Excerpt from The King's Rifle by Biyi Bandele, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The King's Rifle

A Novel

By Biyi Bandele

The King's Rifle

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

"Are you leaving the hotel?" Tayib asked.

"No," said Wingate. "What makes you think that?"

"I just wondered, sir ... you said goodbye."

"I'm always saying goodbye, Tayib. I'm a soldier. It's an occupational reflex. I'm going to take a nap now. Please see to it that I'm not disturbed."

"Of course, sir. Have a nice nap, sir."

For a long while after he returned the phone to its cradle Wingate sat motionless on the bed. He picked up the thermometer and returned it to its pouch. Then he lifted the rucksack and carefully emptied its contents, including the thermometer he'd just placed into it, on the floor. He searched through the pile on the floor, searched every pocket sewn into the rucksack.

He was looking for his service pistol which he had in fact left behind in Addis Ababa in the haste and suddenness of his departure from Ethiopia.

He searched every corner of the room; under the bed, beneath the mattress, through drawers and wardrobe; he searched everywhere. But the pistol which he was convinced he'd seen and cleaned only a few days ago was nowhere to be found. He'd heard of a thriving black market in small arms and weapons in the City of the Dead – an ancient and sprawling graveyard, known also as the Cemetery of the Living, which housed not only dead Cairenes but hundreds of thousands of the destitute who lived in and amongst its monuments and burial chambers. He wondered if one of the cleaners had come upon the pistol and stolen it to boost the pittance of a take-home pay they received for the gruelling work they did and the long hours they were required to put in. But it didn't make sense that someone would steal a pistol and yet leave untouched all the cash he routinely left lying around the place.

He picked up the phone and began to dial the operator. Perhaps Tayib could help him come to the bottom of this little mystery of the missing pistol. The operator came on and Wingate began to ask to be put through to the front desk. Then he changed his mind.

As he put the phone down, Wingate's eyes fell on a hunting knife he'd picked up a year earlier in a market in Khartoum. He'd long given it up for lost, but it had lain all this time where he had thrown it on the day he bought it: in the rucksack whose contents now lay on the floor before him. He picked up the knife and went into the bathroom. He reached into his shaving bag and pulled out a tube of strop paste, squeezed a pinch into the palm of his hand and carefully worked it into the leather front of the strop hanging by the mirror. After he had thoroughly stropped the knife, he stood by the mirror, raising his chin so he could see the whole of his neck. He rubbed his fingers through his beard, as if he was about to shave it off.

Then, with all the strength he could summon, he plunged the knife into his neck. It sliced through flesh and tendon. As he proceeded to slaughter himself, with blood gushing out, he suddenly remembered the door. The door. He turned round, and with the knife firmly stuck to his windpipe, and parts of his brain beginning to die for lack of oxygen, Wingate went out of the bathroom. He reached the door and turned the key in the lock.

Satisfied, he headed back into the bathroom to finish what he had started. Standing in front of the mirror, he pulled out the knife, passed it to his other hand, and slashed at his jugular vein from another angle. Blood spurted out smearing the mirror. Wingate began to choke.

Excerpted from The King's Rifle by Biyi Bandele Copyright © 2009 by Biyi Bandele. Excerpted by permission of Amistad Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...
  • Book Jacket: Toms River
    Toms River
    by Dan Fagin
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

    In Toms River, investigative journalist Dan Fagin ...
  • Book Jacket: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    by Gabrielle Zevin
    I feel like Gabrielle Zevin wrote this wonderful book, about a lonely New England bookstore owner ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.