Saturday, June 24, 2017

Global Warming, Modern Day Espionage, and Writing Thrillers: An Interview with Bernard Besson

Global Warming, Modern-day Espionage, and Writing Thrillers:  
An interview with Bernard Besson

Bernard Besson is an award-winning French writer and former top-level French intelligence officer who writes smart, modern spy novels. In his Larivi√®re espionage thrillers, a team of freelance operatives navigates today’s complex world of espionage and global economic warfare while trying to lead normal lives in Paris. Whether they are unravelling the geopolitical consequences of global warming or discovering the intricacy of high-frequency online trading, they struggle to maintain their independence in a world where the loyalties of official agencies are not so clear and corruption and political machinations are everywhere. Here Bernard shares some of his insights about global warming, writing thrillers, and his novels. Anne Trager of Le French Book interviews Bernard Besson.

One of your thrillers is about global warming, which is quite topical these days. What did you learn from writing it? 

The Greenland Breach changed my views on global warming, which I used to consider to be a kind of end of the world. I realized there had been several ends of the world—from both cooling and warming. Humanity is capable of adapting to climate change. It has done so on several occasions in the past and it will do so again in the future. I am more afraid of errors made by governments than I am of changes in the weather. What we have to fear is that nations will not manage to live together peacefully. One of the key battlegrounds is business, and both countries and multinational corporations are fighting for key strategic knowledge they hope to be the first to use. Those with the best information will win the battle.

Why write thrillers? 

I got inspired to write my first thriller when I was at the DST, which is French counter-espionage, or the equivalent of the FBI. I was very lucky to be working during the fall of communism and the Soviet Union. We were able to understand how networks of Russian, Bulgarian, Polish, Czech and Romanian spies worked with their allies in France. There were some good stories to tell. Fiction makes it possible to tell more truth than an academic work filled with numbers and statistics—and it’s much more enjoyable to read.

Two of your titles have been translated into English. What inspired them? 

In our world of rapid climate change, The Greenland Breach gives you an entirely different perspective on how we are all being impacted. The blood splattered on the ice sheets of Greenland belongs to shadow fighters, mercenaries fighting battles we don’t learn about on the evening news.

Similarly, we are living in an age of technological disruption. In The Rare Earth Exchange, you get a heart-pounding story that could have been ripped from the headlines. What happens when a grain of sand throws off the well-oiled international finance machine?

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