2008
28.09

We got sent an article written by Andy that appeared in one of the papers a little while ago, thanks! I’m splitting it up in parts – since I have to re-type it here.

I’ve just had one of those ‘weird coincidence’ moments.

I was at a friend’s party and got introduced to Alastair Campbell. I had literally just come from a film production meeting where I had been talking about him. I must have conjured him up.

I am planning to co-produce a film in which a government PR figure lead his prime minister down a particular path with devastating results. There is no resemblance to anyone living, of course, and I tried to tell him this, but I think he was too excited by the train journey he had just had. He had just returned from a day trip to Paris on Eurostar, and couldn’t stop singing the praises of its new terminal at St Pancras.

He also told me someone had just bid 50,000 GBP to charity to have their name appear in his next book.

I stupidly mentioned that I got 100,000 GBP to have someone’s name appear in one of my thrillers.

Judging by the look in his eye, I thought I might soon be needing the services of the charity my 100K went to – the Red Cross.

Love it. Andy is doing well selling characters in his book. The 100k was spent by Basma to appear in Crossfire. Great character to be, think she got her moneys worth and made the Red Cross happy at the same time. I also learned that the writer Hari Kunzru (The Impressionist, Transmission and My Revolutions) donated to a good cause to have his name split up in the characters Hari and Kunzru in Aggressor, who were described as ‘fucks who can’t even tie their own shoe laces’. I hope he was happy too. Of course I’m not complaining with ‘my’ name for free in Remote Control and also got in The Grey Man – allthough the first was a male character and the latter pure coincidence. Ah well.. that’s minor details, at least in my imagination. Who will be in Brute Force is still a surprise, we’ll see about that in a few months. With over 40% of female writers and given Nick Stone’s popularity with them I think some cause could very well auction Nicks new lover – there may be some girls who are prepared to digg into their savings accounts to have their name honoured that way. 😉

2008
06.08

A while back we posted about the cool “Crossfire competition” of which Andy said:

“I have teamed up with Tesco to bring you the best competition this side of Basra. You could win signed copy of all of my books, plus the chance for you and a friend to win a SAS-themed experience which includes training from ex-army/Special Forces instructors in survival skills, camouflage, unarmed combat and live weapons handling.”

The winner of this competition is Jimmy and he was so kind to send us a report of the day. Thanks Jimmy!

Hey, I have finally done the “SAS-themed experience”.

We arrived at the car park for the venue at about 8.30am to be met by an army personnel. After a 10min walk we reached the area for the training.

The first impressions were not good, it looked shabby.

We were split into 3 teams (2 teams of 8 and 1 of 7). There was a time table and each team had an hour at every station.

Our first was the “killing house”: Clear 4 rooms in about 25 secs. After having a go ourselves we were then shown how to do it correctly. Each room had picture boards of good guys/bad guys. The shot you got was done with a lot of noise and bb guns firing around us. This was good.

Our second item was the “car extraction with a vip”. Get the vip out of the car and into a safe house asap (they said about 20 seconds – the major who was running the day said that he had to do this once in Bosnia!!) once again, last go was done with noise and bb guns.

The 3rd item on our list was “live weapon handling”. The weapon for the day was a pump action shot gun. We were shown how to use the gun and then walked through a corridor and then we would turn right. On turning right there were 6 pictures (3 goodguys/3 badguys). We had 6 seconds to decide and discharge the gun. You might think this is easy – no!! Lets put it this way – I’ll make the tea!!

Lunch.

After lunch we had “unarmed combat”. Being a 3rd dan black belt this was right up my street, and a good opportunity to fling my mate about (also a black belt). The guy showing us this was amazing, so fast.

Next on the list was “live grenade handling”. For this we got to throw one of the training devices that the army trains with. We were shown how to throw correctly and then we had to crawl under nets and try and throw through a hole 4ft by 2ft, once again this was done with noise and bb guns. Out of the 8 in our team no one managed to get it on target.

The last thing we did was “vip protection”. We were shown how to exit a car and how to follow the vip, watching at all times and then what to do under fire. We got a few goes at this and then the last was done under fire.

All in all it was a good day, the shabbyness did not take away from what we were doing.

Speaking to these guys gives you much more respect for what they do as we spent 1 hr doing each of the above and they spend 6 months doing each.
Amazing!!

It was worth the round trip of 750miles.

Jimmy

2008
14.06

“What we never hear about the front line in Afghanistan”
Andy McNab’s Tour of Duty – The Telegraph

In his new documentary series, novelist and ex-SAS man Andy McNab talks to British soldiers on active duty. He tells Michael Deacon a story of unsung heroism

On Sunday, the number of British troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001 reached 100. In Iraq, 176 have been killed. But Andy McNab, the former SAS soldier and now bestselling novelist, has a different take on the casualty figures.

“You look at the Falklands conflict – 255 guys were killed, but even more than that have committed suicide through Post Traumatic Stress,” says McNab, who commanded the Bravo Two Zero patrol in the first Gulf War, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal. “So the problem will be magnified soon, purely because we’ve got more soldiers going through those experiences. Somebody needs to address that aftercare, because the suicide rate of people with Post Traumatic Stress is normally about 13 years [after the conflict]. So there may be a sort of time bomb ticking away.”

Andy McNab’s Tour of Duty: a re-enactment of a soldier’s active duty in Afghanistan
Like McNab’s books, though, his new TV series will convey the heroics of British troops in action. He has now written seven action thrillers [note: should be “more than ten”, but unless his website will be updated this mistake will continue to circle] , including Bravo Two Zero itself and Crossfire, published in paperback last week. His autobiography, Immediate Action, has sold 1.4million copies in the UK.

“In the media generally, I think the military have been getting quite a hard time,” says McNab. So, for Tour of Duty, he interviewed soldiers about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan – and was impressed by their weaponry, their stories of bravery, and their general air of optimism. “Everybody thinks it’s all doom and gloom and all these lads are about to hang themselves and their boots are falling off and all that sort of stuff. It isn’t like that at all.”

Indeed, he believes that the UK has never had infantry with better experience or weaponry. At the start of the Iraq war, British soldiers were, he says, inadequately equipped – but that has changed. He admires the Osprey body armour system (“The Americans are looking at buying it because it’s so good”), the Personal Role Radio communication earpiece (“Every soldier has got one – we’re the only army on the planet to do that”) and the Warrior tank.

“I read the other day that everyone’s complaining about the Warrior not being armoured,” he says. “Well, I’ve sat in one and taken two RPGs [Rocket-Propelled Grenades] and they just bounce off. But the way it’s portrayed, it’s like these things are sardine cans. Of course they’re not.”

The infantry soldiers themselves are particularly keen on the Javelin surface-to-air missile, McNab adds. “They call it the Porsche, because every missile costs the same as a Porsche 911,” he says. “Everyone wants to fire it, so during a fire fight, there’s a list of people – ‘Right, you’re next.’ And you see guys going, ‘Yes!’ – because they’re getting the chance to fire £76,000 worth of missile.”

But McNab’s Tour of Duty was inspired by three rather cheaper forms of equipment: the laptop, the iPod and the video camera. A popular trend among British soldiers is to fit tiny cameras to their helmets, record videos of themselves in battle, and then put their footage to music on their laptops. They upload the finished videos to the internet, so that their fellow soldiers can enjoy them.

McNab was so impressed by the videos that he approached the Ministry of Defence and suggested he make a television programme to showcase the best. “But then I thought, ‘That’s just pure bang-bang – war porn’,” he says. “We needed to give it a context.” So the series features not only a selection of video clips but also interviews with the soldiers who made them.

He heard stories of “incredible bravery”, he says. For example, the rescue of a Danish soldier, lying wounded and out of reach in a bomb crater in the middle of a city; British soldiers saved him by stealing a bed from the nearest house, throwing it down into the crater, and using it to get to him. All while they were under fire.

But, while McNab’s new series will show us plenty of heroic British soldiers, it won’t show us McNab himself. Having worked in military intelligence in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, he keeps his face off television, and out of the papers, for reasons of safety. Even though it’s 10 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, he says it’s still not worth taking any risks.

“A lot of Apache pilots are doing exactly the same now,” he says. “The Apaches are taking a lot of casualties in Afghanistan, so they don’t want to show their faces because they fear reprisals here in the UK. I’ve had two death threats: one of them was a fruitcake, and one was deemed serious. So it’s just being sensible, that’s all.” 

You can find the article here

2008
12.06

“What we are doing is running around an apple tree and as those apples drop we are catching them. There will be one apple that will hit the ground. “

Soldier Magazine
An Interview by Stephen Tyler

TAKING note of the old adage that authors should write about what they know has proven to be a lucrative line for ex-soldier Andy McNab.

The former Royal Green Jacket’s experiences behind enemy lines as part of the ill-fated Bravo Two Zero patrol in the Gulf War kick-started a writing career that has propelled McNab to the top of the fiction charts.

But although his own experiences have stoked the imaginations of the British book-buying public, McNab insists that readers wanting modern-day tales of bravery need look no further than the average squaddie.

“The private soldier now doesn’t compare to the private soldier at any other time in the Army’s history because the standard now is without doubt the best it has ever been,” McNab told Soldier, adding that his latest book, Crossfire (reviewed in Soldier in February), is based on his time in Iraq with troops from the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.

“You get to these battalions and the standard is phenomenal. I was with 2 Rifles in Basra last year and we went on a strike op in the city. Number one through the door was a 19-year-old rifleman. About ten years ago that would have been a specialist role, but now you have infantry guys who are able to do it. The Army is in a strong position because of the experience and knowledge they are getting on board.”

The ever-increasing number of stories of bravery in the face of adversity filtering back from theatre forms the basis of Andy McNab’s Tour of Duty, a hard-hitting six-part series airing on ITV4 this month.

Using videos, pictures and first-hand accounts from soldiers on the ground, combat camera teams and intelligence sources, McNab takes an in-depth look at the challenges facing troops and how they are being overcome.

Interviews with everyone from infantrymen to company commanders on their return from theatre explain each story’s context and McNab said that talking to the troops convinced him that suggestions young people were being tricked into signing up were extremely wide of the mark.

“The media like to use the Army to attack Government and in doing so they make it seem as if everybody’s waiting to hang themselves, that it’s all depressing and people want to come home because they didn’t know what they were getting into,” he said. “They forget that actually these lads are exactly the same as their next door neighbours.

“The difference is that they have been motivated enough to get off their arse and do something and if they don’t like it they can get out.

“People forget that these lads do know what they’re getting into. They are volunteers, they are more educated and worldly aware than soldiers have ever been and it’s not as if this war is being kept from them because they can watch it live on Sky if they want.”

With operational commitments reaching an unprecedented level, McNab is pleased that previous problems with kit and equipment have been ironed out.

Indeed, rather than the horror stories that emanated from the first Gulf War about the SA80 not firing due to the heat, today’s front-line troops are almost universally positive about the equipment available to them.

McNab, pictured above, said that he is aware of foreign armies casting envious glances at British kit and thinks the reliability and effectiveness of the weapons is allowing young soldiers to concentrate on developing their skills.

“This whole thing that some people seem to be hooked up on that the equipment is rubbish is just wrong,” he said. “There’s some really good gear that’s so good that the Americans are going to start buying it.”

Although Nick Stone, the character in McNab’s books is fictional, the author believes that a lot of his character’s missions are now being successfully completed in real life by Regular soldiers. Ally that to the increasingly “Gucci” weaponry available to infantry battalions and it is no surprise to hear that McNab believes the nature of front-line soldiering today is both challenging and rewarding.

“They are getting more kinetic kit and heavy weapons stuff in Afghanistan than I ever saw when I was in the Green Jackets – the lads these days have an amazing array of quality kit and the responsibility that a young NCO or officer has these days is awesome.”

McNab’s training and unique military manoeuvres around the world have placed him in hot demand from private companies wanting to learn from his experiences. Hollywood has already come knocking and he has served as a technical adviser on films such as Heat, while his own stories are currently being reworked into a film script.

The Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal winner also works closely with the counter-terrorism community and said that Great Britain is well prepared against attacks on home soil. “I think it’s a lot better than people think,” he said.

“The problem is that it’s seen as a massive threat, but actually the system does work.

“The Israelis have a great analogy that what we are doing is running around an apple tree and as those apples drop we are catching them. There will be one apple that will hit the ground and that’s a fact because you can’t stop everything, but we have huge experience in dealing with it and we are well prepared.”

You can find the article in Soldier Magazine here

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.

2008
03.01

Former SAS Man Delights Tank Museum Audience

A follow up on the Tank Museum visit last November. Didn’t want to withhold the fans another headless picture. (I’d say ‘the ones we love so much’ – if there wasn’t a hidden insult in there.)

Former SAS serviceman and author Andy McNab appeared at The Tank Museum, and treated the 400 strong audience to tales of his life and military service.

McNab, who remains protective of his identity due to death threats connected to his service with the SAS in Northern Ireland, is one of the most successful military writers of all time and most renown for his account of fighting behind Iraqi lines in Bravo Two Zero.

Delighted fans were able to snap up copies of McNab’s new book ahead of its official launch date, and he spent over an hour chatting with visitors in a book signing session.

Andy at Tank Museum