And now, for something totally different.
Deadlines on the Front Line: Travels with a Veteran War Correspondent by Paul Moorcraft.
The author of this gritty memoir has lived life to the full and fortunately has the ability to recall his experiences in a graphic and entertaining manner.
As a war correspondent and paramilitary policeman, Moorcraft was a magnet for drama and action. His descriptions of sometimes tragic and often hilarious escapades in war torn countries literally from A (Afghanistan) to Z (Zimbabwe) are self-effacingly entertaining. His light-hearted approach disguises a thoroughly perceptive and analytical mind. The reader will never be bored while accompanying Moorcraft reporting on wars in over thirty combat zones in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. This is his book of hazardous travels to strange, often little-known places meeting even stranger people who were often all too keen to lock him up or try and kill him.
Deadlines on the Frontline is a delightful and invigorating read which offers an intelligent insight into the turbulent world of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
About the author:
Professor Paul Moorcraft is a prolific author and war correspondent who served in the Rhodesian/Zimbabwean Police and worked closely with the British armed forces for many years. His book The Rhodesian War (Pen and Sword 2008) has been a huge success. He lives in the Surrey Hills, near Guildford.
Paul Moorcraft’s book ‘The Jihadist Threat’ was one of six military titles shortlisted for the British Army Military Book of the Year 2016.
Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for sending me an early hardback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.
I have become interested in the world of the press and reporters of recent, and when I read the information about this book, I had to check it out.
This book is part memoir/part chronicle of Moorcraft’s life as a war correspondent, but it is not only about that, as he does talk in detail about periods of his life dedicated to teaching (for example in Australia and New Zealand) and also about a variety of other projects he took on, like creating documentaries of all kinds, mostly following his instincts and his interests. If he was living in a particular country, and he heard about something going on in a neighbouring one, he’d always manage to find a reason to be there. He knew how to sell his ideas and how to get news agencies and broadcasters interested, for good reason, as he is an engaging and knowledgeable reporter, with a knack for meeting all kinds of people and getting into difficult places. Some of the stories of his trips to meet fighters, guerrilla leaders, and his stays at dangerous places at particularly risky times make for scary reading, as it’s impossible not to think what we would have felt like in that situation. I don’t think many of us would have dared to try some of the stunts he pulls, and it is easy to see why he wonders about the nature of courage in his conclusion. Courage might take many forms, but there is little doubt that what he and many of his colleagues did, and do still, takes courage and something we might call a true vocation or “calling”. And yes, perhaps some form of “madness”.
I’ve read a review that says the author has covered all countries almost from A to Z (and yes, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and many in between, all around Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania, some which no longer exist as well) and that is true. He writes well, extremely well, and he is far from politically correct or careful when it comes to stating his opinions, that are deeply personal and do not ever purport to be neutral or even fair. Some of his views will be unpopular with some readers (I must admit I do not share his point of view on many subjects), but he narrates his own experiences candidly, he does not take himself too seriously, being as critical of himself as he is of the rest of the people who make an appearance in this book, and he humbly acknowledges that his opinion might be biased and one-sided. Although his adventures reminded me of James Bond at times (a character I must confess I’ve never been fond of), he shows empathy and a deep concern for those in a position of weakness and powerlessness, suffering due to the poor decisions of those who are supposed to protect them. He is self-deprecating at times, and there are plenty of jokes and humour, very British humour (or Welsh, although he acknowledges that for someone who deeply loves Wales, he has spent most of his life away) in the book. There are also many photographs, maps, a timeline, and great observations of places, countries, and ways of life that, in some cases, have totally disappeared (his early chapters on Africa and South-Africa I found particularly illuminating in this respect).
I recommend this book to people interested in how being a war correspondent and a reporter has changed over the recent years, to those who want to read a personal account of what it was like to live in some of the most conflict-ridden areas in the world from the early 1970s until recently, and to people interested in life as a university professor in different countries over the years. The author has written many other books, fiction and non-fiction, and if readers enjoy his writing, there’s plenty more to explore.
As an example of his style, I’ll leave you with his closing reflections:
I still plan a few more comebacks, just like the guy who grew up in the same Pontypridd street where my mother’s family lived: Tom Jones. I have accepted that instead of always wondering why I inevitably sat next to the nutter on the bus, train or plane, I realize that people often thought I was the nutter. I spent my working life at places such as Sandhurst or Staff College assuming I was the only sane man in the lunatic asylum. I finally realized that they couldn’t all be wrong.
Thanks to Rosie and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share if you enjoy it and to always keep reading and smiling!