Derrick Asseto

6 African detectives who need their day on the silver screen

Detectives rocking the pages of some of the best African writing today who need their day on the silver screen.

So a few weeks ago I did a post about the need for more African novels that need to be made into movies. It was a fun post for me and I was just sharing my love of the written word with my fellow lovers of books. People shared it around, thanks guys, many saying that I missed out too many books that could have made the cut as possible blockbusters. With this in mind, I decided to do a four part series on what could possibly be with moving from the African literary game and getting successful in screen. Here is the first of these. I want to say thank you to Renee Edwige Dro who helped with some well-known detectives in Francophone African literature.

When crime strikes who you gonna call? The police of course. They are the people who are at the forefront of this law breaking part of society so you know that they are likely to call them. The writing that covers crime while being called “genre fiction” is hugely popular selling many times even more than literary fiction which is usually very highbrow. As explained by Angela Makholwa when she featured at the Soweto Library earlier in the year, we love the books in crime fiction we can read about these horrible criminal types and then close the book with no ill effects.

If movies featuring detectives have been known to be so profitable for Hollywood producers, then perhaps film makers on the continent and further afield can consider doing movies about detectives written by African writers. Here are some of our suggestions to guaranteed winners in this space.

  • Detective Ishmael Fofona and Policeman David Odhiambo
Derrick Asseto
Derrick Assetto

We were introduced to African American policeman Ishmael Fofona in Nairobi Heat the debut novel by Mukoma Wa Ngugi. In that novel Fofona is cop a investigating the death of a blonde white girl in Bluff, Maple Madison, USA who has to follow the trail to Nairobi where he meets David Odhiambo aka “O”. You can read our review here. The book is basically a Michael Bay wet dream with gun battles, car chases, beautiful girls and more. This was followed by the second book featuring the same characters called Killing Sahara that you can read the review here.

Who should act in the roles of the two lead characters?  For Fofona the obvious choice would be Ving Rhames who has the bulk that we think the character possesses. However this blog is very pro people born Africa so we go have to do go with casting Derrick Assetto who emerged with Survivor Africa and has acted in many roles the most recent being on Sense 8. Playing the role of O would have to be Nollywood star Jim Iyke who was promised a role in a movie based on Kenya’s bestselling crime novel that didn’t quite pan out. It’s the least we can do to appease his gods.

  • Voinjama “Vee”Johnson and assistant Chloe
Danai Gurira
Danai Gurira

It’s not policemen who solve crimes in life and in books and this is best shown by the character called Voinjama “Vee”Johnson who was introduced to us by HJ Golakai. She is an investigative reporter who works for the Urban Magazine and is forced to help solve a murder with her assistant Chloe. You can read our review of the book here. She followed with another standalone novel with the same characters this year called The Score. Who would play these roles of the two people in the movie about them?

The first name that comes to mind for role of Voinjama has to be Zimbabwe born actress Danai Gurira who made her name in The Walking Dead while in the supporting role of Chloe would be South African actress Shashi Naidoo.

  • Forensic pathologist Kwadwo aka Kayo
Chris Attoh
Chris Attoh

Kwadwo is a forensic pathologist who was trained in the UK and had relocated back home and is working with cops to solve a crime in a rural town in Ghana. He is the main character of Tail of the blue bird the debut novel of Ghanaian poet and writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes. The character goes through the three most written about African spaces; urban Africa, rural Africa and the African immigrant abroad. Who should act as the main character in the movie from the book? No brainer here. Chris Attoh who came to our attention with Tinsel but has been doing a lot more work Happiness is a Four Letter Word comes to mind.

  • Police Detective Inspector Mollel
Barkhad Abdi
Barkhad Abdi

We are all introduced to Police Detective Inspector Mollel in Richard Crompton debut novel Hour of The Red God (our review) and its follow up Hell’s Gate. He is a man whose job is to find the person who killed a young prostitute in Nairobi a few days before Kenya went crazy with its elections in 2007. Who should act as the character? We see this role being executed quite well by Barkhad Abdi who burst onto the scene with his role on the Tom Hanks starred movie Captain Phillips.

  • Zinzi December
Moshidi Motshegwa
Moshidi Motshegwa

Zinzi December, is a former journalist and recovering drug addict who was “animalled” to a sloth after getting her brother killed. She was brought to us in Lauren Beukes award winning novel Zoo City. This strange but very wonderful book focuses on Zinzi’s attempts to find the missing female member of a brother-and-sister pop duo for a music producer, in return for the money she needs to fully repay her dealer. Who should act in this role? Moshidi Motshegwa who has acted in many TV shows most famously as crazy Naomi in Rhythm City on ETV seems like just what the doctor ordered for this role.

  • Commissioner Habib and his faithful assistant Sosso
Djimon Honsou
Djimon Honsou

In L’assassin de Banconi (The Assassin of Banconi) and L’honneur des Kéita (The Honour of the Kéitas) we are introduced to Commissioner Habib and his faithful assistant Sosso. They have to solve crimes like that of assassin killing people in Banconi in the first one and the murder of a marabout who ship our two hounds deep in the Malian bush.

Who are the actors in the title roles? Well this director would cast Djimon Hounsou who came through in Amistad and has been in many Hollywood movies since as the old commissioner and Amadou Ly the Senegalese actor most famous for his role in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012).






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