IN THIS PARTLY fictionalised biography Owen Sheers, a young Welsh poet, investigates the life of his ancestor Arthur Cripps, who set out to bring the Word of God to the black heathens of colonial Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, at the beginning of last century. It's an interesting tale well told, but I couldn't help remembering when I 6rst came to it that the reputation of missionaries hm Mica's colonial era is little better than those of the merchants and administrators. Crucifix, shovel and flag - they all played their part in sending Mica to hell in a hand basket.
Sheers sets out to discover why Cripps, a poet himself, headed for Africa in the first place. We learn that he was inspired by Olive Schreiner's story Trooper Peter Halket, in which a soldier kills an African, is horrified by what he's done and then sees in the body of