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"Already he had counted sixteen soldiers, ten beige-clad paratroopers sleeping under a big umbrella tree where there was some shade. On the taxi ride away from Brazzaville, along the dusty road where the plateau broke down to brown grassless hills, he had see maybe six soldiers marching wearily, looking sad-eyed and stoned on bungi, crazy from the canopy of unrelieved sun. Mostly he felt amazed and a little lucky to be in Africa, but just then he felt afraid, as
if a little bubble of balance in the middle of his head had suddenly been tilted to one side, and the soldiers knew it."
Set in Zaire and the Republic of Congo, The World Beat evokes modern Africa with a realism that few writers achieve. At loose ends, series hero Roberts takes an assignment from Lloyds of London to deliver ransom for Elyse Revelle, a Belgian mining company doctor who has been kidnapped, presumably be separatists or terrorists. Together with a Zairian employee of the company, Roberts undertakes an arduous river journey to make contact with the kidnappers at the doctor’s clinic in the jungle. This journey, with its sights, sounds, and smells of Africa, is both metaphor and actuality. Roberts falls seriously ill and the trip becomes a struggle to head off forces that are opposed to the mission, to find and pay off the kidnappers, and to elude death from disease or assassination.
Like the novels of Graham Greene, The World Beat combines gripping action themes of political commitment, moral responsibility and human violence.