Coup, illness all part of writer Frederick Forsyth's research

Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:57am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Thriller writer Frederick Forsyth is renowned for his meticulous research, and a fact-finding mission for his latest novel about the international cocaine trade landed him in the middle of a bloody coup.

Forsyth, whose books include "The Day of the Jackal," "The Odessa File" and "The Fourth Protocol," flew to Guinea-Bissau in 2009 to investigate its role in moving cocaine from South America to markets across Europe.

Dubbed a "narco-state," the tiny West African country has become a hub of the international drugs trade according to UN officials, and billions of dollars worth of cocaine are believed to pass through the mostly poor, weak nations of the region.

Forsyth, keen to discover more for his novel "The Cobra," posed as a bird-watcher and flew to the former Portuguese colony, only to find himself in the middle of political chaos.

"It was just my luck that I landed during a coup d'etat," the former journalist told Reuters in an interview.

"Someone had blown up the head of the army and the army were coming into town to avenge whoever did it and I landed about an hour before they came," added the Briton.

"I installed myself in a hotel, couldn't sleep, was reading and heard a hell of a bang down the street and I knew it was not thunder but an explosion."

The blast and subsequent noise were in fact an attack on President Joao Bernardo Vieira, who was killed apparently in revenge for the assassination of armed forces chief of staff General Batista Tagme Na Wai hours earlier.   Continued...

<p>British novelist Frederick Forsyth makes a face during an interview with Reuters at his home near Hertford, England, July 26, 2006. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty</p>