2009
22.11

A brief “Exit Wound” review from Camban:
On “Exit Wound”; you know how some novelists kind of tail off after, say, fifteen books? Well no such problem here, in fact I’d say that this is one of his best, hugely enjoyable in his now traditional, unique style. He gets more factual accuracy in these days too with plenty of canny political observations which are often alarmingly prescient. Together with the geographical and technical insights, his eminent squaddie style of dialogue makes for a fascinating tale of epic proportions. Only niggle is again the copious quantity of blank paper combined with very short chapters which makes for a feeling of being slightly cheated. Also contains many British cultural references which may confuse the foreigners here, though certain Western Europeans already steal BBC programmes without paying the licence fee so they may be aware of the TV programmes referred to in the text. Not saying who they may be but they make a clonking noise when they walk. If anyone else wants clarification just ask me.

2009
05.11

Frank, one of our enthusiastic readers, was so fortunate to receive his copy of Exit Wound a few weeks ago, thanks to Amazon Germany breaking the embargo… so you know where to order next year.
He finished the book and for those who are receiving their much anticipated new Nick Stone novel one of these days .. here’s what you can expect.

EXIT WOUND REVIEW

Here we go, it’s November again and this usually means a new Nick Stone Thriller will see the light of day in the real and virtual bookshelves of the world.
To many of us who have been with Mr. Stone from Day 1 if you like to call “Remote Control” that way, have lately been feeling his days of intense storylines are over.
To me, books like Agressor, Recoil and Crossfire were of course nice to read but something was amiss. Some other blokes were already stating in reviews of the books mentioned above, the details which made you feel to “with” Nick were mostly gone. MIA.

Exit Wound, in my eyes, is at least trying to put us in that place again. That dark, nasty place in Nicks handiwork.
In the beginning, back in 1985 on the other side of the Berlin Wall, there is a first short glimpse of that when Nick is first using a flashlight of a certain kind to … well I’ll save that : -) and then he uses it properly, switching it on to search for something that was maybe better suited for the thing he did with the flashlight.
Later, Nick meets up with the two mates from the 80s again to steal something ordered by Saddam himself from some warehouse in Dubai and you can feel that magic again, though not as detailed as in the early books, but it is definitely there.

After the bust went wrong you are up to a surprise in terms of who Nick is really working for now…
Nick is send to Iran and there it is again. The humor, the sarcasm, a bit of brutality, Nicks use of his skills lulling people into doing something for him.

I really really enjoyed reading the book and had it finished within 72 hours.
I can honestly say, that Exit Wound is at least 70% back to old strength and makes me hope for some more. Many more! NOW! But nope, we will have to wait, thankfully 2010 promises for a few more new releases by our favorite Author.

Plus I don’t wanna spoil anything but in stark contrast to f.e. Dark Winter you will find some kind of happy Ending to Exit Wound.

Frank Bader.

Thanks Frank!!
I got my copy too, I’m on the last pages and I can honestly say it’s hard to put down so I’m reading whenever I can, the household suffers – but that’s how it is for now.
It’s a Nick Stone the way we love and know him, tough but fair and showing some vulnerability at times. Definitely how the ladies prefer ‘the male’ and how men would like to be. To please the men there’s also the drop-dead-gorgeous “Jane” * (Anna) who softens Nick up despite their rather harsh introduction – followed by a rough tour through the Russian fields. Ultimately they even manage to bond due to their common goal.
Of course the much appreciated sarcastic humor is present. But in Exit Wound Andy also throws in some compassion (again) through rants by the character Red Ken – and I love it!
Andy creates some circumstances which are rather helpful to Nick Stone on his mission but would probably be missing in ‘real life’, causing and early end to the mission. But then this is fiction…and the show must go on.
One thing that’s not really clear to me is where and how Nick got his Nikon back, perhaps someone can fill me in after reading the book, I might have missed something.
As for the happy ending Frank mentions…. I will know about it soon enough….
For me, Exit Wound got it ‘all’, with some nice twists, and the only bad thing I can think of is ‘finishing the book’ and having to wait for another year. Sigh.

Lynn

*Every story has a “Tarzan” and a “Jane”, like the perfect male/female and in every story “Jane” sprains her ankle and Tarzan has to safe her from all the bad stuff happening.

2008
12.11

Having become a bit jaded after reading McNab’s entire output, I expected little from Brute Force.  I reckoned it would be more of the same and less of the good stuff.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

Brute Force is right up there with Remote Control and Firewall, a return to what I’ve considered McNab’s strong point–using “normal” characters (as opposed to SAS commandos) to bring us into the action from our point of view while also showing Nick Stone’s concern for the people around him.

The novel has everything that makes us love McNab — the humour, the fast pace, and the exotic locations painted so clearly the book could serve as a travel guide. It also provides something that I for one have been missing with his last few — realistic details of tactical and operational methods. If you’ve been wondering how to craft a nice shaped-charge to blow a hole in a boat’s hull, Brute Force is for you.

The only criticism I have is minor. At one point in the book, McNab points out that the truck he’s driving is an automatic, allowing him to ram through a checkpoint if necessary without taking his hands off the wheel. A mere three or four pages later, the same vehicle becomes a standard shift, and he’s working the clutch like a madman. It reminds me of Dark Winter, where Sundance or Trainers (can’t remember which one) wields a revolver with a suppressor attached. You would think Mr. “Attention to detail, check and re-check,” having spent his life around weapons, would realize that attaching a suppressor to a revolver wouldn’t accomplish much (the gasses escape through the cylinder), just as you’d think a motor enthusiast would mind the difference between a standard and an automatic transmission. But that’s where I think the editors come in.

I don’t think he has a “ghost writer” in the traditional sense, but I think these two examples alone show other hands at work. And really, Andy doesn’t need them.

His own voice comes through so clearly in Brute Force and his other greats, it makes me wish he will one day send his editors the way of the Yes Man.

Jon

PS: Brute Force is in the Sunday Times Bestseller list this week at number 6

2008
07.11

Quick as ever, Camban read AND reviewed Brute Force! He send me his review of Seven Troop a while back but I had not posted it yet *blush*, sorry Cam. Here both are!

Andy McNab Seven Troop
Seven Troop Review: Undeniably important, compulsive reading for the McNab fan, but I was left with mixed feelings. An enjoyable book in its own right but if you have read B20 and IA, plus those books by ‘Nish’ Bruce, ‘The Bishop’, Gaz Hunter, Cameron Spence, et al, there is little new here in terms of factual events, although we do learn much more about Andy’s feelings and relationships with his comrades in arms. It has to be said that he is either still holding back on some ops, or, he didn’t do many. The NI stuff is good though, if only a variation on the similar experiences of other writers; Duncan Falconer for example, or the few 14 Int/Det writers who have published their stories. So, not disappointing at all, but also not ‘explosive’ as the daft cover blurb would have us believe. Just hope there is more to come.

Andy McNab book Brute ForceBrute Force Review: Tour de Force! As fresh, interesting, and authentic as ever. One for the faithful too with lots of references to the earlier books and the return of Colonel Lynn. Plenty of gritty wit and funny asides as always but with more in depth geographical and historical content than usual; quite a lot to be learned here about the lost archeology of the middle east and the times of the Roman occupation of that region. Skillful intertwining of old enemies, Libya and the IRA. Satisfaction guaranteed. 

Can’t wait to start reading Brute Force too Cam, thanks a lot!!

2008
06.02

“To say that this former SAS man’s view of the world is unhinged is only to observe that it constitutes an entirely accurate representation of the world as seen by many decorated soldiers.”

Andy McNab London Review of BooksLondon Review of Books contributing editor Andrew O’Hagan reviewed Andy’s Crossfire in their January edition.

In his article called “Living it” O’Hagan links the present video game generation (“If you want to know what is happening in the mind of the average teenage boy you must follow the action of his thumbs”) to the rising popularity of books written by “been there, done that” writers like Andy McNab and Chris Ryan.

Greymansland gives you an abstract.

O’Hagan is not too positive (to say the least) about the violent video games (like Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Eternal Forces) which, according to researchers may lower the “P300 response”: a way of measuring the emotional impact of what players see. The researchers concluded that real-life violence troubled the players of these games much less than other children and that there’s an increasing risk that children and adults will behave aggressively.

O’Hagan:

“Many of the British and American forces now deployed in Iraq and
Afghanistan grew up on computer games and their understanding of their mission, their power, their enemy and their equipment may be highly coloured by the virtual lives they have lived and the vivid, hardened sense of worlds changed and prisoners not taken.”

In his in 2004 published account “Generation Kill”, journalist Evan Wright says ‘Soldiers raised on hip hop, internet porn and video games, a disparate band of born-again Christians, dopers, Buddhists and New Agers who gleaned their precepts from kung fu movies and Oprah Winfrey…They were a new breed of warrior unrecognisable to their forebears,’ In Wright’s book, Lieutenant Fick, a Dartmouth graduate who joined the Marines in a fit of idealism, shakes his head, grinning. ‘I’ll say one thing about these guys,’ he says. ‘When we take fire, not one of them hesitates to shoot back. In World War Two, when Marines hit the beaches, a surprisingly high percentage of them didn’t fire their weapons, even when faced with direct enemy contact. They hesitated. Not these guys. Did you see what they did to that town? They fucking destroyed it. These guys have no problem with killing.’

The problem with having no problem is that caution isn’t seen as anything other than cowardice, a rude philosophy that may have reached its zenith in the novels of Andy McNab. To say that this former SAS man’s view of the world is unhinged is only to observe that it constitutes an entirely accurate representation of the world as seen by many decorated soldiers. That is the reason men who don’t ordinarily read have come in great numbers to love the insiderish bravado of McNab and Chris Ryan.

McNab and Ryan fully meet the present culture’s demand for the seemingly real, though it’s a reality centred on complete fantasy. Like Method actors, they have done their stint in the realm of the actual, have tasted the fare of which they speak, being former soldiers, decorated men who write under aliases.

Who knows how many of the sentences in their books were actually generated by them, but that is not the kind of authenticity that matters in this kind of authorship. Each writer has been embedded with the fantastical elements of modern war – they have lived the virtual lives they write about – and that makes them the right kind of war novelist for this kind of generation. The only thing that could kill their books – reduce their relevance, vanish their massive audience – would be to make them better written. Their lousiness is their genius.

If you’re in a novel by Andy McNab, you don’t have hair you have a barnet. You don’t eat dinner you stuff your face. You don’t visit the loo you take a slash. You don’t go to bed you get your head down. You don’t speak rot you talk bollocks. Things are not broken they are knackered, and into every life a rain of bullets must fall.

The average McNab guy will have seen things that are the stuff of nightmares, possibly in Northern Ireland; he will live in a desert storm of acronyms; he will speak pornographically about guns, rifles, rockets and weapons systems; he will deploy a freely offensive shorthand about everybody from the ‘Muj’ – the Mujahideen – to rag-headed Iraqi insurgents, knocking off a few corrupt Russians, useless journalists, greasy Serbs and ‘sound as a pound’ Scousers along the way.

‘Maybe that was why I’d never found it hard to get on with Africans,
Arabs, squaddies, whoever,’ Nick Stone says in Crossfire. ‘They soon discovered I was like them – waist deep in the shit-pit and happy to get my head up enough to take a few breaths occasionally before I got pushed back down.’

Crossfire features a television reporter who is kidnapped in Kabul and may be beheaded online. Ryan’s new book, Strike Back, features a television reporter who is kidnapped in Beirut and may be beheaded online. The world of difference initially suggested by Ryan’s hapless victim being female is dispelled when you consider his book’s rugged hero, a McNabian squarehead called John Porter, former SAS man and now broken-backed vodka-guzzler under the arches of Vauxhall. All these men have a chance to thwart the `Ruperts` by fixing – via immense personal courage and a lot of guns and knives – the unfixable, getting in and out of foreign situations with an orange-flamed dexterity that would leave the characters in most video games gasping for extra battery power.

Crossfire: “One of the pictures was a wider shot of the room or cell. The door had a sheet of steel screwed over it and a jailer’s spyhole. The last one showed a tabletop with the legs removed, bolted to an oil drum. It looked like an oversized see-saw, but I knew this was no game. Two buckets of water stood next to it. A tap stuck out of the wall. A fat roll of clingfilm sat on a pile of empty hessian sandbags.”

So there you have it. McNab’s fearlessly poor and clichéd thriller, while working itself up to a pornography of virtual violence, manages, nevertheless, to do something that no novel by a literary writer on either side of the Atlantic has so far managed: he describes waterboarding, a government-sanctioned torture, and he does so in a way that will leave no reader uncertain about what it means.

Elsewhere, in the same scarred prose, he captures a truth about insurgents high on heroin; he reports on the mercenary power of private security firms; he refers to the kinds of deal that were done to promote peace in Northern Ireland. One creeps through many forests of childishness to reach the news, but it is there, dangling from the crooked boughs of McNab’s tortuous plot, and it embodies a few truths about our times.

O’Hagan obviously acknowledges the strength of McNab and Ryans books, but for an audience that is not his own by the sound of it. But then someone said “I guess it’s an honour to be reviewed by the literary ruperts” so there you go 😉

As said, this is only part of the review as published in the London Review of Books magazine. You can find the whole article here for subscribers or to buy.