My Week: Andy McNab
Saturday, 14 November 2009

The author and former member of the SAS is on a new mission meeting audiences of infantrymen – and passing on to them the joys of reading

I’m on a promotional tour for my new book and I’m due to give a talk at RAF Lossiemouth, up in the north of Inverness, but it was all a bit Planes, Trains and Automobiles today because we never actually get there. We take a flight from Gatwick but we get stuck in Aberdeen airport as there’s too much fog. We end up getting trains and taxis to Edinburgh and we lose the whole day.

We go to Catterick today, which has the biggest military garrison in Europe. I’m giving a talk to the Infantry Training Centre where everybody does the 26-week basic infantry training course. I talk to them mainly about the benefits of getting an education. Even now, on average an infantry recruit has the reading age of an 11-year-old. I tell them all the war stories about my time in the SAS and the glamorous bits about writing books and getting involved in films. But I really try to encourage them all to continue with their education while they’re training and take advantage of the opportunities that are there within the army. I hang out with the new recruits. They try and get me to do an assault course or arm-wrestle them; all that sort of business but it’s good fun. A lot of these guys will be going to Afghanistan next year. It’s not time for Britain to leave there yet. Whether we like it, we’re there and to pull out now would affect the situation here. We have to try to get the police and the Afghan army up to a credible level of training and competence which is going to be hard. Everybody wants to get the job done and get out but it has to work; otherwise we’re back to square one.

I go to Wakefield to talk to the West Yorkshire Police. I’m a patron of Help for Heroes so they have an event for Remembrance Day. I talk about my career and but ultimately it’s all to raise money. People are really behind the charity, which is great, and we manage to get lots of money out of policemen.

I’m involved in an initiative called Quick Reads which re-engage people who haven’t read for a while, or find reading difficult, with a range of books which can be read in about an hour and a half. I go to three schools around Liverpool and talk about books and how reading has helped me. When I joined the army at 16, the first book I read was a Janet and John book which is designed for children. But I felt proud at having finished a book, even if it had just a couple of sentences a page.

I drive to Sheffield today to sign lots of my latest book, Exit Wound. It follows Nick Stone again, but this time he’s trying to make some money for himself rather than saving the world! I then go to Nottingham for another event to encourage reading. I always tell them the same thing: pick up a book – what’s the worst that could happen?

Source: The Independent