Friday, March 30, 2012

Extreme risk - Book Review

Extreme Risk by Chris Hunter
For the past twenty years, some of the most dangerous places on earth. And for Major Chris Hunter, just some of the places where he has defused bombs in his ceaseless battle against terrorism and the bombmakers.
This is the story of a teenager with no hopes who joined the army at sixteen and went on to become one of the most successful counter-terrorism operators in the world.
This is the story of survival when all the odds are stacked against you, when every second feels like a lifetime, when the sound of your heart beating is as deafening as a ticking bomb.
This is what it's like, day in, day out, to take your life and the lives of others in your own hands, and make a difference.
And this is what it costs to live that life...
Chris Hunter was the author of "Eight Lives Down" - an exceptional book about the life of a bomb disposal expert, far better then the film "The Hurt Locker" and recommended reading if you liked the film or even have the vaguest interest in the subject.

I bought this because I enjoyed the first one so much, but did wonder how he would match it. I was wrong to worry because this is a fantastic book. Extreme Risk takes us from the author's military training at Sandhurst through to a number of deployments and his vocation in the area of bomb disposal. But this is no ordinary military autobiography.

We start at Sandhurst and then follow the author to his first posting in Bosnia in 19. This is a jaw dropping reminder of the horrors of 'ethnic cleansing' and the difficult position the UN Peacekeepers were put in. There is one incident that affected the author for some years afterwards in a form of mild PTSD, astonishing when you consider what he then specialised in. We then move to bomb disposal training and then a posting in Southern England and then onto Northern Ireland, Columbia, the SAS, the Middle East and then bodyguarding!

The story itself is a fascinating one of a brave man truly trying to make a difference, but it is the extra bits that really enhance this. Major Hunter is a modest and honest man who gives considerable credit to those around him, especially the NCO's who support him, he also reflects a considerable amount of military humour that give a real insight into relationships and banter. Each chapter also has a quote to kick it off, such as "Don't waste time learning the tricks of the trade. Instead learn the trade" (H Jackson Brown). Normally these things feel out of place, but in this book they are meaningful and significant.

We do see the impact on his personal life and how he became addicted to the rush, both themes also explored in "The Hurt Locker". He was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal although this was (strangely) not mentioned. He skips over his promotion to Major and quite how he ended up, at the end of the book, a bodyguard. But these are minor blips in the tale of a very brave man who really did make a difference.

Over the past years I have read a lot of military autobiographies, Chris Hunter's two sit up there with the best of them and are highly recommended. A solid four stars for me and a great add on to any shelf.

Available from:
Chris Hunter
Hardback • ISBN 9780552157599

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