The third book in the Mbuno & Pero series pulls terror from headlines to create a gripping international thriller for readers of John le Carré, Daniel Silva, and Iris Johansen.
Expert safari guide Mbuno and wildlife television producer Pero Baltazar are filming on Lake Rudolf in Northern Kenya, East Africa, when they receive news that Mbuno’s son, himself an expert guide, has been kidnapped while on a safari five hundred miles away in Tanzania. After gathering the clues and resources needed to trek through the wilderness, they trace the kidnappers back to an illegal logging operation clear-cutting national park forests, manned by sinister Boko Haram mercenaries. There, they find not only Mbuno’s son but also a shocking revelation that has terrifying and far-reaching consequences.
Relying on Mbuno’s legendary bush skills, the pair must overcome the danger both from inside and outside the camp to bring Mbuno’s son out alive. In doing so, Mbuno and Pero discover that kidnapping and deforestation are only the beginning of the terrorist group’s aspirations, and they realize a threat that would herald an even more dangerous outcome for Tanzania—a coup. A rescue might just risk the entire stability of the region.
Exciting and expertly plotted using facts ripped from news’ headlines, Kidnapped on Safari is a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller set in deepest, darkest, Machiavellian, East Africa.
Interview with Peter Riva,
Author of Kidnapped on Safari: A Thriller
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
As an adult? No. However, as a child I was always writing and making up stories based on real events, machines, animals. My mother, of course, loved these, as did my much younger brothers. Then school took that hedonistic pleasure away. It was only in later years, post-40, that I found that pleasure of writing for fun again. It’s a slightly guilty feeling to allow myself the pleasure…
Have you ever written a screenplay?
Yes, at UCLA film school 1969-70. Those years were interrupted by the anti-military riots and it went nowhere. I did critique other young TV/filmmakers—like Steven Spielberg (at USC- he used to come to see original films at UCLA)—with my opinion of films and their perspective. My advice to Steven was useless. He always had a steel-trap memory, remembered every credit of every film he had seen. Steven, who worked with my brother Michael, is a storyteller at heart. We have that in common.
How did you become a literary agent?
As a gopher on Monty Python’s Flying Circus for BBC TV—and I mean a gopher, I had, for example, to fetch two ladies of the night willing to dress as nuns for the penguin tennis sketch… and bare their chests (BBC 2 allowed that, it was aired, but never in video). When the TV season was over they asked my help in getting a book published. My father was a toy agent and he was able to steer me in the right direction. Things went on from there…
How did you develop a love for wildlife in Africa?
I first went to Africa age 16 and then returned –this time to East Africa with a client Peter Beard. There I met some wonderful people, real people, people of the land and adventure, who showed me their connection with nature. Three times I walked solo across the Maasai plain to the Ngong Hills and back, eight miles each way. Lions let me pass, hyenas paid me no heed. I walked through herds of gazelles. There I also met Mbuno who, as you can see in my stories, had a profound impact on me. The stories of his exploits and those of his father (who guided Teddy Roosevelt) are awe inspiring.
What are your favorite animals?
Let’s start with those I hold in my heart… a succession of wonderful companions since I was 18, dogs, currently Lil Lady and Tay, both Golden Retrievers. Except for those dog friends who I consider much like family members (I do not own them, we share life), I have always admired, studied, and been fascinated by animals. I had a farm back east with a rescued pulling horse, Big Jim, 1500 pounds of muscle, along with cows, ducks, chickens and wonderful goats. Where I live now on a ranch in NM we have Pinzgauer cattle that I hand feed when they turn up early morning.
How did your writing process develop? Or has it always been the same?
I am afraid as a writer I binge. In work I read 100k to 150k words a week, write maybe 10k words at least. I have written for the past 20+ years a weekly op-ed piece, 800 words, for the Millerton News and often the Lakeville Journal. It all adds up. But writing a story? I sit down, pluck events I know about out of the thin air, write them down and let the characters construct events. Sometimes that means I’m still typing at 3am… sometimes I need to stop and mull it over for a day or more.
Do you always write what you know? And if not, would you write something outside your direct knowledge base?
Yes, I rely on what I know, have studied, learned about or—and this is the fun part—connect the dots on. Take two separate events, especially when everyone assumes that there is one event and that’s final—and there is another event and that too is final, self-contained. If you then find the link between them, if you can find that thread that mysteriously (plot twist) connects them, then you have great fun allowing the threads to be woven into a good story. If I reach a point where my personal knowledge fails me, I have resources, people I can talk to of course. Quite often that gap not found on Google until you get to the 20th or more page down. I often prefer my 1956 Encyclopedia Britannica. Research is never frustrating, it is always illuminating.
Write something outside my direct knowledge base? Yes, sure, insofar as data and facts are concerned. That’s fun. My SciFi stories fit that bill, tons of learning (all fun). Write something outside of my personal emotions and experiences as a character or those of characters I have known? Not sure I can make up a human out of whole cloth. Can anyone?
I believe storytelling originates out of some kind of appreciation. What do you appreciate about Mbuno?
Mbuno embodies—both the real man and the character I write which is an amalgam of Mbuno, his father and stories of pre-colonial East Africa—that which is most honorable, most deliberate, least constrained by false values levied in modern society. I’m not talking about PC here, but let’s take an example. The real Mbuno was asked to help the British powers during the Mau Mau revolution. This was a terrorist faction of the Kikuyu tribe, set on upending British rule. Mbuno didn’t care who wanted to rule the country. Like ownership of land which he believed to be nonsense—“Only the gods own the land they created.”—ruling a country didn’t interest him. However, Mbuno could not stand by and watch Mau Mau butchers hacking up women and children in the dead of night. He had no hesitation in tracking those killers down. Nothing to do with sides, just moral right from wrong, nothing PC about his thinking.
What do appreciate most about the setting in your book?
It is so hard to convey the true majesty of real nature. I live in New Mexico, abutting the Gila Wilderness, 3.5 million acres set aside as wilderness. To be here, to inhale unspoiled air, revel in the scenery, watch the wild animals (bears, coyote, fox, javelina, snakes, and 1/3 of all the bird species in N. America come through here)—it’s like a meal for the senses. The difference between here and East Africa’s wild places? On foot, almost nothing, but Africa has that primordial connection to a part of your brain that you cannot escape. The senses can be overwhelmed with the beauty and majesty. In a zebra-painted tourist minivan, your TV is better.
Is everything in Kidnapped on Safari real?
Oh, of course, real yes and actual fact? No. Times, events, places are moved about. A similar coup in Tanzania was a real possibility until it was stopped in the ‘70s. Boko Haram kidnapped girls (news events). Transporting the girls to Tanzania as a means to effect the coup? My imagination and that connection thread no one expects. The trains, the places, the parks, the animals, all real, researched or experienced first-hand. Mbuno’s ability to communicate with elephant? As told by him true and, in his old age (approaching 80 when I knew him), no longer fully possible—but the prowess of his father to do so—taught to him—always astounded me and even him. He used to explain, “You need the beat of the land, of nature. Without that, they will not listen.” Mbuno was the real deal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Peter Riva is the author of Kidnapped on Safari. He has spent many months over thirty years traveling throughout Africa and Europe. Much of this time was spent with the legendary guides for East African hunters and adventurers. He created a TV series in 1995 called Wild Things for Paramount. Passing on the fables, true tales, and insider knowledge of these last reserves of true wildlife is his passion. Nonetheless, his job for over forty years has been working as a literary agent. In his spare time, Riva writes science fiction and African adventure books, including the previous two titles in the Mbuno and Pero Adventures series, Murder on Safari and The Berlin Package. He lives in Gila, New Mexico. For more information, please visit https://peterriva.com