The Eastern Cape has few cities and large swathes of rural farmland and scrubby bush. For some reason, the area seems to draw eccentrics into it, or breed eccentricity into the locals. In these sun-baked hills and pineapple farm valleys, and in the quaint sleepy towns dotted around the map, lie stories of passion, intrigue, revenge, crime – and fish. Definitely fish. Marion Baxter, who spent her last two decades of life living in the Eastern Cape in and around eccentricity-central, Grahamstown, saw a new story at every turn. Almost everyone who came into Baxter’s life also entered her stories as characters – often to their horror – for hers was a sardonic and often cutting tone of pen. Weaved into this collection of sometimes dark, sometimes witty stories – very much tied to a particular time and place – are Baxter’s love of philosophy, cemeteries, Tarot,
folk tales and the wild. Passing away in 2002 she left behind her two sons, her devoted dog Tara, a decidedly un-roadworthy blue Peugeot and a stack of neatly filed manuscripts in her tiny corner office at Rhodes University – this collection was on top. Born in England, Marion Baxter (ne Jessop) grew up with her two brothers and two sisters on the copper mines in Zambia. She later lived in Zimbabwe, followed by South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Eastern Cape in succession. Woven through her 57 years were the upheavals of the colonial era, the post-colonial era, apartheid and, finally, post-apartheid democracy. An English teacher by early profession, Marion’s later years saw her take up editorial roles at three Rhodes University institutions in Grahamstown – Andrew Tracey’s International Library of African Music; the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology,
and the Institute for the Study of English in Africa. She completed her Master’s Degree while at Rhodes on the use of music, song and dance in West African literature. A prolific writer, Marion’s poems and short stories featured in New Contrast, Cosmopolitan and herStoriA. In 1992 she won the Sanlam Literary Award for The Worm Turns, a Conradian adventure into the dark heart of Africa in search of indigenous music. The Aloes of Salem, about the suicide pact of two elderly sisters on a drought-stricken Eastern Cape farm, won 2nd prize in the Cosmo/IGI Life Vita Awards in 1993. In 1994 Baxter was awarded 1st prize in the Cosmo/FNB Vita Awards, for Wish you were here.