2017
06.11

With Andy McNab on his ‘Line Of Duty’ tour we were fortunate Jan Radovic was (extremely) willing to act as Grey Man’s Land on-the-scene reporter. If you’ve never been so fortunate to attent one of Andy’s meetings here’s her report of what you’re missing out on! Betting you’ll be as envious as we are!!
Jan also got Andy to answer a few prying questions – we’ll post that soon too so keep watching this space 🙂
Thanks so much Jan, it’s a great read 😀

AN EVENING WITH ANDY MCNAB CBE, MM, DCM – Part 1
October 2017 by Jan Radovic

What’s it like to spend a night with SAS legend Andy McNab? You’d have to ask his nearest and dearest that one, but an evening spent listening to this man of action’s life of blood, guts, mayhem and war is thrilling stuff…

The variety of audience members is something I have found intriguing over the years; back in the day 50 or so people would gather in an upstairs room at an upmarket book store with a good mix of male/female and youngsters, and all for the princely sum of a fiver. These days the venue is more likely to be a conference room at a motorway-friendly hotel or, as last night, in the auditorium of a school. Attendance numbers are up noticeably, as is the cost: £20 for entry which also included a hard copy of the latest book and, of course, a talk and Q & A session, following by the book signing. Last year the event I attended had over 300 bodies, almost all men with the majority being squaddies or ex military. The testosterone level was so thick it was almost oppressive. Last night’s event was a far more genteel affair – well, the Woodhouse Grove School is a fee-paying public school so one would expect a somewhat different audience – and the split between male/female/6th form students was fairly equal. I asked Andy why he thought this occurred and he informed me that it’s all down to who arranges the bookings and where. What hasn’t changed one iota, though, is Andy’s obvious commitment to reading, and enthusing others with his mantra that knowledge is power.

After a brief welcome and introduction from one of the school’s pupils, who was framed by an array of camo-draped backdrops displaying a rather long finned rocket and flanked by what I think was a GPMG (or Gimpy) and a couple of bergens (the large rucksacks favoured by the military) the stage was set: enter Mr McNab to rousing claps of applause.

To anyone attending these events regularly they are somewhat formulaic in that Andy usually gives a brief description of his childhood and the antics which led to his incarceration at Borstal (think of the film ‘Scum’ and you’ll have an idea) but went with an option to join the military instead. If you want chapter and verse on this period read his autobiographical book ‘Immediate Action’.

From his early years Andy moved on to talk about THE defining moment, although he didn’t fully appreciate that at the time. The regimental Sgt Major informed the newly signed up boy soldiers that their average reading age was 11, but that was all about to change. Contrary to what these lads thought, they weren’t thick, they were merely uneducated. That night Andy read his first book – a Janet and John book. Aside from learning never to climb trees with either as they always seemed to fall out, he discovered that every time he read something new, he learned something new. And, as the man said, knowledge is power to do the things you only dreamed of previously.

The Bravo Two Zero job was the next topic up and it’s clear that Andy feels great pride that this is still the top selling military book of all time, and that following its publication recruitment figures for the military shot up. As the majority of this part of the talk was all known to me, I took the opportunity to study some of the audience surrounding me which included a mix of mainly men, but also a handful of women, and youngsters. The chaps were all leaning forward in their seats and it was obvious they were dying to ask questions, while I noticed half a dozen women wincing at the matter of fact bluntness of talk of ‘taking out the enemy’, describing a colleague who didn’t make it as a ‘sad bastard who was too old and too fat’ to catch a goat herding lad. The youngsters in the audience didn’t seem a bit phased by all the talk of war, dead bodies, or torture. This apparent cold bloodedness is common in those who put their lives on the line. People like soldiers, firefighters, and police officers I have spoken with say it’s a defence mechanism to protect their sanity; whatever works.

When Andy touched on the ‘tactical questioning’ AKA torture, which he and others underwent during their incarceration he was very philosophical about it all: they – the Iraqis – wanted information and questioning prisoners under duress was one of the quickest ways to get it. One of the audience members asked Andy if he would still slot the Iraqis who carried out the worst of the torture and his response was typical: ‘Yeah, yeah. If I could get away with it.’ C’est la guerre.

We heard a few tales of his time in Northern Ireland (the primary reason he still refuses to be openly photographed as there are still people out for his blood), as well as his introduction to jungle training after earning his sand coloured beret. He didn’t mention his crescent shaped scar (which was acquired via a leech and is probably every man’s worst nightmare. Read ‘Seven Troop’ for the full gory details).

Andy touched briefly on his time within a PMC (private military company to the likes of us), and informed us that when he went out to Iraq with others from his PMC they ‘stole an hotel’. As you do. Despite having no water or electricity they offered it as high end accommodation for hoards of broadcasters and, presumably, made a financial killing. You can take the boy out of South London, but…  Andy McNab is, and I suspect always will be, a hustler at heart. I didn’t get the chance to question him about Bravo2Burgers or his range of camo bras and knickers (Fact), but diversity seems to be key with this man.

Being a psychopath – a good one – just ask Prof. Kevin Dutton (The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success) – is possibly what drives this coiled spring of a man. Andy McNab obviously took that Sgt. Major’s words to heart all those years ago because there appear to be few topics he hasn’t read about or have an opinion on, and he has a finger in a multitude of pies. Aside from his writing, which is his bread and butter, Andy is on the board of ForceSelect, an organisation set up in 2009 to help ex military personnel make the transition into business civvy street. He has also recently become involved in PTSD999, a charity set up by a group of individuals with a past in either military or emergency services, and who have either suffered from or been involved with others who have had PTSD. Their remit is to offer help, advice, and confidential treatment. Andy also provided advice and training for a number of Hollywood films including Heat and, as he admitted apologetically, Pearl Harbour. Can’t win ’em all, lad. At least the technical side was good. ‘Red Notice’, a McNab book featuring the character Tom Buckingham has been made into a film, and Andy told me that ITV are currently fixing locations around the UK and Europe for the filming of the Boy Soldier books featuring the characters Danny Watts and his ex-SAS grandfather Fergus. And let’s not forget that for every copy of gaming video Battlefield 3 sold, Andy collects 14 pence (as he slyly told a youngster last night, urging him to get dad to buy a copy). Fingers and pies.

As always the evening was a fascinating insight into the life of one of our ex-Special Forces operatives. It’s such a pity that there is never enough time to ask all the questions that people long to know. Luckily, Andy’s lovely PR lady Laura passed on a number of my questions which he was kind enough to answer, so hopefully some of these will be the burning questions others would like to put to him. [Q&A coming soon in Part 2 ~GML]

Having met Andy three times now, two of the first things many people ask me is what does he look like, what’s he like as a person? I asked him how tall he is and which of Nick Stone’s ‘good bits’ of character are based on himself. With typical Puckish humour he informed me: ‘Good question. Far too good! Clearly anything that he (Nick Stone) does for the right reason is me and hopefully if you imagine him at 6 foot 5, blond hair, blue eyes, 4 foot wide, that is me.’ So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth. It’s all lies, of course.

I can confirm that he’s medium height, has salt/pepper hair, is physically fit, (which one would expect from someone who treks to the North and South Poles, and climbs in the Peruvian Andes), has blue eyes that can change from fire to ice in nanoseconds, is dripping with sex appeal and testosterone, and comes across as a chatty, friendly, and charming individual.

As a member of the audience pointed out, he’s also quite a humble man, especially when one considers his achievements. I would concur with this, but it was a curious comment as many people I’ve spoken with believe all the Special Forces men, including Andy, come across as somewhat arrogant. I suspect what many think of as arrogance is actually just a supreme confidence in their own highly developed skillset. Remember, these men train relentlessly – Train Hard / Fight Easy – and seem to live by the 7P rule – Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. While I know pretty much all there is to know about this man on the public arena, I haven’t the slightest idea what he’s like ‘for real’. Clearly, it behooves anyone in the public eye to behave with circumspection but Andy is probably the friendliest celeb I’ve met; cocky, but very down to earth and not afraid to call a spade a spade. What is particularly likeable about him is his obvious passion to promote reading and literacy: “If I can do it, anyone can.’ He’s also an incredibly good sport. Anyone who ever watched his interview with Holy Moly Man would have been itching to deck the cocky little pipsqueak conducting the interview, but Andy took all the ribbing in good part and played along nicely without once head butting aforementioned HMM.

~To be continued.
Jan

2016
27.10

Andy McNab in conversation with Hal Stewart on BFBS Radio
26 October 2016

Teaser clip interview with Hal Stewart above.

2014
06.06

Former SAS soldier Andy McNab, who spent six weeks as an Iraqi captive in the Gulf War, warns that Sgt Bowe Berghdal – whether hero or villain – now faces a nightmare

The Telegraph – 5 June 2014
By Andy McNab

Heroes don’t exist like they do in the films. Real-life events are totally different to what we expect. All the grainy footage of the Taliban handover of Sergeant Bowe Berghdal to US forces in Afghanistan shows is a deeply traumatised young man, struggling to hold on to reality.

He would have just been telling himself, is this really happening? Am I really being released? That is why, once airborne, he scribbled “SF” on a paper plate, asking the soldiers around him, over the drone of the helicopter engine, if they really were special forces. After so long as an enemy captive, it is impossible to grasp you are free.

I spent six weeks as an enemy captive after I was captured by the Iraqis in the Gulf War in 1991. This young man is 28, and has spent the past five years of his life in enemy hands. There will have been some horrendous times.

The first three weeks of my own incarceration were spent under physical interrogation, being whipped and burnt, and having my back teeth pulled out. I was kept in a purpose-built interrogation centre in Baghdad used by the secret police, but at the time I had no idea where I was.

After that, I was moved to Abu Ghraib jail. There, the torture wasn’t official, but Baghdad was getting bombed every night from dusk until dawn, and the guards would come and get their retribution.

<…….>

GO HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE TELEGRAPH

2013
27.09

“The New” Bravo Two Zero introduction

Bravo Two Zero Q & A

Introducing Red Notice

2013
27.05

YAYYYYYY!!! Andy granted Grey Man’s Land another interview… see his answers below 🙂

GML: Hi Andy.. congratulations on the anniversary of Bravo Two Zero! Thanks for answering a few of our questions again..

First of all… twenty years..wow! They say ‘the older, the wiser’. How much wiser are you today?

Andy: CERTAINLY OLDER BUT NOT SURE ABOUT WISER!

GML: Bravo Two Zero ‘Revised and Updated’..why is there a new edition after 20 years?

Andy: B20 IS STILL THE BIGGEST SELLING WAR BOOK OF ALL TIME. IT IS A PIECE OF HISTORY AND, FROM WHAT PEOPLE SAY TO ME AT EVENTS, HAD AND CONTINUES TO HAVE AN IMPACT ON THEIR LIVES. FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN HOMELESS WOMAN WHO FOUND THE BOOK ON THE STREET. SHE DECIDED TO GET GRIP OF HER LIFE AFTER READING THE BOOK AND KNOWING THAT PEOPLE CAN OVER COME AND THAT THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE. AFTER READING BTZ ANOTHER WOMAN IN LONDON CANCELLED HER PLANNED SUICIDE. THAT MADE ME FEEL VERY HAPPY.

GML: This book is highly likely interesting for new readers, will it be interesting for those who have known the story since the first edition in 1993 and have been following you ever since?

Andy: 20 YEARS ON I AM A DIFFERENT MAN TO THE ONE THAT FIRST WROTE B20. OBVIOUSLY OLDER AND WISER, WITH THE BENEFIT OF DISTANCE AND TIME, PLUS HOW MY LIFE HAS BEEN SINCE, I’M ABLE TO LOOK AT EVENTS AND HOW I FELT ABOUT THEM IN A DIFFERENT WAY. THERE IS LOTS OF NEW MATERIAL, WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE REST OF THE PATROL SINCE, WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I WENT BACK, HOW IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE AND THE LIVES OF EVERYONE ELSE INVOLVED!

GML: If you had not written Bravo Two Zero and with the turn your life made as a result of the immense success of the book, where do you think you would be now?

Andy: I WOULD HAVE DONE A LONG STINT WORKING FOR THE PMC (PRIVATE MILITARY COMPANY) IN COLOMBIA AND WOULD EITHER STILL BE DOING IT OR DOING SOMETHING SIMILAR.

GML: Would you say that the events of B20 still have impact on your life today…Professionally we know – but (if any) like health wise, mentally, daily routine, decisions you make…etc

Andy: I WAS LUCKY TO COME OUT OF THE GULF WAR UNSCATHED MENTALLY BUT I HAVE SEEN AND CONTINUE TO SEE THE IMPACT THAT COMBAT HAS ON FRIENDS LIVES. HOW HAS IT CHANGED HOW I LEAD MY LIFE? I GUESS I ACCEPT THAT I HAVE LOST ONE OF MY NINE LIVES, BUT THEN AGAIN MAYBE IT MAKES ME THINK THAT ITS WORTH LIVING EVERY DAY TO THE MAX. BIT OF BOTH.

GML: We here at Grey Man’s Land read, of course, the first edition of B20 in 1993 (even though we were like 4 or 5 years old or so) but it means we, and a lot of your fans ‘of the first hour’ are 20 years older too.. How will you keep us (and the younger fans) entertained for the next decade(s)?

Andy: IF I TOLD YOU THAT THEN IT WOULDNT ENTERTAIN YOU WHEN IT HAPPENS WOULD IT!

GML: Please give us a short take on the subjects that we know are an important part of your life….

* Writing

Andy: IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE EDUCATION I WAS GIVEN BY THE ARMY. A MASSIVE PART OF MY LIFE NOW IS VISITING SCHOOLS, PRISONS, ARMY BASES AND COMPANIES TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES BEING OFFERED TO THEM. IF YOU ARE EDUCATED YOU ARE IN CONTROL AND CAN MAKE YOUR OWN DECISIONS. IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT WE EXPLAIN THAT TO PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY THE YOUNG.

* Supporting wounded servicemen and women

Andy: OF COURSE! WE ALL OWE THEM A DEBT OF GRATITUDE AND SUPPORT. WE NEED TO ENSURE THAT WE DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO HEAL THE WOUNDS, WHETHER PHYSICAL OR MENTAL.

* Participating in eliminating illiteracy

Andy: IT ALL COMES DOWN TO TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE, EDUCATION ENABLES YOU TO READ, READING GIVES YOU POWER, THE POWER TO MAKE DECISIONS THAT YOU WANT TO MAKE.

* Family life

Andy: THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT TO SERVICEMEN AND WOMEN THAN THE SUPPORT OF FAMILY BACK HOME.

* Lectures, book signings, tours meeting fans

Andy: GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO CHAT TO THE PEOPLE WHO READ THE BOOKS, WHAT AUTHOR WOULDN’T APPRECIATE THAT CHANCE? OH, AND THE KFC/MCDONALDS ALONG THE WAY. ITS ALL GLAMOUR.

* Big waves

Andy: PURELY FOR INSPIRATION ON THE WRITING OBVIOUSLY, GET OUT THERE EARLY IN THE MORNING AND THEN FIND SOMEWHERE FOR A BREW AND A FRY UP AFTERWARDS.

* Grey Man’s Land
(ok, just kidding)

Andy: WHO?
JUST KIDDING.

GML: We really hold you to the publishing of the delayed Nick Stone novel ‘Silencer’ end this year but a lot of fans are wondering if there too will be a new Tom Buckingham and a sequel to the Dropzone series in the next future?

Andy: YES, THERE WILL BE A NEW TOM BUCKINGHAM IN 2014. NOT SURE ON DROPZONE, I’LL LET YOU KNOW.

GML: We may or may not have asked this a few times before…..but if we promise to NOT ask about movie news this time – would you promise to let us know immediately if there is anything to mention?

Andy: YES, I PROMISE. WE’RE MAKING PROGRESS, SLOWLY…IN FACT I’M IN LOS ANGELES AS I WRITE THIS.

GML: Something the lucky fans who managed to get a ticket to one of your book signings often wonder… are they allowed to bring their old & favourite McNab book(s) so to get your signature in those?

Andy: OF COURSE! THE OLDER THE BETTER ALTHOUGH I MIGHT START TESTING PEOPLE ON THE PLOT!

Thanks so much again Andy, we wish you happy touring and hoping a lot of your fans will get a chance to meet you and get their books signed!!

Lynn
Grey Man’s Land

2013
25.05

“This week Clive’s secret mission is with novelist and former SAS operative Andy McNab, whose bestseller ‘Bravo Two Zero’ is the true story of eight members of the SAS regiment on a top secret mission to infiltrate deep behind enemy lines. The 20th Anniversary edition is available on 23rd May.”

Go here to listen to the BBC program Loose Ends (Andy McNab item starts at 2min44)