Beaufort lawyer Scott Graber had never even wanted to go to Africa before. But once he got there, he encountered a way of life that was totally unlike his own. He had to write about it.
Graber's second novel, "Ten Days in Brazzaville" follows a trial lawyer's journey from his comfortable Lowcountry practice into the middle of a civil war in sub-Saharan Africa.
Graber, a former Beaufort Gazette columnist, tells how he wound up in the Congo.
Question. Where did the idea for the book come from?
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Answer. I was standing one afternoon in an office of a friend of mine who has a small public relations firm. The phone rings. He says, "I got to take this call. It's the president of the Congo." My friend has a great sense of humor. I assumed it was a joke. But he kept referring to the person on the other end of the line as "Your Excellency." It finally dawned on me that this was the actual president of the Congo. He had been hired to do PR for the Republic of Congo. He said, "I'm going to Africa." I said, "You've got to take me with you."
Q. And just like that, you're off to Africa?
A. That gets me to Africa. One thing that's true is that there's very little delegation of power. If you wanted to get anything done, you had to talk to the president. We would sit around with President (Pascal) Lissouba and talk with him. Right off the cost of Congo is an oil field. That field was producing oil for a company in France. Lissouba came in and demanded a much higher royalty. The French went to work to depose Lissouba. ... In the end, Lissouba was overthrown.
That's the back story for my book. The book is fiction. The story under it is true.
Q. Had you ever been to Africa before?
A. Never. As a kid my father was in the Army but never went to Africa. I got over there and got obsessed with it. I loved the chaos; I loved the fact that nothing went to plan. You go to an airport and the plane may show up; it may show up a day later. You just had to deal with it. For some reason, I still love it.
I was really naive. You have to understand, everything is much harder to do over there. The first thing you do is get permission from the president. That involves waiting. Once you get that, they don't have what you're used to.
For example, I wanted pictures for a brochure. I asked the president, "Could you point me in the way of your national archives?" He said, "We have no national archives." I said, "I just need some stock photos." He's looking at me, and I've got a point-and-shoot camera. He said, "Well, go take pictures." I said, "I need to get into the jungle." He said, "Take my helicopter." So I got a pilot and for several days I had the president's helicopter. That was the excitement.