Africa. There’s something magical, something that can’t be explained simply. Yet, it exists. A real pull, a calling. A continent so rich that you can’t help but be inspired and motivated by it. You can’t help but fall in love with the place. After 34 years in the Australian Army Reserve, plus time working as a reporter, public relations consultant, government press secretary and freelance writer, Tony Park has a multitude of experiences to draw from when writing his best-selling novels. Yet it was Africa that eventually drew him in and became the backdrop for all of his novels.
In a 2015 interview with ABC Radio National presenter Michael Williams, Tony reflected on how he came to write all of his stories based in southern Africa. It was his wife Nicola who organised a 3-week self-drive holiday that began in Kruger National Park in 1998. He reminisced about how he hadn’t given Africa a lot of thought up until then, but after a long flight and a 4-hour freeway drive, they entered the Kruger Park and were immediately captured by the beauty of the surrounding bush and wildlife – within moments of entering the park, they encountered leopard, elephant, zebra and giraffe. Tony recalled that was the moment both he and Nicola were hooked by Africa. They loved it so much that they bought a house overlooking the Sabie River on the edge of the Kruger Park and have returned to Africa every year since, with the exception of being stuck in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, unable to escape to their second home.
Tony and Nicola finally returned to Africa in August 2021, where Tony has been hard at work crafting more of his words into stories. Not only a fiction writer, Tony has also co-written nine autobiographies, including two released in 2022 – Bwana, There’s a body in the bath! about the life of Peter Whitehead, who at almost 100 years of age is a former game ranger and hunter and was also involved in early tourism in Zambia; and Rhino War with General Johan Jooste (retired) covering his role in repairing the broken anti-poaching unit of Kruger National Park and turning it into one of the best units on the African continent. Tony has developed a passion for wildlife and conservation.
When most people think of Africa, they think of the ‘big 5’ – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and the African buffalo – however, Tony has a special place in his heart for the African painted dog. He is a patron of Painted Dog Conservation Inc., based in Perth, Western Australia, but also lends his name to numerous other charities helping both humans and animals on the African content. He gives author talks at various fundraising events where he sometimes auctions off naming rights to characters in his novels. Winning the auctions, or making a donation to a bona fide wildlife charity, will open the door to having one of his characters named after you. Tony always reserves the right to decide whether your character is a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’ and how prominent they are in the story. Nevertheless, it is a way Tony sees himself making a contribution to conservation efforts.
The Parks were part owners of Nantwich, a luxury lodge in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, and used the lodge to support anti-poaching units by including a nightly levy on accommodation rates that goes towards buying food and equipment for the patrols. During the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, poaching increased due to the lack of tourism in the parks, which also meant less money through the levies to help the anti-poaching patrols. It was a difficult time for the animals.
Most of Tony’s book ideas come from conversations with friends or strangers he meets in his travels. A snippet of information here, another there, and the seed is sown that might take several years to bear fruit but will then form the basis of one of his books. Invariably, those stories involve poaching or corrupt governments because there will always be something to write about those topics in Africa. Even plants can be the subject of poaching, with unscrupulous traders paying up to $100,000 US dollars for a rare cycad, which is featured in his book Last Survivor.
Tony has highlighted the plight of African wildlife throughout his writing, bringing people together to help educate them about what is happening. His stories might be fiction, but the backdrop of Africa and the problems with poaching and illegal trade in animals and animal parts is very real. Tony told Sarah McDuling in a 2018 interview for the Booktopia website, “I hope readers get an increased awareness not only of the scale of the poaching problem in Africa but the good work being done by men, women and dogs to protect wildlife”.
You can find out more about Tony Park, his books, and the charities he supports at his website tonypark.net