An Empty Coast

An Empty Coast

An Empty Coast

Sonja Kurtz – former soldier, supposedly retired mercenary – is in Vietnam carrying out a personal revenge mission when her daughter sends a call for help.

Emma, a student archaeologist, on a dig at the edge of Namibia's Etosha National Park has discovered a body dating back to the country's liberation war of the 1980s.

The remains, identified as Hudson Brand, are a key piece of a puzzle that will reveal the location of a modern day buried treasure. A find people will kill for.

Sonja returns to the country of her birth, to find Emma - who since her call has gone missing. Former CIA agent Hudson Brand is very much alive and is also drawn back to Namibia to finally solve a decades-old mystery whose clues are entombed in an empty corner of the desert.

Tony Park grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney and has worked as a journalist in Australia and the UK, a government press secretary, a PR consultant and a freelance writer. He is also a major in the Australian Army Reserve and served six months in Afghanistan in 2002 as the public affairs officer for the Australian ground forces. He and his wife, Nicola, divide their time between Sydney and southern Africa where they own a home on the border of the Kruger National Park. Tony is an impeccable researcher, and writes character-driven thrilling page-turners set in exotic locations and exploring fascinating political, social and natural histories. In the best tradition of storytellers such as David Baldacci and Ken Follett comes Australia's own master, Tony Park.

An Empty Coast
Author: Tony Park
RRP: $29.99

Interview with Tony Park

Question: This is your twelfth novel; how has your writing process changed?

Tony Park: I've learned a lot since my first African novel, Far Horizon, which came out in 2004. I have a great editor and publisher at Pan Macmillan and they have taught me a good deal about writing fiction, but technical aspects aside my writing process hasn't changed.

When I first started writing I read a couple of books on how to write and they said that first you needed a plot - a blueprint for the story you were about to start. That made sense, but when I tried to put that into practice I failed. I found I couldn't think of a beginning, middle or an end of a story and it was very frustrating. Not only was I unable to write this way, I didn't want to. I didn't want to know the ending of the book I was about to start writing any more than I would want to know the ending of a book I was reading. After a couple of failed attempts at writing a novel I decided I would just wing it.

My wife, Nicola, and I had been travelling to Africa every year since 1995 on our annual holidays. We ended up buying an old Land Rover and on our first extended tour of the continent I took along a laptop. One day I sat down in a camp site, outside our tent, and looked around me. I saw an overland touring truck full of young backpackers having the time of their lives on safari. I thought that would make a good premise for a novel - a group of tourists getting in trouble. I had no idea, when I started writing, which the characters would be or what they would get up to, but I just started writing and made it up as I went along. Eventually I ended up with a novel that was published.

Question: What inspired the story of An Empty Coast?

Tony Park: Just as with my first novel it was a random observation that gave me the idea for 'An Empty Coast'. I was travelling in Namibia and learned about the seizure of some precious contraband (I won't say what it was) at Windhoek (the capital of Namibia) airport. That gave me the inspiration for what turned out to be something of a treasure hunt in the wild, empty deserts of Namibia.

Namibia's a starkly beautiful country rich in history and different cultures. It's safe and peaceful today, but it's past has been one of bloody conflict, starting with a bitter colonial war at the beginning of the 20th century, and a war of liberation in the 80's and 90's. These events still influence local politics today and I've weaved them into the story.

Question: Can you tell us about your travels in Namibia while researching An Empty Coast?

Tony Park: My wife, Nicola, and I spent a month in Namibia last year while I was researching and writing An Empty Coast, and a couple of weeks earlier this year while I was finishing off the manuscript. We'd also visited the country several times in the past.

It's a great country to visit, even for a first time safari. The roads are good - even the dirt roads are wide and smooth - and by African standards crime is very low. We visited the giant sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the south and made our way north through Damaraland and Kaokoveld, where much of the book is set, through to the barren Skeleton Coast. It's here that the cold Atlantic meets the searing heat of the Namib Desert. The coast takes its name from the eroded hulls of the many ships which have been racked along the coast and, so legend says, the bones of the victims.

From the coast we travelled to Etosha National Park, Namibia's flagship game reserve, which is teeming with wild animals.

Question: How did your travels inspire the setting for An Empty Coast?

Tony Park: As with my other African novels, I wrote much of 'An Empty Coast' on location. As I was travelling I worked in the landscapes, the wildlife and even some of the stories people told me on the way into the story. In this sense my travels and the countryside provided a direct inspiration for the book as I wrote it.

As a foreigner, someone not born in Namibia or any other African country, I have to work hard to ensure I get the settings, dialects and history correct in my book. I find the best and easiest way to do this is not to research material online, but to talk to people who live in a country, or who lived through its tumultuous past, to get an accurate feeling for the place and the times. I was fortunate enough to meet two very helpful guys - one a Namibian of German descent and the other an African man, a member of the Ovambo tribe, who helped me a great deal with my research. Both of them were very positive about the future of Namibia, while acknowledging the troubles of the past.

Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?

Tony Park: Real life current affairs and the history of the countries I write about inspires my novels. People love talking politics in Africa, and history and identity influence current events in a very strong way.

A good deal of my inspiration comes from listening to the local radio news or picking up a local newspaper and this was certainly the case with An Empty Coast. Issues such as wildlife poaching, the legacy of past colonial rule and corruption are unfortunately common to many African countries and while Namibia is a shining example for the rest of the continent it does still have its issues.

Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know?

Tony Park: As with my previous books I don't base my characters on real people, however some of what happens to my characters, or what happened to their in their past, is sometimes drawn from the real life experiences of my friends. My Namibian German friend told me of how alone and adrift he felt when he visited Germany as a young man. He told me how homesick he felt when he saw a car with a Namibian flag sticker on the rear window - I worked this story into the book as it spoke of how people in Africa often have roots somewhere else, but in their hearts they identify as Africans.

Interview by Brooke Hunter