MOVE OVER, AGATHA: Authors Joyce Joana and Vindante Namukote.

The soaring crime rate on the outskirts of Maputo is a headache for the government, a nightmare for residents but a blessing in disguise to a crop of emerging writers. It was the inspiration behind the release of the first Mozambican crime anthology.

O Hambúrguer que Matou o Jorge, loosely translating to “The Hamburger that Killed Jorge”, is the brainchild of entrepreneurs Jessemusse Cacinda and Alex Macbeth, who recently started Ethale Publishing.

Cacinda says Ethale aims to take Mozambican stories abroad and to produce a new generation of writers in the country.

The process to put the 15 stories together for O Hambúrguer que Matou o Jorge started last year, when Ethale sought applications from all over the country for writers to submit short criminal fiction stories involving local scenarios and characters.

“We received more than 60 short stories during the selection process,” Cacinda said.

“This is the first anthology (in Mozambique) featuring only crime-related stories,” said award-winning local writer Lucilio Manjate.

Poeta Militar’s story was judged the best of the 15 in the anthology.

“I was completely surprised,” Militar said.

It was the first time the poet had written crime fiction.

When Bernardo Mavique’s Piano Played a ‘La’ of Mourning is about the murder of a pianist, set in the popular Avenida Theatre, in the capital, Maputo.

With crime commonplace, especially in the outskirts of Maputo, the writers were never going to run short of content.

Armed robbery, muggings, theft from cars and bribery are among the most prevalent crimes.

“We wanted those stories to be told,” Manjate said.

Another author Helder Manguno, who wrote O Jogo do Vigário (The Game of the Priest) said: “I imagined that many of the stories would be about murders, so I decided to write about deception.”

In the story, a countryboy commits a crime and decides to flee to Maputo.

“When he arrived, he became a victim of fraud,” the writer explained.

However, the fact that only two of the stories were written by women - Joyce Joana and Vindante Namukote - was a concern to the publishers.

“That either shows Mozambican women are still shy to join the market of criminal fiction or that they do not see the importance of it,” Manjate said.

“We just expect Joyce and Vindante to be the Agatha Christies of our generation,” Manjate chuckled.

Christie (1890-1976) was an English crime novelist, short story writer and playwright best known for her 66 detective novels.

Vindante said her participation could encourage other women to write crime fiction.

An English version of the anthology would soon be distributed overseas, with London and New York first in line, Ethale Publishing said. - CAJ News