In 1955, eight crew members of a Colombian naval destroyer in the Caribbean were swept overboard by a giant wave. Luis Alejandro Velasco, a sailor who spent ten days on a life raft without food or water, was the only survivor. The editor of the Colombian newspaper El Espectadorassigned the story to a twenty-seven-year-old reporter who had been dabbling in fiction and had a reputation as a gifted feature writer: Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez.
The young journalist quickly uncovered a military scandal. As his fourteen-part series revealed, the sailors owed their deaths not to a storm, as Colombia’s military dictatorship had claimed, but to naval negligence. [. . .] By the time the series ended, El Espectador’s circulation had almost doubled. The public always likes an exposÃ©, but what made the stories so popular was not simply the explosive revelations of military incompetence. GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez had managed to transform Velasco’s account into a narrative so dramatic and compelling that readers lined up in front of the newspaper’s offices, waiting to buy copies.