Mr Bolaji and some important writers that side, like the now-late Mr Qoopane, Mr Pule Lechesa, the literary critic, Ntate Kgang Motheane, and the very impressive lady poet, Charmaine Kolwane. The libraries are so developed and extensive that side. But Mr Omoseye Bolaji, or Malome as many affectionately called him, did wonders for Black Writing yonder. I thought they said he retired?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mr Bolaji is one of the literature giant’s. When you thought that Malome ‘Seye as he affectionately known to his fellow writers and people in his friend zone in South Africa, is no longer writing or taking a break in writing, he always surprises us but publishing well decorated book like one of Tebogo and Uriah Heep published in 2018.

    His books are available at lots of libraries and universities as stated in the article by Mr Henrey Ozogula. Tebogo Mystery Series is one the best series I ever read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Accessibility is an issue if the books are not readily available at local bookstores or online via well known sites like Amazon. Whilst Southern Africa may have developed and functional libraries, the same cannot be said of many other African countries. It’s easier for me to get a copy of Michelle Obama’s Becoming in Nigeria, for instance, than Bolaji’s Tebogo Mystery Series books.

      Like

  3. As a South African writer, I have enjoyed the Tebogo mystery series for many years. I myself have written and published many reviews and critiques of the Tebogo books which have appeared in many books and salient anthologies. It was a masterstroke by Mr Bolaji to create the great series. He used to tell me that he himself never imagined from inception that he would go on to write many more adventures in the series. Okay, Ntate Bolaji has published so many books, but the Tebogo series is beloved on our shores… I remember over the years, the pure glee of many readers as they would announce: “A new Tebogo adventure, a new book is out!”. But for now, let it suffice to say: Well done, Mr Ozogula, this is inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A very fine piece here, and reminds me that I also wrote some reviews of some Tebogo books…the one I am particularly fond of, titled “Folksiness in Tebogo and the epithalamion” came out some ten years ago (when the 6th adventure, Tebogo and the Epithalamion, was published); and I am chuffed that it was published in 2, 3 different books/journals. But this new essay by Ozogula is excellent and up to date.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Tebogo Mystery Series are clearly, well loved by many. It is fitting that Henry did an up-to-date piece on it to introduce it to those who may not have heard about it.

      Like

  5. A good series, but not everything about it is positive. It is good that Mr Ozogula in his review here points out that little is seen about Tebogo’s wife throughout, apart from the third book in the series – Tebogo Fails, when he first meets her. Since then, over the years, it is like Tebogo goes out of his way to avoid her. If she is not said to be studying overseas, she is in another town or whatever far from him. Some have opined that Tebogo – or the author – just does not want to expose his wife, Khanyi to the dangers of his investigations, but it goes far beyond this. In fact, reading the books there is almost nothing to show that Tebogo is a married man, he seems as free as the air in all his adventures, in heady spirits as he meets attractive or intriguing women always. Any woman who reads most of the books will understand what I am saying. I think in creating the series, the author was caught between two stools, if that is the correct expression. In his mind, he wanted a “free”, witty male operative, but after a few adventures he felt that Tebogo should come across as evolving, mature or whatever and have a wife and family. This happens in the 3rd adventure, and this is where the author fails. Subsequently there is nothing to show or convince that he is truly a married man, and the sort of ways he enjoys the company of other women – his wife always conveniently far away – jars. It does not affect the twists and turns of the adventures – all the books can be read swiftly with some pleasure and interest – but you can see there is something wrong. Ozogula claims Tebogo does not cross the line with these other women, but I am not even sure about that. After all, there is a first person narrator (Tebogo) in almost all the books, and can we believe everything “he” tells us? Yes, Tebogo often comes across as – well, not a bad person – but I really don’t know. Poor Khanyi? lol, perhaps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ouch! I noted that bit in Henry’s essay. I guess Bolaji was trying to, as you said, create a “free” yet “responsible” male protagonist. Societal norms have shaped beliefs that being married gives an image of respectability/responsibility.

      Like

  6. I chuckled when I read the rather robust stuff of Mme Lupna here; it reminded me of my own critical comments on Tebogo and Uriah Heep, the latest Tebogo book. However as we are celebrating the series here, perhaps this might not be the ideal platform for such critical material – there are already many other essays, and books containing such criticism. And by the way, I was pleased to see the comment of Ishmael Soqaga here. Soqaga, now a highly respected African critic and author, is one of the writers directly influenced by, and initially mentored by Mr Bolaji in his career. Mr Soqaga is the author of powerful books like, Promoting Quintessential African Writing; and, Glimpses into African Literature (2015).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well to say the books are interesting will be an understatement, they are spellbinding, intriguing with a lot of twists and turn s. Bolaji deserves a pat on the back for a job well-done. The series is one of its kind in Africa. I have to say it’s not easy to put the book down once you have started reading it. As a writer South African writer myself i would say that book inspired me a lot. To the man we affectionately call Malome here in South Africa, I would say Kudo! The Great Man, we have been honoured to have such a great writer gracing our shores. I’m waiting with bated breath for another instalment of Tebogo Mystery books

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I just wanted to say THANK YOU to this wonderful blog plus of course those who have appreciated my small effort here in trying to introduce the Tebogo series; not really only those who have contributed comments here, as I know as a fact that most of those one might have expected to comment here have not done so, including those who have put together full length works/books on Mr Bolaji’s writings. But I appreciate the fact that via private correspondence many have indicated their interest in my essay here. Nevertheless, I can mention those whose names actually appear here: critics Mokoena and Lothane, splendid gentlemen, always wanting to be in the background, with countless essays written on writers and their books; eg I remember Mokoena had essays published in the Nigerian journal, EBEDI Review. So also, incidentally, did Mr Tiisetso Thiba who has also commented here, a man who writes excellent poems and stories, not only in English, but in his indigenous South African language, Sesotho. Mr Ishmael Soqaga, as Mokoena has pointed out here, is such a powerful essayist, critic, and Pan-Africanist, so passionate about authentic African Writing. Women, black and white, have actually published more essays and books on Bolaji’s writings over the years, and I am very impressed with Mme Lupna’s comments here; even if she is somewhat critical, she is an intelligent, INFORMED “critic”, which is what African writing needs. Too often, we are just “praise singers” or “destroyers” in respect of our literature, without even bothering to read the works we are praising or putting down! Hmm, I almost forgot to mention Monsieur Leke Giwa, who has a small blog on books too – if it is still active! Anyway, the most important thing is to realize and appreciate that we Africans, despite daunting odds, continue to contribute to the world of literature regularly. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The last conversation i had with Malome *Laughs, he told me he was finished and I never thought i would see another series of Tebogo, always catchy titles, intriguing and very consistent, Kudos to Ntate Bolaji and congrats to Mr Ozogula for a well written essay.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is a beautiful site for literature- and I have aesthetics in mind now. But go through the blog itself and you can see the two ladies behind it really know their onions. But how did I get to know about this blog – it was indirect to say the least. Recently, my mind, after many years went to Kalu Okpi, who used to write thrilling novels, Pacesetter stuff. In my ignorance, I was thinking Okpi must be quite an old man now, but was told by another guy who knows books, that “I hear that Okpi is dead”. I decided to check the internet, Google, which even as I write now, gives the impression that Kalu Okpi is still alive by giving his birth date, and telling us he is 72 years old. Confused, I then wrote, ‘Kalu Okpi dead deceased’ on Google – and my eyes went to an article on this blog, on the Pacesetter series of the past, with a definitive statement that writer Okpi died since over 20 years ago!! (The article is written by Uzoatu). I was saddened that such a bright lively author was in fact dead, but consoled myself that I was now discovering a lovely blog on Nigerian books, and writers. I would later go through many of the postings there, and was pleasantly surprised to see that Nigerians are still writing and publishing a lot, it is just that, unlike the past, relatively very few people now buy, read, or are even aware of books; sadly the whole process has become quite elitist now, with books now so costly. Just ask yourself eg how many young, or younger Nigerians now can mention, never mind, read the titles of more than 5 books written by Chinua Achebe, or Wole Soyinka? (these are our most famous authors, and Soyinka has published at least 50 books!) Even Kalu Okpi that indirectly led me to this blog, can any latter day reader mention just a few of his 15 or so books? I do not want it to sound like an anti-climax, I also saw the mention of the Tebogo series, this particular essay here, and I remembered seeing two of the Tebogo books – with friends – over the years. That was when I stayed in Ibadan. Now, I read here that there are almost ten books in the series – another proof of one’s general ignorance in respect of literature these days. But the good thing is that at least the magical internet is there now for one to do research on such things – even if one can no longer stock our personal libraries with many physical books like in the good old days…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is great to hear that you discovered our blog by chance or shall we say that Okpi led you here?
      Many of the concerns you raised concerning Nigerian literature and readership led us to start this blog.
      Thanks for the praise and for checking us out.

      Like

  11. So many interesting comments here! Well, aside from this series, it is the author’s versatility that has impressed me most over the years. Apart from many books of fiction, he also has books of poetry, biographies, drama, criticism, sports, column, and others published. His book celebrating a friend of his (now deceased) titled KUNLE APANTAKU is a treasured small masterpiece. My own favourite among his books though is, It Couldn’t Matter Less – part essays, part autobiography. It’s good to see Bolaji’s work somewhat celebrated here.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m a New Zealander now living in the Philippines.
    I was invited to read this review by Mr Omoseye Bolaji himself.
    We met on the Goodreads site and he introduced me to African writers and their books. “Tebogo and the Haka” intrigued me as the Haka is a war chant from NZ that is now mostly seen at international rugby football matches.

    Unfortunately Amazon has no listing of Mr Omoseye Bolaji or Tebogo. . .
    But I’m sure that one day I will be able to read his stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow… nice to hear that Bolaji read the post and directed you here. Yes, accessibility of the books is an issue. Hopefully, that is looked into with so many expressing interest.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s