Today's guest blogger is Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds. Dave will be providing us with an article on the inspiration behind some of his characters.
Heart of Diamonds is my high-concept romantic thriller about blood diamonds in the Congo. The plot concerns the White House, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and an American televangelist in a diamond smuggling scheme that is uncovered by an enterprising TV reporter, Valerie Grey.
One of the most interesting characters in Heart of Diamonds is Gary Peterson, the American televangelist who owns the diamond mine. He’s a fabulously successful man of God, a close pal of the President of the United States, and utterly devoted to making a quick buck or two if the opportunity presents itself. He also has a right hand man, missionary Thomas Alben, who runs the diamond mine for him and does most of the dirty work in the operation.
Both of these characters are fictional, of course, but they had their genesis in the real world. The whole concept for Heart of Diamonds sprang from an article I read in Time Magazine about the cozy relationship between Pat Robertson, the famous American televangelist, and Mobutu Sese-Seko, the dictator who raped the Congo for thirty years. When I found out Robertson owned diamond mines and timber concessions in the Congo—making profits from slave labor, no less—I simply had to write a book about it.
The Robertson-Mobutu connection is fascinating. Mobutu was essentially put in office by the CIA. He ran the country for three decades and stole literally billions of dollars. During that time, he had one of the worst human rights records in Africa.
The other member of the tag team is Pat Robertson, one of the most successful evangelical preachers of all time. He founded the 700 Club, ran for President of the United States, and has millions of followers around the world who subscribe to his version of Christianity. You wouldn’t think these two men would be buddies, but they were.
Robertson had many business interests in the Congo—and it just wasn’t possible to operate there at the time without the direct approval of Mobutu. It was also well-known that you didn’t get that approval for free. Apparently, Robertson and Mobutu got along famously. The Time article reported that one time, Robertson and his wife and their entourage were flown from Paris to Kinshasa on one of Mobutu's personal Boeing 707s. In Zaire, Mobutu himself took them on the presidential yacht on a ride up the Congo River to visit one of his estates.
Robertson had a relief program in the Congo that is still functioning, Operation Blessing, as well as a private concern called the African Development Company, which made investments in mining, lumber, agriculture, transportation and power generation, supposedly with an eye to plowing the profits back into humanitarian efforts. One of those investments was a diamond mine in a small town south of Tshikapa near the Congo’s border with Angola. That’s the site of the diamond mine in Heart of Diamonds.
One of the men who ran ADC for Robertson was Bill Lovick, a former minister of the Assemblies of God who was dismissed by the church in 1985 for questionable fund-raising practices. Readers of Heart of Diamonds may find some interesting similarities between these men and some of the characters in the novel, notably televangelist Gary Peterson, the missionary Thomas Alben who runs the diamond mine, and Moise Messime, the President of the Congo.
The more I learned about these guys and the things they were doing in the Congo in the name of Jesus Christ, the more intrigued I became. Heart of Diamonds isn’t their story—the smuggling scheme, the connection to the White House, the U.S. military involvement, and many other elements are completely fictional. The characters are figments of my imagination, too, although they certainly have personality traits similar to some real individuals.
What is very real in Heart of Diamonds is my portrayal of the terrible plight of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the direct result of the unadulterated greed of people trying to control the vast natural resources of the country. Mobutu may be long gone and Pat Robertson’s business interests gone with him, but the brutality continues.
About the book:
Heart of Diamonds implicates an American televangelist, the President of the Congo, and the American White House in a diamond smuggling scheme that leads to U.S. military involvement in the Congo’s civil war. TV journalist Valerie Grey uncovers the conspiracy and tries to expose it before America is drawn fully into the endless war. Powerful forces—a ruthless mercenary, the Congolese army, and cold-blooded agents sent by the White House—try to stop her in a magnificent chase along crocodile-infested rivers, overland through raging gun battles, and into the sky in armed helicopters.
About the Author:
Dave Donelson’s career as a broadcaster, entrepreneur, and writer has taken him from the jungles of Australia’s Cape York Peninsula to the minarets of Riyadh. He’s climbed the spire of the Empire State Building, floated the Usumacinta River to the Mayan ruins at Piedras Negras in Guatemala, and photographed the tree-climbing lions and mountain gorillas of Uganda.
Dave’s inquisitive, active lifestyle finds its way into freelance writing and photographic assignments for magazines like Disney’s FamilyFun, Woodworker’s Journal, and Las Vegas Magazine. Closer to home, he writes features for Westchester Magazine as well as a regular column on golf. He is a member of the prestigious Metropolitan Golf Writers Association.
His first novel, Hunting Elf, began as an audio book at www.huntingelf.com and was published as a trade paperback in 2006. K9 Perspective called it “…a delicious romp through the suburbs of New York.”
Dave’s first book was Creative Selling (Entrepreneur Press, 2000), a non-fiction prescriptive described by Brian Tracy as “…a terrific book on selling.” As a business journalist, he writes for The Christian Science Monitor, Family Business Magazine, and dozens of trade publications serving industries from the automotive aftermarket to sporting goods retailing.
Dave has a BA in Rhetoric and Public Address from Missouri Western State University. He serves as a Trustee for the Westchester Library System, a consortium of 38 public libraries serving Westchester County, NY. He lives in West Harrison, NY, with his wife, Nora, and an ever-changing roster of dogs and cats.
The HEART OF DIAMONDS VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on November 3 and end on November 26. You can visit Dave's blog stops at http://virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in November to find out more about his latest book!
As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner will be announced on our main blog at www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.wordpress.com on November 30!