After a failed assassination attempt on the president of Zimbabwe, ex-soldier turned mercenary Sonja Kurtz is on the run and heads for her only place of refuge, the Okavango Delta in the heart of Botswana. She’s looking to rekindle a romance with her childhood sweetheart, safari camp manager Sterling Smith, and desperately wants a fresh start and to leave her perilous warrior lifestyle behind.
But Sonja discovers her beloved Delta is on the brink of destruction. She is recruited as an “eco-commando” in a bid to halt a project that will destroy forever the Delta’s fragile network of swamps and waterways.
Soon Sonja finds herself caught in a deadly web of intrigue involving Sterling, the handsome Martin Steele – her mercenary commander, and a TV heartthrob and wildlife documentary presenter “Coyote” Sam Chapman who blunders out of the bush in a reality show gone wrong.
Instead of escaping her violent past, Sonja is now surrounded by men who are relying on her killer instincts to save the day. Where she came to find peace, she finds war… and it is not just the survival of the Delta that is at stake..
I was sitting in the yard of my Land Rover mechanic’s garage waiting for my truck to be fixed – something I do a fair bit of in Africa – and got talking to a man who looked like a kindly grandfather type.
We discussed places we had travelled and he told me had worked in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I asked him if he was a miner, as that’s what most of the people I know who’ve been to the DRC do.
“No, I was a mercenary,” he replied.
I got talking to him some more and decided I would write a book about mercenaries. Soldiers of fortune have, for better or worse, played a role in many African conflicts.
I decided to do a bit of reading on the subject and picked up a book called Against All Odds by former South African army officer Eben Barlow. This is the story of the private military firm Executive Outcomes, which Barlow set up.
In the book Barlow recalls he was surprised by the number of female ex members of the South African Defence Force who applied for jobs when he set up his company.
The temptation when writing a book about mercenaries is to cast a Bruce Willis or Arnie type character as the lead, but what if my main mercenary was a woman...
My wife and I were planning a trip to Botswana’s Okavango Delta that year, with a follow on visit to Namibia. This was one of those times when I decided to write a book based in the places where I knew I was going to be travelling.
My travels took me to the Caprivi Strip, a finger of land that runs from the north-east corner of Namibia along the top of Botswana, along the borders of Angola and Zambia. This beautiful, lush land on the banks of the Kavango (Okavango in Botswana) and Zambezi Rivers has been the site of conflict over the years.
Talking to locals I learned that the Lozi people who inhabit the Caprivi Strip had a sometimes tempestuous relationship with the Government of Namibia. In the 1990s an armed group, the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) rose up in some isolated instances of rebellion. They were defeated and as a result many CLA supporters fled to Botswana where some still live today as refugees.
I heard rumours of soldiers for hire training the CLA in secret. At the same time local newspapers were running stories about a controversial plan by the Governments of Namibia and Angola to dam the Kavango River for a hydro-electric scheme which would severely curtail the flow of water into the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta.
Real life and fiction were swirling together in my mind... If that dam was built there would be plenty of wealthy safari lodge owners and environmentalists who would oppose it. Maybe, just maybe they might band together and hire someone to blow up the dam, someone like...
Sonja Kurtz - Namibian-German former soldier turned mercenary, with a backpack full of relationship issues, a wayward teenage daughter and an AK 47.
(The Delta is the first in a series of three Sonja Kurtz books, followed by An Empty Coast and The Cull).
Here's a video I shot while researching The Delta, at Ngepi Camp on the banks of the Okavango River. Our heroine, Sonja takes a dip here in a unique type of swimming pool.