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Interview: Tony Park talks about Captive


Captive by Tony Park, the author of Red Earth and The Cull, is an action-packed thriller that will engross fans of Clive Cussler, Scott Mariani and Andy McDermott. As a soldier turned wildlife veterinarian, Dr Graham Baird is no stranger to the dangers of the African bush. Tony Park talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about Captive.

Captive is the story of a drunken South African wildlife veterinarian and a wide-eyed volunteer who are drawn into a war with a notorious Mozambican rhino poacher. The book also looks at the sometimes conflict-riven world of charities involved in animal conservation in Africa. These well meaning organisations are often at loggerheads over how best to protect wildlife and in competition for a shrinking charity dollar.


What inspired you to write this book?

A few years ago I wrote a biography, Bush Vet, published in South Africa, about a real life wildlife veterinarian who got into a gun battle with poachers. I’ve since met a few other wildlife veterinarians - these people are the unsung heroes of the war on poaching, fighting against the odds to protect endangered species.


What research was involved?

I spoke to a couple of veterinarians and, as with my fourteen previous African thrillers, I wrote the book 'on location' while travelling through southern Africa. I spoke with several people involved in wildlife charities and learned that sometimes egos play as much a part in fund raising and charity work as good intentions.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I live six months of the year in Africa so a typical day involves going for a drive in the bush in early morning, spotting Africa’s big five (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant) near my house in South Africa and drawing partly on the landscapes and wildlife I’ve seen for may daily writing quota. After my drive (or a walk in the bush dodging zebras and giraffe), I sit down and write 2000 words. I do this six days a week.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

‘Born Free’, by Matt Monroe, title track of the movie of the same name; The Lion Sleeps Tonight.


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

No offence, Russel Crowe, but in the shape you were in last time I saw you on TV you would fit the bill nicely as my hard bitten, older, hard-living cynnical wildlife veteran. My female lead, the rather naive volunteer, is half Australian-half Vietnamese, so perhaps Lucy Liu.


What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

I got to meet a great guy, wildlife veterinarian Hamish Currie, who heads a charity called Back to Africa. One of his projects was bringing the last remaining members of the northern white rhino species back to Africa from a zoo in the Czech Republic where they had lived for decades in the snow. The last male from this group, Sudan, recently passed away from old age (he was 45, or 90 in human years), and I think it’s lovely that Sudan, who had spent most of his life in the snow and cold in Europe, saw out his days on Kenya’s golden grassy plains in the sun.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Had a beer, then started work on my sixteenth novel.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

BIll Bryson’s Little Dribbling. I love reading thrillers, but when I dip into a bit of non-fiction I like to be entertained as well as informed. Little Dribbling is Bryson’s sequel to his earlier book, Notes from a Small Island, his observations of his adopted homeland, Great Britain. This book is 20 years later and Bryson has become the quintessential hilarious grumpy old man.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’d editing my sixteenth thriller, Scent of Fear, due out in December 2018 and I’m just heading back to Africa, to Namibia, to finish writing my 17th novel.

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