Neil Gaiman, author of the new book Anansi Boys, discusses the appeal of trickster gods, writing a novel where the default skin color is black, and the triumph of smarts over strength.
Gaiman says he was taken with the clever Anansi of West African folklore, and used it as the springboard for his novel Anansi Boys. "You begin with the folk tale, and then you start thinking, 'What does that mean? What does that mean for the rest of the world?' "he says. "The thing that made me happy is that really represents the point where people stop trying to hit their way out of trouble and start trying to think their way out of trouble."
The novel is the story of Fat Charlie Nancy, a hapless Londoner of Caribbean descent who comes to find out that the dad he always resented was actually a god.
Gaiman says he got the idea for Anansi Boys when his friend, British comedian Lenny Henry, grumbled to him that that there are no horror or fantasy movies with black leads and black casts. Gaiman says he told Henry, "Well, I'll write you one."
"In my head, as I was writing Ananci Boys, I had Lenny and Lenny's voice somewhere in the background." Gaiman says he especially loves it that Henry is the reader for the audio book: "I say to people that it's probably my preferred version of the text."