You may already know that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is hitting stores this week. But did you know that some of the stories and missions in the game revolve around true stories and some scary and amazing characters from Bolivia? To tell us more about these real-life stories, the release of the game is accompanied by a brand new documentary, Wildlands, narrated by Australian born author Rusty Young.
Rusty is one of the few people who have experienced life in Bolivia and lived to tell about it, and has since tried to bring to light the dangerous Bolivian drug trade in his book Marching Powder, which was published back in 2003. As narrator of Wildlands, Rusty has been busy travelling the world over the last couple of weeks in support of the film, and when I had the chance to chat to him recently, he was just finding his sanity again after some time on the road.
We got down to some questions about his voluntary four month stay in San Pedro Prison for the research of his previous acclaimed book Marching Powder that we get to see in Wildlands, we also have a chat about his time with George Jung (pronounced Young) the one man who basically brought the Cocaine epidemic to America and who was played by Johnny Depp in the movie ‘Blow’. I even ask if Rusty has any spare time for hobbies while taking on press tours, the Bolivian drug trade and writing books.
Thanks for taking the time to speak me here at The Iris Rusty, I am going to come straight out and just ask, what on earth was going through your mind when you decided to take up residence in one of the weirdest and scariest places, San Pedro Prison?
I was just on a backpacking holiday and it was just on pure coincidence I decided to go on a prison tour after seeing it advertised in a Lonely Planet guidebook as the worlds weirdest tourist attraction. That is where I met Thomas McFadden the British drug trafficker who had been convicted with trying to traffic 5 kilograms of cocaine. I figured if I really wanted to do this and to tell this story (the book Marching Powder) authentically I needed to live it. So, it wasn’t my intention to stay the full four months, maybe just a couple of weeks, but it just extended and extended and I became too deeply involved in Thomas’s life to just leave.
I cannot believe how this prison in the middle of Bolivia is basically its own closed off township with no guards, everyone looks after themselves, it’s insane!
Yes, and to this day it is one of the craziest places I have ever experienced and I have travelled, probably fifty or more countries so that is saying something. Craziest place I have ever been.
We get to see your conversation with George Jung in Wildlands, he seemed like such a switched on individual and a very good businessman considering his past.
Yes, when I got to speak to him he had literally just gotten out from twenty years in prison so he was very calm and philosophical. He’d had a few drinks before the interview, he was drinking during the interview. It was a relaxed atmosphere, he is a tranquil person to speak with. That was one of my favourite interviews, such an astute person.
It’s amazing how this one man started something we can’t even fathom of stopping now, do you think we will ever see a future where all of this (drug trafficking) goes away?
Look, I think we have spent decades on the war on drugs attacking the suppliers side with, fumigation, manual eradication, imprisoning drug traffickers and extraditing them. I think what really needs to happen is trying to address the demand side of the equation. I think that’s the conclusion towards the end of Wildlands. It is an extremely complex issue, but I think only attacking the suppliers is not going to work. While there is demand there will always be supply.
Are you ever worried that dropping names and stories in your book and documentary would ever get anyone hurt?
Are you asking me whether I am going to get hurt or someone else?
Yourself as well as anybody else of course. Does it ever worry you?
Look, I lived in Columbia for seven or eight years investigating cocaine trafficking, so I’m kind of used to going into dangerous territories. As far as the interviewees go, they make their own decisions or have their own agendas or motivations coming forward. You see about halfway through the documentary there is an undercover informant who worked for the DEA for 27 years and he was risking his life to give information and decided to go public with some pretty explosive allegations. So obviously, these people have their own reasons to talk to us. Sometimes it’s difficult to confirm what they are saying is true and to find the facts, but yes, it is a dangerous world and informants in-particular are at risk of being tortured to death. So, I am quite happy to be in Sydney right now that’s for sure.
So where are you going from here and what are your plans after the crazy press tour for Wildlands?
As I previously said I did spend seven years in Columbia and that was to research and write my next book titled Colombiano. It is a book about child soldiers in terrorist organisations in Columbia. That is the book I was working on when Colin (Wildlands Director Colin Offland) called me regarding the Wildlands documentary. The book is due out in August this year and that is my next big project I am finishing off right now.
What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any spare time?
At the moment, I don’t have anything other than work and 18 hour days. I was up at 5:30am this morning and probably will be up till about 10pm tonight.
Colin Offland’s Wildlands is available on iTunes now and coming to Google Play Store Soon!
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is also Out Now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One!