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General Sir Peter de la Billiere
For modern hikers, like the ancient pilgrims before them,
walking the Inca Trail over the high passes of the
Andes, the Sun Gate or Intipunku is the place on their arduous trek where
they are rewarded by their first glimpse of the fabulous ruins of Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas.
At the Sun Gate the pilgrims' old world is left behind and a new one begins. However for Helen Jencks, the heroine of the third novel by Linda Davies, her escape from London to Peru after her banking career is wrecked by colleagues she regarded as friends, simply exposes her to far greater perils as she discovers that there is no Shangri-La or safe haven beyond reach of corruption by money.
Linda Davies lived in Peru for 3 years while writing her thriller Into the Fire and hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu on a number of occasions while doing her research. Over half the novel is set in Peru, including about 35 pages on the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. Apart from a small section set in Colombia, most of the rest is set in England. At one time she thought of calling the book the Sun Gate before deciding on Into the Fire.
Peter de la Billiere joined the army as a private and rose to become the general commanding the British forces in the First Gulf War. He saw action with the SAS in Borneo and Oman, and was the director of the SAS at the time of the Iranian Embassy siege and during the Falklands war. After retiring from the army he became a director of the British investment bank Flemings, founded by the grandfather of Ian Fleming - the creator of James Bond!
Therefore as well as being no stranger to the thrills and danger of undercover operations, he is well qualified to comment on financial adventures!
Derivatives were financial contracts just like bonds or shares, but were a stage more complex. They had no intrinsic value, but derived it from something else. That could be anything from soy beans to a share index like the FT100.
The most straightforward derivatives contracts were futures. Originally, these were developed to protect farmers against fluctuations in the value of their crops. A farmer could protect himself by agreeing, say in December, the price at which he would sell his harvest next October. If people asked Helen what she did, this is what she generally told them.
Wallace on the other hand, impassioned by his market, could give a historical treatise. He seemed to read almost everything that was printed on derivatives. He was Goldstein's head derivatives structurer, a job he described to laymen as a bit like that of a bookie, once removed. He took bets on people making bets. In his spare time, Wallace was writing a book on the development of the market. The day before he had announced to Helen and Paul Keith, who'd just started on the desk, that there had been a futures market in rice, in Dojima, near Osaka, in the late seventeenth century.
Modern futures markets developed in the 1850's with the opening of the Chicago Board of Trade, but it was only in the mid 1980's that financial futures markets dealing with shares and bonds, really took off. Wallace had been there as it happened. He'd grown up with a market that had exploded and now, counting just those products traded on organised exchanges, was worth over six hundred and fifty trillion dollars a year.
Wallace loved to quote the example of seventeenth century derivatives as if age seemed to make the market more familiar, friendlier. There was nothing familiar or friendly about the derivatives market. It could rip your guts out overnight, as it had done to Barings, when a lone trader built up a derivatives loss of seven hundred and forty million pounds, breaking the bank.
Derivatives were the biggest, most potentially lucrative, and destructive market in the world. Wallace was in love with the market. Helen kept it at a distance, respected it as a fearsome adversary.
The River of Drug Money
Freedom, imprisonment; silence, information; fortune, destitution; entrapment, deliverance; life, death.That's the legacy of the coca leaf. Something like 40% of the world's cocaine originates in the Huallaga Valley. Coca's grown there, and flown as basic paste to Colombia for processing into cocaine. There are hundreds of tiny airstrips dotted throughout the Peruvian jungle ... Pilots get paid around $50,000 a pop, about a thousand times as much as they'd make on a legal flight, so there's no shortage of planes.
Many consignments go from army controlled airstrips, or else the army and airforce just turn a blind eye to some of the private strips.
Their brief had been to fight that estate, not to perpetuate it, but the finer objectives had long ago been swept away by the river of money that flowed from the jungles where the coca leaf grew, through their hands, into Colombia, where it became a sea that could wash away the world.
But even if the military were straight, they wouldn't stand a chance against the drogistas. The narco business is worth probably four hundred billion dollars a year worldwide. That's about eight per cent of world trade, more than the trade in either iron and steel or motor vehicles. Just to give you a little example, there are two thousand drugs police in the Policia Anti Narcoticos in Colombia, which is a much richer country than Peru, and they're armed with twenty two fixed wing, single engined aircraft, and sixty odd helicopters. Stack that against the Colombian narcos who make at least twenty billion dollars a year from drugs, equivalent to eight per cent of Colombia's GNP.
Imagine how many of them there are, what kind of gear they can afford and you begin to get an idea of the battle. There was one big Colombian narco, Parafan, arrested in Venezuela not long ago. He's being extradited to the US now, every narco's nightmare. Anyway, he alone had over twelve billion dollars in his private bank accounts. The whole continent's awash with drug money. About thirty per cent of the Colombian economy is driven by drug money. Just about everyone in its path gets corrupted.
The Many Faces of Peru
'Tell me about Peru,' said Helen, gently.
Maldonado gazed at her, sitting there with the candle light turning her hair golden, her smile warm, her eyes compassionate. He found himself yearning to speak, to tell someone from outside his world, someone untainted, who might not judge. He saw his fantasy for what it was and felt a flood of bitterness. He took a long draft of wine, leaned back in his chair and turned his eyes full on hers.
'Which Peru would you like to know about? The land of Machu Picchu and the Incas? A postcard for the innocent? Framed, contained beauty? Amazonia, quinine, una de gato, destruction of the rainforest, the old tribes, the Machigengua, the Pira, jungle warriors guarding lost cities, el Dorado and dead treasure hunters, the pueblo jovenes where the people starve, the IMF, the Brady plan and slick bankers, the earthquakes in Yungay, the thousands buried. The Brujos and shamans, white magic and black. The miners five thousand metres up, burrowing under glaciers. The complacent would-be Spanish Peruvians, or the true Peruvians, the Indios. the society ladies at the beauticians, chatting with each other on their cellulars, swapping notes on their sons and daughters at Miami State, what are they gonna wear for graduation, or perhaps you'd like to hear about the terrorist training camps in the jungle, the PLO visits, or the narcos, or the people who fight them, or the masked judges so reviled by the editorial writers of the New York Times as they sit in safety in Manhattan. There is no Peru, Helen, it's a bastard with many fathers, pick the one you want.'
'Someone must understand it. Someone must see the whole picture.'
Maldonado gave a smile that seemed to span in its curve the spectrum from love to hate. He spoke softly, as if at Confession. 'I understand it, Helen.' His eyes glittered with the pride and sorrow of a great sin.
'This country is mad, completely mad. It's like a beautiful woman who's been raped many times. She can no longer respond to a gentle touch. She's been brutalised, but she still has the sensitivity to know it. She knows what she was, what she is, and what was done to her and she takes revenge whenever she can. This country is racked by violence, by acts of God. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, tidal waves, floods, droughts, fires. Go to the high Andes sometime, see the violence of the mountains. There's no tame beauty here. Go to the glaciers for the Ice festival, watch closely and you might still see a human sacrifice,' he pointed at her. 'Be careful it's not you. Every year several people "disappear" into the ice crevices.'
'Go to Machu Picchu, climb Wayna Picchu, climb Ausangate, cast back your mind, imagine you were an Inca girl, beautiful and pure. You'd be murdered as a sacrifice to the mountain gods, promised immortality. But the frozen corpses I've found were fixed in terror, drugged and drunken to ease them into death. Covered in vomit and diarrhoea. They didn't want immortality, just life on earth, and death in its own good time.'
'Death stalks this place. Acts of God, more like acts of the devil. You think I'm an old man who's grown too fond of his stories, has taken liberties with fact. Get out there, and you'll see what 1 mean. Stay here long enough, behind these walls, and you'll still see it. You think you're safe here, don't you, but you're not. Don't worry, neither am 1. High walls, guards with guns, it doesn't make any difference. Stay in Peru long enough and you'll see what 1 mean.'
'What do you do then? How do you fight it?'
'I'm not sure you can. You invite it. You see too much. You have an imagination, and it will curse you. Nothing you can do, except turn and face it.
'So why do you stay?' Helen asked softly, 'if it's so terrible, if it can be so brutal.'
Victor Maldonado, in the conversation above, is the fictitious head of SIN (Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional), the Peruvian National Intelligence Service, which played a major role in crushing the Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path terrorist movement but later came to be regarded by many Peruvians as an instrument of repression. After the downfall of the Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, his right-hand man and real head of SIN at the time the novel was written, Vladimiro Montesinos, was charged with money laundering, among other crimes, making Into the Fire look prophetic!
The texts above on derivatives, drug money, and Peru are a mixture of quotations and paraphrased material from Into the Fire. The material was selected by the author's brother, Roy Davies, who has hiked the Inca Trail twice and maintains the website on that famous route to Machu Picchu.
British and US EditionDavies, Linda
Into the fire.
Twenty First Century Publishers Limited, 2007.
Into the Fire as paperback or ebook from various suppliers.
Das Sonnentor, v. Schröder, Ddf; 448 Seiten (1999). ISBN: 3-547-72048-6 (hardback). Ullstein TB-Vlg., B.; 464 Seiten (2000). ISBN: 3-548-24792-X (paperback). Both versions may be ordered from Amazon.de, the German branch of Amazon.com.
Hardback from Amazon.de. Paperback from Amazon.de
Read the first chapter of Dans la Fournaise on the Web.