In which our intrepid hero goes book hunting.

David Conyers’ responses to my concerns at the wait for Secrets of Kenya got me thinking.

When I run a Call of Cthulhu campaign, I like to have a bit of historical info on hand to throw into the mix. I love to drop background hints in-game, and have my players spin out when they pick them up. Often, they’ll congratulate me on my ingenuity, and then I’ll tell them: “No, that bit actually did happen in real life.” And then they’re even more spun out by it. It’s kinda like what Tim Powers or Kenneth Hite do (albeit not as freakin’ cool).

History’s not a boring subject, particularly if you present it in the right way, and doing this also has benefits for me beyond the game. If I can encourage friends and players by example to dig up interesting—or, even better, bizarre—historical anecdotes, then I’m assured of high signal-to-noise conversation for months to come.

I’m on Borders’ email list; yesterday was payday, and I had a voucher that gave me 40% off any one full-priced book. I wandered over to Borders after work and—not having much time—went straight to the history section to find a purchase. As I scoured the stacks, it struck me that I really didn’t know much about sub-Saharan African history at all.

Although it took some time to find it, they do have an African History section. That was the good news. The bad news was, apparently, that nothing had happened there between Lucy and Leopold II.

This struck me as odd. Then I thought back to the soundtrack that I’d been trying to put together for Call of Cthulhu. I had north African music. Bucketloads of west African music. And, well, two or three compilations with the occasional mbube or South African reggae track. But nothing, really, that would’ve been suitable for a 1920’s Cthulhu campaign set around Kenya.

Maybe people in that area of the world dont’ do anything memorable, or make music. Maybe I’d dreamt up Great Zimbabwe and Shaka Zulu and Livingstone and the Lemba, and was much more creative than I thought. Maybe everyone just sat around, scratching their balls—for three million years. I shudder to think how much that would chafe.

Still, I refuse to believe that. Next pay, I think I’ll try Abbey’s. It’s paid off in the past; I’ll just have to hope I have enough cash on me to get what I need.

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