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Book review: Three Foot Tiger, by Ernesto Garcia Marques

Three Foot Tiger is a roller-coaster ride with Derek Davey through his life and many adventures with sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. It starts with Derek’s childhood in Zimbabwe; his parents emigrate to South Africa and they end up in Somerset West. The journey continues on to Grahamstown, where Derek does his compulsory two years in the army and then studies at Rhodes University, where the bands Vader Jakob and Manhole form and perform. From there he moves to Joburg, where the guys from Manhole form Live Jimi Presley (the ‘Live’ part of the name was Derek’s idea). LJP were one of the most dynamic live bands to ever play in South Africa and I was fortunate enough to see them a few times.

The book is a riveting read and so well-written as Derek is a subeditor, and it shows. All the jols, parties, gigs, sex and substance abuse are written in a humorous and entertaining way that draws one in. So many experiences sound all too familiar if you have participated in this decadent lifestyle — you may even recognize yourself — hell, you may even have been there!

The book also covers Derek’s other bands from Nirvana, the South African band I never knew about, to Sparky’s Magic Piano, Cane Rose Up, Chapungu, Achimota, Them Particles (with Dax Butler) and Dub Loons, Derek’s current band. The action takes place mainly in Joburg, but there are sojourns to Pretoria, Durban, Swaziland, Botswana and more. Derek’s short vacation to India is a revelation; the way he describes the place makes one want to go there. The book comes to a close with a list of bands and band material, with links to the Live Jimi Presley documentary and CD, and I recommend both of these highly.

This book reminds me of the Hunter S Thompson “Gonzo journalism” style of writing, with Derek as the main character. It could serve as therapy for those who suffer from substance abuse, especially as Derek is not afraid to talk of his shortcomings and mishaps, and what he learned from them.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is so good … it leaves one breathless.

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Ernesto Garcia Marques, 20/01/2022

Ernesto is the author of Jive Talking and Eyeballing, and Brushstrokes, excellent Facebook groups that review mostly South African performers and artists. A former compositor for Pretoria News and a litho-stripper for Cape Argus, he now lives in Hout Bay, where he walks with his huskies and runs the occasional mini-marathon.