An African Literary staple from the 1970s-1990s, the Pacesetter Novels series made an indelible mark on African Literature, providing a lens through which the Citizens of newly Independent African States could express their future aspirations, as well as examine the joys and contradictions of Post-Colonial urban life.
From this perspective, Pace-Setter Novels, can be viewed as amongst the first works of African Futurism written by Africans.
Comprising a collection of over 100 works of popular fiction written by African authors, Pacesetter novels did not aspire to any great literary pretensions instead addressing the private dramas and traumas of ordinary urban Africans in their quest to climb the Post-Colonial Social Ladder.
As a result, the Pacesetter Novels spanned a wide array of topics like betrayal, lust, corruption, ambition, espionage and Science Fiction.
In this way, Pacesetter Novels were a mirror of the new reality faced by Africans, what they hoped to achieve in the future, and how it could be reconciled with the traditional past.
In addition, the cover designs of Pacesetter Novels are now recognised as classics in contemporary African Pop Art.
In hindsight, Pacesetter Novels represented a unique golden era in African publishing. The books had a large audience across the entire African Continent, helping to introduce new Authors and exposing us to everyday life in other African countries.
Plus for some African writers, Pacesetters gave them their first opportunity in writing.
Sadly, in the 90s as African Governments imposed austerity measures in the form of Structural Adjustment Programmes, local currencies crashed and the books became less profitable to publish and distribute.
In time, less new Pacesetter Novel titles were Published and an entire reading and writing culture soon vanished.
Ultimately, Pacesetter Novels were an exercise in the exploration of Post-Colonial African identity. They portrayed independent Africans in various situations across the Continent as ambitious and highly aspirational.
For old times sake, here is my personal Top 5 List of Pacesetter Novels:
The Instrument – Victor Thorpe
Evbu My Love – Helen Ovbiagele
Felicia – Rosina Umelo
Christmas In The City – Afari Assan
Cross-Fire – Kalu Okpi
Enjoy the gallery of Classic Pacesetter Novel Covers and reminisce on the good old days!