Book review: Fifteen Years of Tobacco

As an avid reader, I often try to find books related to tobacco or pipes in some way, even if very tenuously. Sometimes I am surprised by the book even if it turns out to not be about the subject at all. Such was the case with Fifteen Years of Tobacco by Richard Black, a free Smashwords book that I got for my Barnes & Noble Nook Color. After reading the first paragraph, in which was the line, “Alcohol is the Devil’s blood and tobacco his breath,” I was ready for a book related to tobacco. Turns out it’s more applicable to the modern human condition, as it is about, Jamal Awiya, a young African photojournalist whose drinking problem causes him to lose his job as tour guide at a nature reserve in the fictional nation of Barudi (no, not Burundi), forcing him out into a larger world, including the city’s capital, Mungo, where he learns a few things about life. I kept reading because it is a decent story and, unlike many self-published books, doesn’t have many typos or grammatical errors.

This short, interesting read lightly touches on government autocracy, radical Islam, African and European geopolitics, biased Media, the IMF, and the struggles of every man- which are often exactly the same as ours, even if the other lives a life completely foreign to our own. After losing his job to alcoholism, Jamal runs into Tom Ejiet, whom he had met while guiding the gentleman and his wife on safari. Tom helps Jamal get work at the Presidential Press Office, where he soon learns that politics and corruption are often hard to distinguish between and, indeed, more often than not go hand in hand. Barudi is a contradiction, like a great many African nations. The oldest inhabited continent, incredibly rich in resources, happens to be home to some of the world’s youngest and poorest nations, all struggling for survival in a world where the rest of the world’s interests take priority over those of the native population.

Fifteen Years of Tobacco explores these issues through the eyes of Jamal as he works for the government. He discusses the Greek financial crisis and the meddling of the IMF in world affairs; meddling which has destroyed many nations and lives the world over since that corrupt collection of Rothschild banksters bribed and assassinated its way into existence. Barudi is no different. Once praised by the west for its democratic ideals and resistance to “radical Islam,” violence soon erupts, triggered by the death of a mother and child at the underfunded State Hospital, and egged on by teachings of a liberal university professor, of course. This wreaks havoc on the economy of Barudi, which happens to be the world’s largest producer of tobacco. Planes full of the glorious weed sit on tarmacs, unable to be delivered to the companies which will turn it into the wide variety of luxury products that we smokers know and love. The American government, in reaction to the falling stock market, soon gets involved (when do they not, especially when billions of dollars are at stake?), Jamal’s friend Tom is beaten by angry demonstrators, and Jamal soon finds himself living in a confusing world where the president has absconded to Zimbabwe, American troops are preparing to invade liberate the nation, and Jamal is once again unemployed.

If you like short fiction with a sudden and unresolved ending, by all means read this free Nook book, which can be found at Barnes & Noble, and probably elsewhere if you do an internet search. This book is just long enough to read while enjoying a bowl of your favorite tobacco, and might help you better appreciate your ability to relax with a pipe and a book without worrying about the world burning around you, just the tobacco burning in your bowl.