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October 30, 2013

Bernard Besson: Exploring Truth in Fiction

What does global warming really mean for geopolitics? Does it promise espionage and intrigue, economic warfare and behind-the-scenes struggles for natural resources? In The Greenland Breach, prizewinning thriller author Bernard Besson, one of France’s top experts in economic intelligence and also former chief of staff of the French FBI, has written a prescient tale that combines climate disaster, freelance spies and Bond-like action. Here he talks to us about why he chose to write a story on a backdrop of climate change.

Climate change is on everyone’s minds these days—what are the causes? What does it mean? My recent novel The Greenland Breach that was just published in English by Le French Book, stemmed from these questions. What are the real reasons? Is mankind triggering the end of the world’s climate as we know it? 

When an author asks questions like this he or she goes to talk to specialists and historians. So I went to the French Academy of Sciences to talk to climatologists, glaciologists, and geologists. I realized that they didn’t all agree. Some said global warming is worsening due to emissions by man and animals, especially cattle. Others said that the planet’s surface has been cooling down and heating up alternately for millions of years. The tilt of the earth, solar activity, the configuration of the planet, volcanic eruptions, magnetism, meteorites, and the oceans all have a major impact on the climate. These events have caused several extinctions.
The Greenland Breach

Buy The Greenland Breach at Amazon

Historians also recount astonishing stories. In the year 987, the Viking Erik the Red left Island to discover a “green land,” which is what he called Greenland. Thousands of Vikings settled on those green pastures before disappearing in the Middle Ages, due to the a sudden cooling. At the same time, another people, the Inuits, resisted the cold. These two peoples had diverging conceptions of what we would today call climate change.

In The Greenland Breach, we discover that civilizations can come to completely opposite conclusions about the same degrees of Celsius or Fahrenheit appearing on the thermometer. Global warming is in our heads as much as it is in the weather. I don’t pretend to know the real reasons behind climate change, as I am not a scientist. I simple know that this phenomenon leads to threats and to opportunities that trigger strategies in both nations and businesses. The battle for the Great North has already begun. 

The most prosperous nations are those that are able to understand and anticipate economic changes and well as natural changes. In The Greenland Breach we have both. It was very tempting to tell a story that recounted this reality. Fiction makes it possible to tell more truth than an academic work filled with numbers and statistics.

One of the heroes in The Greenland Breach is Greenland, a land of legend and mystery, long disputed between Denmark and Norway. This novel can be considered a “cli-fi” novel because from the first to the last page, we see how this island-nation is dying in an unexpected manner.

~About the Author~

Bernard Besson, who was born in Lyon, France, in 1949, is a former top-level chief of staff of the French intelligence services, an eminent specialist in economic intelligence and Honorary General Controller of the French National Police. He was involved in dismantling Soviet spy rings in France and Western Europe when the USSR fell and has real inside knowledge from his work auditing intelligence services and the police. He has also written a number of prize-winning thrillers, his first in 1998, and several works of nonfiction. He currently lives in the fourteenth arrondissement of Paris, right down the street from his heroes.

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