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'Last Resort' author Douglas Rogers: Family farming, inventive cookery, and... prostitution

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Douglas-Rogers_l-1In April 2000, travel writer and Zimbabwean ex-pat Douglas Rogers was attending a party in Berlin when he discovered that a white farmer had been murdered in his homeland. Under the regime of President Mugabe the country had become an increasingly unstable and dangerous place and Rogers was concerned about the safety of his parents, who ran a game farm and backpacker lodge in Zimbabwe. He immediately called them. It turned out Rogers’ mother was also very worried—about a cricket game she was watching on TV. “I remember that happening and not actually thinking it was that funny,” recalls the New York-based Rogers. “I expected it in a way. And then a friend said, ‘They’re watching cricket?’ And that was the beginning of the realization: ‘It is pretty bizarre what they’re going through.’”

Rogers came to the, ironic, conclusion that the boring farm life he fled as soon as possible had become a story more fascinating than any he had reported on in his travels around the world. Nine years later, Harmony Books has just published the writer’s account of his parents’ struggles to keep their home in a country where white farmers are routinely evicted from their land. The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe details how pillars-of-the-community-types Lyn and Ros Rogers allowed their lodge, Drifters, to be turned into a brothel and how, for a spell, the writer’s father even experimented with growing a crop of marijuana. “I don’t think he ever managed to sell it,” laughs Rogers. “But I’ve actually got a photograph of my father in his plantation!” And how many people can claim that?

The writer admits to fears that The Last Resort may actually put his parents, who still live on the farm, in further danger. But he says that they are fully supportive of its publication. “I think my parents came to a political decision, which was ‘F— this, we’re making a stand,’” he says. “They saw other people around them, mostly black Zimbabweans, risking their lives to take some sort of political stand and that’s why they’re happy for me to write about it.” Rogers is made of less fearless stuff, and only visited his parents during spells of comparative political calm. “During the election last year, this friend of mine who writes serious non-fiction books about South Africa said, ‘I think you really need to be there,’” he recalls. “I just burst out laughing and said, ‘No f—ing way.’”

Rogers reveals that his parents also hope to publish a book related to their experiences—a tome of recipes for people living in disaster zones or otherwise dangerous areas where even the most basic foodstuffs are hard to come by. “They have this recipe for an amazing Thai curry,” says Rogers. “But the recipe is basically about how they have to travel a thousand miles to two other countries to get the ingredients.”