Thriller author Peter Riva is chatting with me today about his new novel, Kidnapped on Safari.
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.
Welcome, Peter. Please tell us about your current release.
The book is an armchair safari into the real East Africa – we follow the adventures of Pero Baltazar, television documentary producer and Mbuno Waliangulu, safari guide and expert. Pero is an organizer, intelligent and capable in foreign lands and with different cultures. Mbuno sees life as nature, evaluated animals—including humans—accurately. An exemplary guide and wildlife expert, his physical capabilities are unsurpassed.
Happily filming near Lake Rudolf in the desert dry northern territories of Kenya, they learn Mbuno’s son has been kidnapped and they immediately go to Tanzania to effect a rescue. What they find there, what they feel honor-bound to achieve, puts the stability of all of Africa at risk.
What inspired you to write this book?
I love writing events that are true. Maybe not calendar actually fact, but true nonetheless. Throw in two incredible capable men and their team, female and male, and you can have a rip-roaring adventure. In truth, Mbuno (a real man and safari guide, as was his father and his father’s father), is a hero of mine and nothing I write about him can ever really capture his wonderful oneness with nature.
Excerpt from Kidnapped on Safari:
As we join our heroes in the African moonlight… they are slowly following forestry truck tracks and an elephant herd
As Mbuno predicted… the forest ended at the top of the rise replaced by dense bush — then tall grasses ran a half mile downhill to the edge of the water…
The ndovu herd wasted no time, plunging straight ahead… oldest elephants first followed by the mtotos entering the water with playful glee. Mbuno made Pero stop the Landrover… then telling Bob and Pero to join him up through the hatch.
Pero was the tallest of the three and he could just see through the rushes above the grass across the lake. He scanned with the binoculars and could see nothing, just some industrial Sodium yellow lights at a compound… across the water. Even with the half moon, there was not enough light to make out anything distinctive. Besides, there were also clouds scuttling across the moon from time to time. He explained what he could see to Mbuno who merely said to wait. Bob wanted to know where they went from here as the truck tracks they had been following ended at the lake, turning neither left nor right….
Mbuno pointed to a rock outcrop fifty feet to the right of where the elephant entered the water. Pero trained the binoculars… As he swept left to right he caught an elephant that seemed to trip and tumble over in shallow water, immediately righting itself and moving away from the place he had tripped. Pero saw a glint of metal. He peered intently through the binoculars and said, “Wire.”
Mbuno nodded. Bob asked, “What, where?” Pero handed over the binoculars. Bob focused and leaned forward, trying to see what was possible there. “Ah, got it. Big thick cable. What’s it for man?”
Mbuno answered, “It is a ferry cable.” He pointed to the flat beach, “It goes from here across the water to the other side.” Bob wanted to know why they needed a cable, there was no current in the lake, you could simply drive a boat across. Mbuno explained, “When there is no bridge for trucks, you need a strong boat…”
Pero interrupted, “A barge?”
“Yes, a barge, tafadali. A barge cannot have a motor in the water, it is too shallow. The barge has a motor that pulls along the cable.”
It appeared simple and yet effective to both Bob and Pero. No propeller to get tangled in the weeds or rocks in shallow water, the barge would simply winch itself across. Pero asked, “So I guess the barge is over on the other side, right?”
“So we drive around, or walk around the lake?”
Mbuno shook his head. Pero was worried. He guessed what Mbuno was going to suggest and was unfortunately right—when Mbuno explained, “We must swim. There is no path we can take without lights to drive. On foot there is great danger from hippo. No, we must swim.”
Bob was alarmed, “What about crocs?”
In the starlight and moonlight, Mbuno’s smile was radiant, “It is why we need the ndovu. The crocodiles will only be in shallow water, but not,” he pointed at the frolicking herd, “anywhere near ndovu. They would be trample-ed.” He patted Bob on the shoulder. “It will be alright.”
What exciting story are you working on next?
Fatigued from their Kidnapped adventure, Pero, Mbuno, and Nancy (who was on the Kidnapped rescue), decide to recapture the purity of East Africa and undertake a 2-week foot safari following migrating elephants into Ethiopia… and stumble on to a poaching operation which they cannot tolerate—a poaching operation with international tentacles.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have always enjoyed writing tales, even as a child. Growing up in an artistic family, I was exposed to some of the worlds most talented authors, film-makers, television producers. Later on, as a literary agent, time did not permit that indulgence. So, when I turned 60 I felt, now or never. Since then I have enjoyed writing tales of Mbuno and Pero as well as two SF books. More to come. It’s pure hedonism I am afraid.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Finding time is always the problem. I binge write, taking two of three weekends in a row and then re-writing late into the nights for a few months until the tale unfolds as I hope will thrill.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Having been in East Africa as a TV producer, I have perhaps a better sense of that reality. Knowing and having spent time with Mbuno allows me to celebrate him (and his father’s tales).
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A marine biologist, a cetacean expert, then a film-maker, then an astronaut, then an experimental aircraft manager, then a documentary wildlife producer… basically anything that really fascinates me.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
If you want to go to East Africa or anywhere in Africa, always look for the one-on-one safari trip, never in tourist busses. It is the real thing that makes the lasting memory that is too rare these days.