Writing the miners' story

By Martin Vennard
BBC News

Image caption,
Jonathan Franklin accompanied miner Mario Sepulveda to hospital

Rumours of book deals and film rights to the story of the 33 trapped Chilean miners have been rife since even before the first man was brought above ground on Wednesday.

Names of actors who could play them on screen have even been mentioned, with the Spaniard Javier Bardem tipped to take a leading role.

And one deal, at least, has already been completed. Freelance journalist Jonathan Franklin has been signed up to write a book about the men's dramatic story.

The American reporter - who writes for Britain's The Guardian newspaper, among others - says he has been following the story from day one when the miners were first trapped.

"I was approached by multiple literary agents," says Mr Franklin on a mobile phone from outside the hospital in Copiapo where the miners were taken for treatment.

"It was a huge story in Chile before the world got interested and I'd written so many articles for The Guardian and they were seen," he adds.

A deal was done with the publishers Transworld at last week's Frankfurt Book Fair.


Mr Franklin says he has had exclusive access to the miners and their families for the last two months, splitting his time between the mine and his home in the capital, Santiago.

"I knew who everyone was and they trusted me and liked my attitude," says Mr Franklin, who has lived in Chile for more than 15 years.

He cites the example of Mario Sepulveda who led the crowds in chanting after being rescued.

"I was taken to the hospital with him and his wife. She even asked me to make a home video for them.

"I was the only journalist to interview the miners while they were still underground. I did the first interview in the hospital and I was the first cameraman to film them in the hospital," he says.

There have been reports of underground squabbles and fights between some of the miners, and that they have pledged not to speak about certain things that happened in the 17 days before they were located.

Image caption,
Jonathan Franklin signed deal before miners' rescue

But Mr Franklin says he is confident that he will be able to reveal "some amazing stories" when the book is published early next year.

"History shows that 33 people aren't capable of keeping secrets, and some of what they did was honorable and noble. I don't see a reason to sanitise anything," he says.

Continuing story

He says he will continue to follow the story for about a year and that there could be a number of updated versions of the book, whose provisional title is 33 Men, Buried Alive.

He says he cannot say any more for contractual reasons, but adds, "Their families are characters in it as well".

Mr Franklin says he has great affection for the men and their loved ones. "I hope in 10 years' time I'm still in contact with these people. It's a remarkable story."

Asked how much he is being paid, he will only say, "The advance is okay, but not enough to cover being a freelancer for 25 years. I don't know if it will be a bestseller. The main thing is, I want it to be a good book".

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