Tony Park is an Aussie author who is thrilling the world with tales from Africa and beyond, writes BRUCE McDOUGALL
I’LL be up front. Aussie African author Tony (Parky) Park is a mate of mine. With that out of the way, if you haven’t already heard of him and you enjoy a rollicking action thriller set in exotic Africa while learning something along the way, then Parky’s your man.
Australia’s home grown story teller uses a lifetime of experience in journalism, politics and the military to write adventure novels that educate as much as they tell a ripping yarn.
From the fight against evil poachers, the greedy trade in rhino horns and elephant tusks, defence of Africa’s wildlife and piracy on the high seas and deep in the mines of southern Africa, Park’s books have it covered.
In his latest page turner, The Pride, one of Park’s most colourful characters ex-mercenary Sonja Kurtz sets out for revenge after her daughter Emma is assaulted by an abalone poacher while on a beachside holiday near Cape Town.
Highly prized abalone taken from South Africa’s waters is illegally shipped to neighbouring countries from where it is then legally exported to markets in Asia. In one year alone 1700 tonnes of illegal abalone worth more than $US100 million was sent to Hong Kong – 30 times the size of the legal trade.
On the ground in Africa Park is helped with research for his novels by friends and experts in many fields from firearms and military tactics to flying aircraft and diving as well as African locations. It fills gaps in his knowledge that help make his books essential reading for anyone with an interest in Africa, particularly its wildlife.
Tony Park, born in 1964, grew up in Sydney’s western suburbs. He has worked as a newspaper reporter, a press secretary, PR consultant and a freelance writer. He also served for 34 years in the Australian Army Reserve including six months as a public affairs officer in Afghanistan.
He and his wife Nicola divide their time equally between Australia and southern Africa where they own a home on the border of famous Kruger National Park.
Based on his experience in Afghanistan, Park co-authored War Dogs revealing that often all that stood between coalition troops and death or serious injury was a dog. The highly trained canines and their handlers searched for improvised explosive devices or hidden weapons out on patrol with combat troops. It made them high priority targets for the Taliban insurgents they were fighting.
Park supports several charities taking different approaches to solving the problems of Africa’s wildlife, giving him real skin in the game and credibility for his novels.
So far he has written 20 novels set in Africa and co-authored a number non-fiction books and autobiographies including two with Victoria Cross winners Daniel Keighran and Keith Payne.
Another new release and one Park describes as an important book to him, Rhino War, was co-authored with retired South African general Johan Jooste. It tells how Jooste was parachuted into the seemingly unwinnable war against rhino poaching in Kruger National Park, an area the size of a small country.
Jooste was given a mandate to “go military” and convert Kruger’s ranger corps into a para-military force capable of taking the fight to the poachers who mount round-the-clock incursions from multiple locations.
The general inherited an under-trained, under-equipped, demoralised corps of men and women and turned them, arguably, into the finest anti-poaching unit in Africa.
At the height of the fight to save Kruger’s rhinos the number of fire-fights between rangers and poachers on a per year basis exceeded the number of annual armed contacts during the peak of South Africa’s Border War in South West Africa (now Namibia).
According to one review of Park’s work no-one has written as well about southern Africa since Wilbur Smith in his hey day.
For anyone keen to know more about Park and his books he can be found on www.tonypark.net