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My Friend the Mercenary [Paperback]

James Brabazon
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

16 Jun 2011
He wanted a war. And, for his sins, he got one. James Brabazon was an ambitious young war reporter when he entered the chaos of the Liberian Civil War in 2002. Running with the infamous LURD rebels, he survived numerous deadly ambushes and a dramatic two-hundred-mile escape from Government troops through dense equatorial jungle. He even had a bounty put on his head. Surrounded by child soldiers, cannibals and ruthless rebels, Brabazon was accompanied by Nick du Toit, a South African mercenary with a dangerous past. Before long, Nick promised James the scoop of his life: a front seat, beside Simon Mann, in an audacious coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. And the offer was too good to refuse.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd; Main ed edition (16 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847674410
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847674418
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 228,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Brabazon's book is alarmingly is a compelling insight into a devastated region that is the playground of rapacious warlords, western intelligence agents and opportunistic businessmen.' --Sunday Business Post

'A beautifully written adrenaline rush by one of our generation's bravest journalists.' --Aidan Hartley

'The concluding chapters of his book present as full and convincing an account of that failed assault on Equatorial Guinea as we are likely to read.'

About the Author

James Brabazon is an award-winning frontline journalist and documentary filmmaker. Based in London, he has reported in over sixty countries, investigating, filming and directing in the world's most hostile environments. His awards include the Rory Peck Trust International Impact Award 2003, the Rory Peck Freelancer's Choice Award 2003, the IDA Courage Under Fire Award 2004 and the IDFA Joris Ivens Competition Special Jury Award 2004. He has also been nominated for two BAFTAs and two EMMYs. He has made thirty international current affairs films broadcast by the BBC, Channel 4, CNN, SABC and the Discovery Channel. He lectures on the ethics and practicalities of journalism in war zones and has written for the Observer, the Independent and the Guardian.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking good read; highly recommended 3 Jun 2010
This is not usually the sort of book I would go for but having read the extracts in The Times I thought I would give it a whirl and I am glad I did. Once I had picked it up I couldn't put it down.

Th first part of the book covers in gory detail the author's experiences in Liberia as a journalist with the mercenary Nick du Toit who he hired to protect him and the growing friendship between the two men. Not for the squeamish or faint-of- heart.

In the second part of the book the action moves to Simon Mann and the infamous Wonga coup - which luckily for his health and sanity James Brabazon missed out on experiencing personally. If life imitates art, then this is Frederick Forsyth's The Dogs of War writ large and terrible; it is almost as if Simon Mann and his merry band had set out to recreate the novel's plotline except that real-life is not quite so tidy nor good and evil so clearly demarcated. And the emotions and motivatitions it portrays run the full gamut from courage and endurance in great adversity to greed and utter stupidity.

The narrative is gripping and fast-paced and Nick du Toit emerges as the anti-hero who engages our sympathy, if only for his survival against all the odds from the torture and hell of Black Beach prison in Equatorial Guinea.

And having read this, I have just crossed regime-change off my list of 101 Things To Do Before I Die.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves 26 Aug 2010
By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER
My Friend the Mercenary is a strange and rather compelling book. The two main characters are a journalist with left wing leanings, James Brabazon and his South African body guard, Nick du Toit. The body guard is a mercenary, a white Special Forces soldier from the Apartheid era and in all probability the kind of person the journalist would have considered a killer before majority rule.

As a result this is a story that rises above the level of a "boys own adventure" in Liberia because of the, to say the least, conflicting moral positions Brabazon has to negotiate while reporting. The first part of the book, which is really the story of the growing friendship of these two men, is set during a Liberian civil war of 2003. Here all the carnage of a modern "tow tech" war is laid out before the reader, and some of the scenes are brutal. But interwoven through this horror is the growing friendship of the two central characters.

In many ways this friendship reaches some form of peak when du Toit invites Brabazon to film a coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. What he is asked to do goes well beyond the bounds of normal journalistic methods. In the end, due to a chance event, he does not film the coup. However, du Toit and many of his "associates" are arrested and imprisoned.

At this point the book changes tone and becomes necessarily far more complex. In intricate web of who said what, to who, where the money is coming from, and how involved in the plots were a number of governments then ensues. The name of Mark Thatcher crops up - which was a surprise to me at least.

The fate of the mercenaries from the failed coup is an important part of the book, so I'm not going to mention it.

This really is a book of two half's.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This book packs a mighty punch. A nerve-wrecking story told in sharp, spare and precise prose, it reads more like a thriller than a memoir.

The first section of the book covers Brabazon's experiences in Liberia during that country's brutal civil war. It is an astonishing account, full of the worst horrors of modern conflict: marauding child soldiers, executions and cannibalism of prisoners. The tales of atrocities are striking for the author's use of detail ("the close-up, messy process of gutting a human being") and his honesty. He does not stint in describing the complex emotions he felt as a witness to such events - or in tracing how long weeks on the frontline messed with his moral compass.

Yet the story is far from unremittingly bleak. Brabazon captures the humour and spirit of the characters caught up in the war, from the spliff-smoking rebel commander Deku to the retinue of refugees, journalists and spies he meets along the way. It is also strangely redemptive to read how, amid the carnage, he forged a lasting friendship with his shady mercenary bodyguard, Nick du Toit.

Beyond the zipping bullets and booming rocket-propelled grenades, the book is also compelling when the author describes the difficult process of coming home: having flashbacks of rotting corpses while on a date with his girlfriend, for example. It is a powerful and, again, sharply honest insight into the trauma that his experiences inflicted.

The final third disentangles the story of the coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, the `project' that Nick du Toit took on after Liberia. It offers a fascinating insider's view into the world of modern espionage and just how one sets about toppling a government in the twenty-first century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a story. 11 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
We often read bits about wars in Africa and I for one find some quite unfathomable. I found this first hand account of rebels fighting in Liberia truly engrossing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Yes an excellent book
Published 2 days ago by Seymour
4.0 out of 5 stars Factual and interesting.
A factual account of an unusual but close friendship built on trust under trying circumstances. The author risks his life and pretty hard conditions for a story but gained a good... Read more
Published 10 months ago by kandyman
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight
Really enjoyed it. At times horrific, but always engaging. The road less travelled, for sure; made me interested in the conflict, as well - a passing interest is enough to get you... Read more
Published 14 months ago by matt rimmer
4.0 out of 5 stars I could smell the gunpowder and bombs
An excellent read. Wonderfully written and greatly descriptive.

Thoroughly enjoyed Brabazon's work.

Highly recommended. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Avid Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars A little hard to get into, but definitely worth it!!
I chose this book due to reading a lot about hired guns/private military/mercenaries. This title is unlike any others I've read, as its written from a reporters point of view, at... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jambob
5.0 out of 5 stars What a corker
This book was enthralling from start to finish. I could barely put it down and want forehand find the programme.
Published 16 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping read
James Brabazon's story of his time in Liberia with Nick du Toit is a gripping read. Following Nick's incarceration as a mercenary in Equitorial Guinea following the failed coup,... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Miss R Riceman
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
This book was an excellent read and I couldn't put it down. It was not only well written but it of gave me an insight into the work of reporters living on the front line and... Read more
Published on 9 Feb 2012 by D. J. Allan
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This has to be one of the best books that I have ever read. Full of action and the horrors of wars,but touched with some humanity and the contradictions in how people can be kind... Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2012 by Colcot
2.0 out of 5 stars Mmmm.... A lesson in hubris
This review refers to the Audio Book

As an Afrikaans speaking South African and former member of the South African Defense Force (SADF), I found the authors... Read more
Published on 19 Jan 2012 by Pockets
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