2008
22.12

There’s even big fan clubs where every single word is analysed!

An interview in the Irish Sunday Business Post by Gavin Daly.

Soldier of Fortune

The man behind the pseudonym of Andy McNab has seen his life transformed beyond belief, from battling through enemy territory with Britain’s special forces regiment, to writing best-selling books and documentaries – and occasionally even hobnobbing with Robert De Niro.

In the lobby of a plush Dublin hotel, a man who cannot reveal his full identity is talking about things that don’t usually get discussed in such surroundings. ‘‘The new body armour is stunning,” he says. ‘‘When I was in Afghanistan in September, a parachute regiment lad took a 50 cal round – you know, a big thing designed to hit tanks – into his chest. It knocked him over, broke his ribs and all that – but he staggered up, he was all right. Without doubt, it’s the best gear anybody has got.”

Welcome to the world of AndyMcNab. Or rather, welcome to the world of the man known as Andy McNab – a former delinquent who became a boy soldier at 16 and went on to become a decorated SAS (Special Air Service) officer and bestselling author. A broad-shouldered 48-year-old of average height, McNab doesn’t look out of place in the hotel surroundings, and there is nothing to betray his background. But his face can’t be photographed and, when asked for his real name, McNab demurs. ‘‘My mates know,’’ McNab says, pausing for some deadpan military humour: ‘‘Well, normally, it’s just ‘dickhead’.”

McNab has been out of the British army for 15 years, but he never cut his ties with the organisation that made him a household name after the first Gulf War. In 1991, McNab led an eight-man patrol, Bravo Two Zero, into Iraq to locate and destroy Scud missile launchers and disrupt the country’s communications systems. But after a series of ‘‘cock-ups’’, just one member of the patrol made it out. Three were killed and four – including McNab – were captured and ‘‘went through an interrogation process’’. McNab spent four weeks in an Iraqi interrogation centre and three weeks in Abu Ghraib prison. ‘‘Obviously,” he says, ‘‘it’s quite well-known now.” One day, he was lined up with other captives facing a wall. Behind them, their Iraqi captors cocked their weapons. ‘‘We all thought we was going to get dropped,” says McNab, mixing his native London dialect with decades of Army-speak. ‘‘I’m like, ‘well fuck it, here we go’.” But it was actually a parting ploy from the Iraqis – when one of the captives started to break down, they laughed, secured their weapons and released the prisoners to the Red Cross. McNab went back to soldiering, content that his training had worked. ‘‘Of course, fuck that, I don’t want that to happen again,” is how he describes the episode. ‘‘But actually, it’s all right, I’m here, I’m getting sorted out. I like being in the army, it’s alright.” When he did leave two years later, he was Britain’s most highly-decorated soldier.

McNab was working in private security in Colombia a short time later when the army came looking for him. Keen to end – or at least influence – conjecture about what had happened in Iraq, the army establishment effectively commissioned McNab to tell his story. Bravo Two Zero, his account of the disastrous operation, has since sold over 1.7million copies in Britain and been translated into 16 languages. Using the real identity of a former SAS officer who had been in the North, south-east Asia, Africa, South America and ‘‘lots in the Middle East’’ wasn’t an option, so Andy McNab was born.

‘‘It took five seconds [to come up with],” he says of his alter-ego. ‘‘There was a PacMan game years ago called Munchin’ McNab and that was it. It’s short and sharp and it fit on the cover. That’s all, like a trade name. It was just going to be the one book.”

That’s not how it worked out. McNab has since put his name to two other non-fiction books, including his autobiography, Immediate Action, which has sold more than 1.4million copies in Britain. He has written a ‘Boy Soldier’ series of books for children and 11 thrillers featuring the character of Nick Stone – the latest of which, Brute Force, has just been published. There are McNab watches, beer and ‘‘all sorts of shit’’ available globally. Heady times, you’d think, but McNab is matter-of-fact both about his army career and about what has happened him since.

By his own admission, he was poor at reading and writing as a child, and was in juvenile detention for breaking and entering when he was recruited to the army at the age of 16.Now, he is a wealthy writer (‘‘not so much an author, because author sounds quite establishment,” he says) with film and television projects to his name. Was it a huge transition? ‘‘Actually, I was quite cocky,” he says. ‘‘I wrote Bravo Two Zero in four months. I knew the story; it’s what I now know is a linear story – that’s where it starts, that’s where it ends. Then I had another two months messing about with it, giving it a sense of place, environment, all that.” He took some inspiration from Joe Simpson, the mountaineer who turned to writing after he almost died on an expedition in Chile in 1985. Simpson wrote his classic, Touching the Void, to clear up controversy over the fact that his climbing partner had cut the rope they were sharing. ‘‘It’s such a good book – that sense of place and feel and environment,’’ McNab says of Touching the Void. ‘‘I spent those two months [with Bravo Two Zero] basically putting in the sense of place and all that stuff. Then it went public  and it went ballistic.”

McNab was back in Colombia when the idea of a second book was floated. ‘‘I was on this job and I got this call from the publisher: ‘Do you fancy doing another?’.And it was pissing down rain and I have six weeks’ [beard] growth and it was, ‘well, what the fuck do you think?’. That’s how it all started. It was good.”

‘‘Good’’ is probably an understatement. When Robert DeNiro read Bravo Two Zero, McNab was asked to be the technical weapons adviser on Heat, the Michael Mann film that also starred Al Pacino. He also did ‘‘a bit on Black Hawk Down’’ and films by Jason Statham. ‘‘It was from one extreme to the other,’’ McNab says. ‘‘I was in the regiment, got out and did this whole Bravo Two Zero thing. Within a year, I’m in LA fucking about with DeNiro and all the other lads. It was automatic weapons, Los Angeles and banks. It was fantastic.” Working with Mann also propelled McNab’s fiction-writing career. McNab hadn’t read much as a child, so Mann suggested he think more like a film-maker, ‘seeing’ chapters in his books as scenes, rather than as a daunting volume of work. ‘‘It’s all pictures anyway – you’re trying to create a picture, aren’t you?” he says. ‘‘I just think of it that way.’’

Even 15 years on, however, he cannot say that he enjoys writing. ‘‘No,” he says emphatically, in answer to that question. Does it get easier with each book? ‘‘No.” ‘‘It started as an invitation to write a book, but it’s a business now,” he says. He takes a businesslike approach, starting each book in January, with a deadline of Easter for a ‘‘decent’’ first draft. (‘‘Which this year was a pain in the arse, because Easter was early,” he says.) ‘‘Once I’ve got that first draft, then I start to enjoy it. Then I just keep on ripping it apart and work on layering and layering.”

His relationship with the army means he has plenty of primary material – his last thriller, Crossfire, included fictionalised versions of real operations he accompanied recently in Iraq. Last September, he was in Afghanistan with British units.
McNab’s new thriller Brute Force has an IRA theme and scenes set in Ireland, but McNab gives nothing away about the three years he spent in the North – both as an infantry soldier and a member of the SAS. ‘‘Once you get involved in the covert stuff, you start to understand, you get it,” he says. ‘‘If I lived in the Bogside, I’d probably have joined the IRA. But I didn’t, I lived in south London, so I joined the army.” He believes that the North was ‘‘propelled’’ towards peace after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 brought international pressure to bear on all terrorist groups. Unsurprisingly, he has clear-cut views about the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan – the former is about oil, he says, while the latter is about tackling terrorism. Both need to be seen through with a combination of military action and reconstruction, according to McNab. ‘‘Afghanistan affects our daily life; and Iraq will affect our daily life if we don’t get the oil wells working,” he says.

McNab remains close to the defence establishment, helping to train soldiers and working on education and veterans’ projects. ‘‘I do as much as I can with infantry recruits, because the average literacy age of an infantry soldier is about 11,” he says. ‘‘That’s because, well, the education system is shit.”

His fame opens doors – he has met the British defence minister (‘‘he’s all right’’) and is due to have tea with Prince Charles next month. However, he doesn’t get too caught up in his own hype. ‘‘I don’t even know how many [copies] the last book sold; I can’t be arsed, there’s not enough time,” he says. ‘‘Ultimately, if people like them, they buy them. It increases 5-15 per cent every year depending on what territory you take. Places like Japan, there’s a frenzy.” He claims to be equally unconcerned about his audience, although his publishers and marketing people have probably done considerable market research. ‘‘I’m writing for me, not for anyone else,” he says. ‘‘My nine-year-old godson reads these. And the readership is 45 per cent female. There’s even big fan clubs where every single word is analysed!”

McNab will start his next book in January, but he has plenty to keep him busy until then. A documentary series, McNab’s Tour of Duty, has just been released on DVD, while a film version of one of his thrillers and an eight-part BBC drama – called Warrior Nation – are in the pipeline, with release dates in 2010.

‘‘It’s that weird thing where a little bit of success brings another little bit,” he says. ‘‘You’ve been given the opportunity and you gotta have a go. And yeah, I’m rich. But it’s always been a punt, and it still is really. It’s great, it’s lovely, but it’s not forever; as quick as it comes, it goes.”

Source: Sunday Business Post Online

2008
16.12

According to Tranworlds site Between The Lines Andy would love this in his Christmas stocking this year: “a new motorbike. BMW R1250 GS, anyone out there with a spare one?”

Not sure they make stockings that size and unfortunately I can only offer a spare one of these. But Andy, feel free to pick that up any time 😉

2008
15.12

We have a winner in our contest:  Miss Cazalet from Kent, UK. Andy McNab’s latest Nick Stone novel “Brute Force” will be coming your way, congratulations! Thank you other contestants, we’re sorry we don’t have more copies, we would have loved to send one to all of you.

The answer to our question was nót ‘Bravo Two Zero on Ice’, nor ‘a documentary Army Skills in Kindergarten: How to create Super Soldiers’, the right aswer was of course ‘to write a play’. Most of you had that right.

So thanks for joining, we hope you will still all be reading Brute Force very soon!

2008
15.12

Wounded war heroes will get up to £570,000 after the Government doubled maximum compensation payments.

The MoD caved in over the £285,000 limit after 75% of Brits said damages for badly injured personnel were “insulting”.

An enhanced Armed Forces Compensation Scheme will now backdate payments to April 2005 when the scheme is introduced.

More than £10million in additional compensations will be paid to 2,700 servicemen and women. It is a huge victory for campaigners fighting to help heroes like Ben McBean, 21.

The marine – hailed “the real hero” by Prince Harry, 24 – received just £161,000 after losing an arm and a leg in a blast in Afghanistan.

Lance-Bombardier Ben Parkinson, 24, got £152,150 after losing his legs taking on the Taliban.

Private Jamie Cooper, 19, was awarded just £57,000 for horrific injuries to his arm and stomach in Basra.

The campaigners included the Royal British Legion, ex-SAS soldier-turned-author Andy McNab, 48, and the National Gulf Veterans and Families’ Association. The MoD was accused of “betrayal” over  massive compo handouts.

Read the full article here

2008
14.12

By Tom Newton Dunn
Published: 11 Dec 2008

Prince Charles hosted a unique VIP panel yesterday as they met to decide The Sun’s new Military Awards. The 12-strong team has to sift almost a THOUSAND nominations for “Millies” to honour Britain’s Forces.

Charles, proud of Army sons William and Harry, greeted the judges at his Clarence House home. And one of the panel, Olympic heroine and ex-soldier Dame Kelly Holmes, said: “Judging the Millies is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. There are so many worthy winners”.

The Millies — originally Prince Charles’ idea — aim to recognise just a few of the incredible deeds by our men and women in uniform. All the nominations have come from YOU.

Charles told the judges: “Thank you for coming. It’s a wonderful project.” They include SAS legend Andy McNab, former Army head General Sir Mike Jackson, England rugby stars Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio and actor Ross Kemp.
Others are ex-Royal Navy chief Lord West, former RAF boss Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squires and The Sun’s Defence Editor Tom Newton Dunn. Three judges — England footie skipper John Terry, Sun columnist and Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, and former SAS commander Lord Guthrie — could not be there yesterday but their votes were still counted.

A shortlist of three has been drawn up for each award. There are 12 categories for nominations including Best Recruit, True Grit, Best Unit and the Most Outstanding member of each Service. Each Millie is a stunning brass globe topped by three tall strands of silver.

The awards ceremony will be held at London’s Hampton Court Palace next Tuesday and televised on Sky One.

Source: The Sun

Andy McNab - Judging the Sun's Millies

2008
01.12

Andy McNab book Brute ForceGrey Man’s Land has got one copy of Andy McNab’s latest Nick Stone novel ‘Brute Force’ to give away!!

If you haven’t read it yet, but dying to… answer the following question: We asked Andy in an interview what project he would love to do, but which probably never will be developed. What did he answer?

E-mail your answer to lynn@greymansland.com and the book can be yours!

We pick a winner on 15 December, so it could be a Christmas present.