White Viper – Story behind the story

I was researching Stalking Horse at the time and arrived on the delightful island of Crete. It was spring and the air was full of the scent of orange blossom from the orchards on the lower mountain slopes.

On the taxi journey from the airport to our holiday rooms was another single traveller. His name was Mike. He was British, but spoke with a strange gutteral accent that sounded distinctly Germanic. I thought how tired and haggard he looked. Over that week we got to know each other well and became firm friends. He was on the island to recuperate after an undercover operation that I was later to fictionalise in WHITE VIPER.

Only years later did the deep involvement of the Provisional IRA with the cocaine cartels of South America hit the headlines in the British media. Earlier, of course, I had stumbled on the organisation’s dealings in the European heroin business in Dragonplague.

However, this time I was about to switch publishers from Hodder & Stoughton, and I didnormal_10082814[1] not know if my trip to Venezuela, Columbia and Bolivia was on or not.

Suddenly I was signed up with the fantastic new team at Heinemann/Mandarin and the mission was full on. It dawned on me rather late that it might be a sensible idea to be able to speak a little Spanish before venturing into the notorious Amazon badlands full of narcos and guerrillas. I did a crazy month’s course using word visualisation techniques and adapting my basic schoolboy French grammar. When I stepped off the plane at Caracas airport, at least I could generally make myself understood.

My understanding of any reply, however, was another matter entirely.

Thus equipped, I launched myself  at the badlands of South America. First was the murderous capital of Venezuela (Rule Number One: Never report finding a body, because you will be held by the police as the prime suspect) and then its porous border territory of secondary jungle with Colombia. This was part of one of the renowned routes for cocaine product on its way to the US and Europe. This was a fascinating place that bore an unsettling resemblance to the old Wild West. Who were police and who were narcos? They all packed guns. It wasn’t at all easy to tell who was who. Often that was because they were one in the same.

I went on to Columbia and then Bolivia, following the cocaine trail.



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