A Reluctant Warrior…
A gripping novel that gives readers a rare glimpse into Colombia’s notorious drug wars, told by someone who knows the landscape intimately.
When Luzma’s brother Jair unwittingly uncovers the plan by Colombia’s most notorious drug cartel to smuggle an unprecedented cocaine shipment into the US, it puts their family in grave danger.
Jair’s kidnapping by the cartel forces Luzma to go face to face with vicious paramilitary leader, El Cubano, and General Ordonez, ruthless head of the military – men who will stop at nothing to protect their empires.
But for Luzma, nothing is more important than saving her family – not even her own life.
Kelly Brooke Nicholls worked in human rights in Colombia for a number of years. Although the story and characters in A Reluctant Warrior are fictitious, they are based on events she witnessed first hand and her interviews with thousands of victims of paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug cartels. She wrote this book to celebrate and support the brave people in Colombia who risk their lives to protect and make a difference to others.
A Reluctant Warrior is a fast paced novel, brimming with tension, right from the first page and it doesn’t let up until you reach the last. It’s not possible to consider this story without placing it within the context of the author’s own experiences brought to the creative process. These experiences lend the novel an authenticity that moves it away from being a political thriller to a solid account of a life so extreme that as a reader, you struggle as you fully grasp that this is everyday life for a whole country full of people.
“While the story and characters in A Reluctant Warrior are fictitious, they are informed by events I witnessed and researched during the years I worked in human rights in Colombia and later in Washington DC as the Director of the U.S. Office on Colombia. During this time, I interviewed thousands of victims of paramilitaries, guerrilla and drug cartels and met with senior leaders of these groups to understand exactly how they operate. I know Buenaventura intimately, including the most notorious neighborhoods featured in the book. I wrote A Reluctant Warrior to help shine a light on the way ordinary Colombian citizens have suffered and continue to suffer, despite the advancement in the Peace Agreement. But more than that, I wrote it to celebrate, support and amplify the message of the brave people who risk their lives to protect and make a difference to others.” Author’s Note.
Kelly also includes some facts at the end of this novel that lend further credibility to this story and they are quite shocking. I had only a very hazy knowledge base with regard to the drug situation in Columbia. While my knowledge base is now vastly increased through immersion in this story, I feel entirely overwhelmed by the layers of corruption and the entrenched violence that exists within the setting of this story. My admiration for those fighting to survive, fighting to assist, and fighting against the evil through small and large acts of bravery and resistance knows no bounds.
The situation Kelly set up within this novel to demonstrate the real life happenings within Columbia was entirely accessible. It would have been no small task, taking this huge conflict and placing a microscope onto it in such a way. Through Luzma’s personal tragedy and reluctance to give in and yield again to the violence and tyranny, we as readers were given the reins of reality, and not just from her perspective either, which was an excellent technique from Kelly. We got to peer through the eyes of all the invested characters and once again, authenticity was secured as Kelly did nothing to sugar coat and pretty up the narrative to make it more palatable. This is gritty, gripping, frightening stuff and you can’t help but pause regularly to digest once again that this is fiction based heavily on fact.
As a main character, Luzma had me torn at times. She was so determined to meet her end goal that she often frustrated me with her stubbornness. Yet, without this tenacity, no one would ever effect change. In this, I feel Kelly did an excellent job at bringing Luzma to life. She was at times reckless, putting others in harms way, taking chances with her own personal safety with no thought for her family and their potential loss; she was arrogant to the point where I wanted to shake her and knock her unconscious so she couldn’t do anything else with reckless abandon. Yet, I still championed her. I still rejoiced in every one of her victories. This is excellent character development in action and I applaud Kelly for her skill here. Connecting to Luzma was essential to appreciating the story but it’s always good to be challenged along the path of that connection.
It took Kelly over eight years to research and write A Reluctant Warrior. I imagine this time would have quite often been fraught with despair, particularly given her own personal research and experiences. I’m so grateful for her efforts and I sincerely wish her much success with this novel.
A Reluctant Warrior is book 32 of my 2017 AustralianWomen Writers Challenge.
About Kelly Brooke Nicholls:
Kelly Brooke Nicholls’ fascination with other cultures was instilled in her early years growing up on a boat in the south pacific islands. She’s been passionate about human rights from an early age and following a stint as a journalist at Australian Associated Press she moved to Latin America when she was 23. From there she was compelled to make a difference and help people affected by conflict, abuse and extreme poverty. She has over 15 years’ senior leadership experience working for NGOs ranging from Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders to a small indigenous-led organisation in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Her extensive time living and working in Colombia has left an indelible mark. She has travelled extensively to places few foreigners have been, researching and documenting the impact of the ongoing war on ordinary citizens and the horrendous human rights abuses inflicted on them.
Kelly wrote her novel A Reluctant Warrior to help shine a light on the way ordinary Colombian citizens have suffered and continue to suffer, despite the advancement in the Peace Agreement. But more than that, she wrote this book to celebrate, support and amplify the message of the brave people who risk their lives to protect and make a difference to others.
Kelly strongly believes that everyone has the ability to make a difference in the world and bring about positive change, and has spent her life helping people achieve that.
Kelly lives on the Northern Beaches of Sydney with her Colombian husband and two sons.