An interview with author Robert Bruce Drynan By James Tipton

JIM: Bob, I know you've lived in lots of different countries—Germany, Netherlands, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, United States. What prompted you to move to Ajijic for your golden (and highly productive) years?

BOB: The question provokes a peculiar insight. By the time we approach adulthood we have assimilated a persona, based partly on our inner personality, but also upon the expectations of those around us. We're not always happy with what we become, but we seem to be trapped in the role. When I learned Spanish and then spent 15 years of my life in Hispano-America, I was able to shed the self with which I was less than satisfied and in my Spanish self, become a person more comfortable inside own my skin. My gringo and my Spanish personas are very distinct but not incompatible. We explored Mexico in the years shortly before and after my retirement. The character of the native residents and the adventuresome spirit of the expatriate community drew us here to Ajijic.

JIM: Is Ajijic a good place for writers? What do you think of the writing community here? How involved are you?

BOB: There is a writing community here. I'd never experienced one before, so I can't make a comparative judgment. To me it is enriching. We have some powerfully good writers among us in a wide range of genres. There are some who struggle to get it said. But all of us have high numbers on our personal odometers that equate to life experience: humor, angst, anger, pain, joy, love; all in many degrees of depth and breadth. Occasionally the writing is shallow, but seldom so in meaning, only mostly in the art of expression. And to deal with that, we learn from each other. I never appreciated poetry until I came here.

JIM: Have you always been a writer? When did you first get interested in writing? Who were early influences?

BOB: When I was in junior high school, I wrote and illustrated a history of the American Civil War. It was a puerile effort and, except for a few of the illustrations, it didn't survive my later critical examination. After that, sports, girls, and occasional attention to schooling intervened. Then military service, making a living took precedence, but I always mentally collected anecdotes that might someday provide the basis of a novel. I remember reading about the construction of the Pan-American Highway in southern Mexico. Engineers reported an encounter in a remote village with an Indian woman wearing a Confederate flag as a dress. During the Civil War trapped blockade runners often grounded their ships on the Mexican coast to escape the US Navy. At the time I thought, wow! Someday, that would make the basis for a great story.

JIM: Languages have always been of interest to you. Is that how you became involved in Army Intelligence?

BOB: Actually they picked me after giving me a language aptitude test. Curiously, as I walked back to my training company following the test, I found a coin on the street. It was a pre World War One coin from the German colony in East Africa that today is known as Tanzania. Of the over 100 languages that the US military was at the time training specialists, I received orders a few weeks later to report to the German Language program at the Presidio of Monterey in California. So, the best I can say is that it was fortuitous, destiny sounds too pretentious

JIM: I know you just finished a book about the 1967 Israeli attack on an unarmed and easily identifiable US Ship in the Mediterranean—and the consequent cover up. You called that book
What Price Liberty? What are you working on now?

BOB: I haven't yet completely decided the direction of the third book. A sequel to Domain of the Scorpion, its working title is The Nemesis. I use fiction as a vehicle to express outrage about things that I consider . . . well, outrageous. Nemesis will deal with trafficking in human beings: prostitution, slavery, child exploitation, illicit trade in human body parts. It is anger at the abuse of the innocence and defenselessness of humble folk. My original concept begins the story in Ciudad Juárez, progressing to Saudi Arabia, Greece, Cyprus and back to Texas and Mexico. I'm reviewing the concept and I believe that I will bring it closer to home and it may play out in Mexico and Texas. I'll bring the Scorpion from Colombia to Mexico.

JIM: In both books, your protagonists seem to possess what we might call old-fashioned values. It is a relief to see characters whose values and visions are bigger than merely political power or accumulating money. Have your readers been excited about that?

BOB: I have had positive feedback from readers. I don't pretend to be "literary" in my writing. My protagonists are intended to be "bigger than life," to represent models of conscience and conduct. They contrast with villains of this world and I offer little sympathy for the antagonists: some are weak, some are just plain evil. Maybe, I'm writing a derivative of the Medieval "morality play."

JIM: Most women don't care much for thrillers, but the women I have talked with who have read your books are thrilled by the romances that take place right in the midst of you-can't-put-it-down action. They also tell me your protagonists are real men, much more real than the action heroes of the silver screen.

BOB: No matter how we experience it love between a man and a woman is the primary driving force in our humanity. I've lived a love affair of over 40 years. Love brings pain, euphoria, and mediating comfort. It is an annealing force. I could never have achieved the things I have or been the person I have become, if I hadn't been driven to live up to her expectations and those of our daughter. Even when I fell short, I was trying to be their hero. The women in my stories are strong women of redeeming character. They are modeled after the two women in my life. I could never have written a book without them.

JIM: This is a difficult time for members of the military, who are once more caught up in a questionably legitimate war in Iraq. Do you have any final words to offer to them or for that matter to all of us who want to be real patriots and not like those lip-service patriots in Washington who have done so much to destroy our values and vision?

BOB: I'll try to answer a very complex question simply. I was born in a country that has provided me with an education, with opportunity, with security. Many take these things for granted and even demand that they receive even more at no cost to themselves. These things were achieved at great cost, a horrific cost for so many. We have an unwritten contract; the price we should pay for the gift we have received is to pass those gifts on to our posterity in the same manner as we received them, even if that cost places similarly horrific demands and sacrifices upon us. As I wrote; responsibility and obligation are to be found on the obverse of the coin of citizenship that confers that long compendium of rights we receive on the other. Those men and women, the boots on the ground as they say, they who accept the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship, no matter what their surface motivations, are not warmongers, they are the best and noblest among us. Those who eschew service for lack of opportunity or deliberate avoidance are lesser persons for the lack.

And those who abuse the sacrifices of our men and women who serve, their willingness to make even the supreme sacrifice, should be condemned to rot in the deepest dungeons of Hell.

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