A curious novel set in FRANCE
Talking Location With…. author Gary Born – World locations
1st April 2023
#TalkingLocationWith…. Gary Born, author of The File, set around the world.
Author’s blog posts are sometimes about the author. So, I will say a few things here about me, and the book I wrote. But I wanted to start with someone else.
“The File” is about a woman – Sara West. She doesn’t seem so different at first, and certainly doesn’t think she’s so different, from most other people. But she is.
Working with her father and friends on a research expedition in Uganda, Sara discovers the wreckage of a Nazi bomber from World War II. On the wreck, Sara finds a file of documents which contain information on secret Nazi accounts in Swiss private banks, holding billions of dollars. The files also have the names of the Nazis’ most important foreign spies, including in the United States.
Two very different, but equally evil, men learn of Sara’s discovery: Ivan Petronov, a former KGB agent who has been hunting for the Nazi bank deposits for decades, and Franklin Kerrington III, the CIA’s Deputy Director, whose patrician family’s secret support for the Nazis would be revealed by the file. The two men dispatch rival teams of mercenaries to retrieve the file – Petronov for the Nazi money and Kerrington to hide his family’s traitorous past. After Petronov’s hitmen kill Sara’s father and friends, she flees into the jungle, taking the file with her.
The File is about Sara’s flight from her pursuers, and, later, her decision to fight back. I wrote the book about Sara. She inspired me, and took me along with her. I think you will be inspired by her too.
It helps that the book takes place in many of the world’s most exciting places – the Rwenzori Mountains (the so-called Mountains of the Moon), where the plants look like Avatar, only better; the Sahara Desert, which almost gets the better of Sara; Italy, which is impossible not to love, especially Rome and Lucca; and finally, Switzerland, where things come to a climax. And, the closer one gets to civilization, the more brutal Sara’s enemies become – ending up in Zurich…
There’s a lot about Sara in The File. But it has pieces of me also – mostly the places, but some of the people.
The jungle scenes, when Sara finds the wrecked Nazi bomber, and then runs from the Russians who are hunting her, are taken from a couple months that I spent in the jungles of Congo and Uganda some years ago. Hiking along jungle trails that nobody but hunters used, with local guides who never seemed to get lost, provided the raw material for many of the early chapters of the book. I tried to make those scenes, with the forbidding beauty of the jungle, as much like the real things as I could.
A UN airbase, where Sara hijacks a plane, came from Somalia, at the UN peacekeepers’ base outside Mogadishu – where the planes have to bank sharply in from the ocean to avoid missles and small arms fire from the ground. I visited there for work a few years ago, and the airfield’s barbed-wire fences and security gates were the inspiration for the base where Jeb and Sara hijacked their plane back to Europe.
Scenes in the Libyan desert and along the coastline, where Sara makes her way towards Europe, came from hitchhiking I did across the Sahara and the Sinai a few years ago. The emptiness of the desert, and the brutal heat of the day, came from the surroundings of Tamanraset and El Golea. The scenes of Jeb and Sara waiting alongside an empty desert road for most of a night and day were borrowed from the same places.
And the scenes in Italy, from Calabria to Rome to Lucca, come from a dozen trips to one of the world’s most beautiful countries. Sara’s trip up the Italian boot retraces trips I have done along the same roads.
As for people, Franklin Kerrington III and Ivan Petronov come – unsuprisingly – from Washington and Moscow. No one person combined all of the traits, evil and otherwise, of either man. But many in both places contributed to both Kerrington and Petronov.
Most important, though, is Sara. She too had pieces from people I have met. But more than any other character, she is herself and unique – making her own choices, different from what I had started out intending or what others might have chosen. In those chapters, I was really just along for the ride.
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