Dead of Night
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour! Today I have a fabulous guest post from writing duo Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip who chat about the inspiration behind their new standalone novel Dead of Night! But first, here is a little bit more about the book and its lovely authors:
About the Book
When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, while searching for her missing colleague. But within a week, she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that may hold the key to everything…
Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late. She has a shocking story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…
Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Night is a stunning new thriller that exposes one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent…
To purchase a copy of the book, you can follow the links below
About Michael Stanley
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both
were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a
flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a
wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their
first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the
Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards,
including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and
their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for
an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’
award. Dead of Night is their first stand-alone thriller.
Follow Michael Stanley on Twitter here!
Dead of Night – The Rhino War
Our new stand-alone thriller – Dead of Night – has been a long time coming. We started working on it in 2012, but it was quite a while before we really understood the characters and the focus of the story. Our protagonist, Crystal Nguyen, is an American of Vietnamese descent who is passionate about the environment and reports for a local newspaper in Minnesota. She is more than half in love with a young National Geographic journalist, Michael, who disappears in South Africa while researching a dangerous exposé of rhino poaching and rhino-horn smuggling. With the support of National Geographic, she sets out to find him and to finish his article. That quest turns out to be much more challenging than she could ever imagine.
We were always grabbed by the plight of the African rhinos and that forms the backstory of the novel. It’s a huge issue in South Africa: we have 80% of the world’s wild rhinos — around 20,000 animals and, as Crys discovers, it’s a shooting war out there. Over a thousand were killed by poachers last year, their horns hacked off and the carcasses abandoned to scavengers. Adding natural deaths to that, the population will inevitably decline forcing up the price of horn and further increasing the pressure on the game reserves.
Both of us share bush homes in the game reserve area surrounding the Kruger National Park. Michael’s place is on the Olifants River – an idyllic location with views from the front deck overlooking one of the few perennial rivers in the area. Unfortunately, the area is close enough to settlements to make access hard to control. It’s on the frontline of the rhino-poaching war. The manager of our reserve, Mario Cesare, probably knows as much about the issue as anyone, and Dead of Night has greatly benefitted from the insights and observations he shared with us. Mario has thought deeply about options and strategies. For example, in a neighbouring area the rhinos have their horns regularly removed (the horns grow back). What are the downsides? Well, every few years the rhinos must be darted and the horns sawn off and that involves some risk. (There’s no pain, it’s just a haircut.) There is concern about the possible impact on rhino social structure, and the effect on tourists. But since that particular game reserve adopted this policy, they have lost only one rhino – probably shot by mistake.
Crys has a lot to learn and they are painful lessons – fighting poachers in the Kruger national park, avoiding the ‘kingpins’ who control the local trade, and trying to get to grips with all the different standpoints pushed by diverse groups. Not only must she negotiate her way through these convoluted issues and competing interests, but she is also forced to investigate the mafia-like gangs behind the smuggling from Mozambique to Vietnam. As with all illegal and valuable substances, criminals grab the trade and guard their slice of it viciously. They are not good people to cross. They are the real villains.
Understanding the consumer is harder. Many older people in China and Vietnam still believe in the efficacy of powered rhino horn to cure anything from fever to cancer. Rich younger people may show off their wealth by sniffing or knocking back rhino horn powder with their drinks at parties, often mixed with something else to produce the desired effect – cocaine or Viagra, for example. There is, of course, no scientific evidence to suggest that rhino horn has any physiological effect beyond the placebo one.
In Vietnam, rhino horn is more expensive than gold. The poachers get much, much, less than that, of course, but one horn may well fetch more than a rural family can earn in a year. For that, men are willing to risk being shot or imprisoned, and even being eaten by lions. As much as Crys hates the brutality of the poaching, and sympathises with the underfunded and underpaid men and women who protect the rhinos with considerable danger to themselves, she eventually comes to understand the poachers.
She also comes to understand the motivation of rhino horn farmers. Their idea is to supply legal, controlled, and certified horn to the market. There are already such farms in South Africa and a fictional one is pivotal in our story. Does the economics make sense? Would it be possible to flood the market, lower the price of horn, create a new industry for rural people, and, along the way, protect the wild rhinos? It’s an intriguing option, but it’s dead against Crys’s conservation instincts and flies in the face of the approach adopted by international agreement.
Crys encounters poachers, farmers, smugglers and corruption, and finds no one she can wholly trust on any side. The leads to Michael go cold and she almost gives up hope when she learns that he may still be alive. But even this works out quite differently from the way she imagined it would.
Eventually, she has to come to her own conclusions based on her own values and the path she’s been forced to follow. Her story is gripping and entertaining, but we believe it will leave the reader thoughtful about African issues that are much more complex than they appear on the surface.
White Rhino at Olifants River Game Reserve
White rhino bull enjoying the river.
Elephants on the river.
Follow the bloggers on the #DeadOfNight blog tour!
Huge thanks to Michael Stanley for the lovely guest post and stunning photos and to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for my review copy/blog tour invite!!