August 13, 2010 / 7:30 PM / in 7 years

Foden looks to the sky in new novel "Turbulence"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Giles Foden, British author of "The Last King of Scotland", found perhaps unlikely inspiration for his latest novel, "Turbulence", in his father-in-law.

During the seven or eight years of writing and research, Foden drew on the knowledge and expertise of Julian Hunt, the former head of the UK Meteorological Office (the British national weather service), to form the bones of his new book.

Set in Britain during World War Two, "Turbulence", published in the United States on August 20, focuses on a young English meteorologist charged with helping predict the best time for an Allied invasion of German-occupied France in 1944.

Getting the crucial weather forecast right relied on knowledge of something hard to measure or predict -- turbulence. Hunt is a leading British authority on the subject.

"My father-in-law was one of the world's great weather scientists. I'd go for walks with him on Hampstead Heath in London and he would point out weather patterns as they emerged," Foden told Reuters.

Foden is famous for his award-winning first novel, "The Last King of Scotland." Based on Idi Amin's despotic rule in 1970s Uganda, it was made into a movie that won an Oscar for its lead actor Forest Whitaker.

He has since written three books based in Africa, the continent where he grew up. His father was an agricultural economist, work which took his family to Malawi in the 1970s.

"The Last King of Scotland" is now being made into an opera in Banff in Canada, which hosts a large arts center.

Now "Turbulence" is set to be made into a movie, Foden said, after a deal was recently signed with British producer Kevin Loader, who also produced Oscar-nominated British comedy "In the Loop".

Foden had a cameo role in "The Last King of Scotland" and said he might try and do likewise for "Turbulence". Still, he conceded that a trip to Portsmouth or the Isle of Wight in south England might not hold quite the same allure as Uganda.

In "Turbulence", Foden turned briefly away from the continent of his upbringing, but his next novel, set in the future and based on water shortages and mass migration, will be partly set in Africa.

Like his other novels, fact will underpin the fiction. As research, he plans to travel to Africa with the charity Oxfam to learn about some of their projects there.

"There really is a genuine water crisis that has ... been obscured by the economic crisis," he said.

While his work is grounded in history and journalism, Foden insists he is first and foremost a novelist. "The primary concern is the story, the shape of the story. Still, there are some things you wouldn't mess with."

Editing by Mark Egan and Jill Serjeant

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