SAS hero Chris Ryan returns with tale from wartorn Syria
Set amid the Syrian conflict, with an MI6 agent and SAS operative taking centre stage, Chris Ryan's new novel Masters Of War is topical for the reader and its ex-SAS author.
Ryan, who is always popular locally, will return to Lincoln for an author event on September 1.
Organised by Waterstones, High Street branch, the event is being held at The Collection to accommodate anticipated audience numbers and coincides with the new release on August 29.
Ryan says: "When I set out to start this book the current troubles in Syria were just starting out and I have background knowledge of being in the country during the first Gulf War."
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During Chris Ryan's 10 years in the Special Air Services he was involved in overt and covert operations and was also sniper team commander of the anti-terrorist team. During the Gulf War, he was the only member of an eight-man mission, Bravo Two Zero, to escape from Iraq.
"On Thursday, January 31, 1991, a week after the ill-fated Bravo Two Zero patrol had been compromised, I crossed the Iraqi border into Syria. I was the only member of the unit to escape capture alive, but I was in a bad way. I'd been on the run for seven days and nights. I hadn't eaten for six days, or drunk any water for three. I'd also been exposed to nuclear waste and I was hallucinating."
The first Syrian people Ryan encountered were villagers whose kindness helped save him. But moving on from the village he experienced a very different side to life in Syria.
He says: "I had to escape an angry mob who seemed determined to kill me. I found myself in the custody of three low-ranking Syrian police officers who performed a mock execution on me. Having covered about two hundred miles on foot in Iraq, I crossed most of Syria by car before reaching the capital, Damascus.
"There I ended up in the headquarters of the feared Mukhabarat secret police. The very name was enough to terrify the ordinary citizens of Syria, as the Mukhabarat's tortures were notoriously cruel.
"Syria was a complex, dangerous place for me back in 1991. But now, more than 20 years on, one thing strikes me: it was not nearly so dangerous then as it is now.
"Masters Of War is drawn from experience, and from first-hand knowledge of a country which has become one of the most dangerous and war-torn places on earth."
Exploring the unpredictable world of private military, a young SAS trooper Danny Black is coming to the end of a gruelling tour of duty in North Africa. When an MI6 agent arrives, needing to make contact with Syrian rebel forces and private military contractors, Danny finds himself drawn into a situation where individuals will betray anybody if the price is right.
Ryan says some of his new book might make uncomfortable reading but gives no apology for that.
He says: "Conflict is not a glamorous business. It's ugly and violent. I have been to war, I know what it's like and I try to keep it as realistic as possible in a storyline."
However, Ryan admits there's a point where his imagination takes over, and agrees that after a life of extreme risk writing books is a way to live the adventure without the immediate danger.
"The factual element is where it is set and what is going on and then my imagination let's go and runs with it," says Ryan, who has written works of non-fiction, including bestseller The One That Got Away about his experiences during Bravo Two Zero, 17 novels and a series of children's books. "I can have my fun on the pages now."
Readers who enjoy Danny Black's exploits will be pleased to learn there is talk of further books continuing his adventures. But Ryan admits he'd like to take Danny's character on a journey.
"I'd quite like to take him to a place where he's a bit of an anti- hero really," he says. "He gets the job done but in some cases it will be about the way he does it. One of my favourite television programmes is The Sopranos. It's a bit like the main character in that, when you step back and think about this man he is a murderer and should be despicable but you get drawn into his character, even start feeling sorry for him."
Author event time: 7pm. Tickets: £4/£3. Available in store, by calling 01522 540011, or from The Collection on 01522 782040. Masters of War is out on Thursday, August 29 (Publisher: Coronet Books, hardback, £18.99).