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on 2 December 2009
Whilst much has been made of the modern day 'Dogs of War', what James Ashcroft highlights in his typically understated way is he and the people like him are busy doing work that is unpopular to those who took us into Iraq in the first place. Daily Mail readers everywhere have been cross to the point of learning to write when they discovered that people like Ash are earning money in a war zone, but without people like Ash, Iraq would have disappeared down the toilet a long time ago. The image of the Private Security Contractor has been tarnished by Blackwater, but they are really vital. The rumours of mega bucks abound, but there are many doing incredibly dangerous work for not that much with nothing like the back-up of a conventional soldier - you literally live or die according to your ability and the ability of those around you.

In this book, Ash returns to assist an Iraqi who had helped him at great personal risk during his previous time in Baghdad. There is no money changing hands, Ash is doing it out of loyalty, something all too often forgotten. What comes across is that Baghdad is a crazy place to be: the hope that emerged after the end of the war in 2003 has been replaced by the terror and domination of rival factions whilst others like Ash try to make sense of the maelstrom of conflicting elements. Instead of getting enraged at the sums of money earned by Private Security Contractors, people might direct their rage at those who are fuelling the insurgency and getting rich from the profits of it all. Besides, this book isn't about money or politics, it's about helping your fellow man.

What stands out is the inner conflict of the warrior - Ash is ready to fight for what he believes in whilst coveting the precious life he has with his beloved family. He's not some Hollywood actor with the flaw or deep secret that drives him, he is simply doing this out of loyalty amidst the madness of Baghdad - he didn't have to do it, but he's not the kind of person who could sit back. One minute he is driving down a road at night, the next he is engaging a car full of insurgents that wanted to make him the target for the night. They move from firefights to family scenes which show how much this war has turned lives upside down. That is Baghdad in a nutshell, there is no other city like it.

This book shows the tensions and frustrations in Iraq and above all, it shows that there are still people willing to bring some good to their fellow man. It was a fascinating read and brought back distant memories of a city that was also part of my life. For once, a book about Iraq that isn't justifying or criticising why we are there or telling you who had the biggest gun and how cool they looked with it. An example for us all.
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on 31 December 2015
One of the best book's I've ever read.....read his other one too
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 18 April 2011
I'm a huge fan of 'Making a Killing' - Major James Ashcroft's first book - and I'm glad to say that his follow up is just as good as the first instalment of his time spent as a private security contractor in Iraq.

If you enjoyed the first book, there is no way you can pass this book up. In it, the old Spartan crew he lead first time around, are brought back together for one final mission - to rescue Sammy, the loyal Iraqi translator whom I'm sure fans of his first book will remember. If you've read 'Shantaram' Shantaram but not 'Making a Killing' Making A Killing: The Explosive Story of a Hired Gun in Iraq , just think of Prabaker... but Sammy isn't fiction. This story is real and so are the people in it.

And that's why Mad Dog, Cobus, Les, Dai and the rest of the Spartan security firm return to risk life and limb for zero pay just to ferry their old friends and his family out of Baghdad to safety. However, what at first seems to a simple mission soon unravels, and the situation quickly spirals out of control, as if often the case in Iraq.

'Making a Killing' ended with Ashcroft shot, bleeding, and being chased out of Iraq (aided, if you remember, by Sammy). Unfortunately, as we know only too well, in the absence of any descent withdrawal strategy a power vacuum was formed and the situation on the ground quickly deteriorated into a power struggle between the Shia and Sunni.

In this struggle, and because he helped the allies, Sammy found himself with a price on his head - placed there by another character we recognise from the first book - general Ibrahim. Ashcroft never trusted him first time around and it seems his instincts were spot on.

But Ibrahim's ruthlessness provides Jame's, his crew, and Sammy's other loyal friends in the US military with a chance to return the favour to a man who had risked everything to help build a better future for Iraq, when sadly, and disgustingly, our own government and that of the US are happy to hang them out to dry and run the daily gauntlet of the death squads.

As with the first book, it's pages are filled with tension and political insight into the situation in Iraq - reading this you'll get a first hand account of what it's like to be a hired gun, a serving soldier or a civilian living in this war torn country. You'll also experience some of the nerves and uncertainty troops feel when they venture outside the Green Zone.

It gives insight into the problems faced with trying to rebuild a country where centuries of tribal conflict have left the population at each others throats; situation made worse by the total incompetence of the West's withdrawal... if indeed it was incompetence at all. But that's an argument for another day.

Anyone with a passing interest in the situation on the ground in Iraq, the wider region as a whole, or the political motives of the West and the allied forces would do well to read both of these books for one man''s frank and honest insight into what is really happening in the region, the difficulty soldiers face, and catch 22 situation that we the West now find ourselves in.

These two books are the best 1st hand accounts of military personnel I have read - both books are thoroughly riveting and leave you with a knot in your gut as you wonder what's going to happen on the next page. In Iraq you get a sense that anything might happen, and that is true of these books too. Read them both without hesitation.

If you have an interest in Private Security Contractors, PSDs or the many Private Armies such as Black Water (now Xe Services) you might enjoy this excellent documentary which also features excerpts from James' first book: Shadow Company [DVD] [2006] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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on 2 December 2009
Once again Captain James Ashcroft keeps us hanging on every word of his heart stoppping ordeal when he goes back to Baghdad to rescue his former interpreter, Sammy, and his large family from the Shia hit list. Thanks to Captain Ashcroft's eloquence, he is able to take us behind the headlines into the lives of real people, facing real life and death situations. War is not an abstract concept. Lives are blown apart. There is pain. There is suffering. And sometimes there is heroism and salvation. Read it.
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on 12 November 2009
It's great to see a factual book that's more exciting than the novels about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And truly stirring to see the risks a soldier took to go back into Iraq and rescue a comrade, making up for British and American government failures to stand by locals - locals we'd relied on for information, for translation and often for our men's lives. The age of chivalry is not dead. Knights now wear Kevlar armour and slay dragons armed with RPGs. A terrific and uplifitng read.
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on 11 November 2009
The first outing for true life action man James Ashcroft, as conjured by Clifford Thurlow, had all the pace of a Hollywood war film in the "Platoon" mode of cynical realism. Here, the second instalment of the Iraq adventures of Ashcroft hits the ground running and puts the reader at the very centre of operations. "Blackhawk Down" demonstrated that top writing combined with hands on experience of modern warfare could keep the reader "embedded" with the front line team and breathless - and this book, Escape from Baghdad, is easily equal to that blockbusting best seller. Someone should definitely get this text into the hands of Oliver Stone. THIS is the book to take on that long flight and one can only hope the audio-book option is in production somewhere - step forward Charles Dance!
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on 26 October 2009
After reading the first Ashcroft book - Making a Killing - I was keen to get another fix and this instalment gave me more than I hoped for.
Escape from Baghdad gives a unique insight into today's Iraq, written by a man who has been at the forefront of a considerable amount of the action.
As well as enthralling fight scenes and big guns, Ashcroft sheds light on the reality of Iraq that no war journalist or political commentator could dream of ever truly disclosing.
The story reunites private military contractor James with his team to help Sammy - an Iraqi who saved their lives in the first book but is now being hunted by Shia death squads.
Ashcroft, a real life James Bond, is a compelling hero that keeps you glued to every page in this fast-paced thriller.
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on 29 April 2011
On its own the book would be worth more than 3 stars. But I read it shortly after "Making a Killing", and "Escape from Bagdad" is easily two stars below that one. The big difference is that "Making a Killing" contains the highlights from 18 months - lots of things happened and the authors' only problem was what to include and what to leave out. "Escape from Bagdad" has about the same number of pages - but the events happened in 5 days. There was simply not enough relevant material, which is why things are trodded out and repeated - both from the previous book and within "Escape from Baghdad" (I don't disagree with Ashcroft's thoughts on the war - but reading them once was enough). The last third (or so - I didn't count pages) of the book is gripping - but getting there takes an effort.
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on 24 September 2013
This book is brilliant. Just brilliant! Don't get me wrong, it is quite 'pulp', but man is it easy to get through! First thing to consider, though: I've not read `Making a Killing'. Let's just get that cleared up. I have read several other modern warfare memoirs (including Simon Low's `The Boys from Bagdad' also about PMCs) on the other hand. For me, the one thing that makes this book is the same thing that someone else criticised it for: the events covered by the book only stretch over a few days. Other similar books I've read feel more like a collection of short stories rather than one coherent tale with a set beginning, middle & end. As this book covers such a short period of time and focuses on one mission, it feels a lot more like a conventional story - in fact, it gives it a real cinematic feel to the book. It would probably make a brilliant film. Now, you probably could cut the book down by about a third if you removed all of Ashcroft's musings on The War, What We Are Doing In The Middle East', etc. and I believe that another reviewer said these are largely repeated from `Making a Killing'; but since I've not read that book, I really enjoyed reading `Ash's' thoughts on these matters. In fact, his level headed approach to The War, etc, is part of what made the book so enjoyable. He comes across as having a real sympathy for the Iraqi people, and, most impressively, the book is free from the somehow socially acceptable `squaddie racism' that you find in so many other books of this genre. When you couple this with a genuinely well-balanced story containing periods of introspection contrasting with periods of real excitement and action; you've got yourself a brilliant, enjoyable book.
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on 6 January 2010
Another fine book by the author, picked p the first book while on tour as a book swap and could not put it down
between jobs, a more realistic view from the ground, it captures the professionalism and camaraderie of a team of men who are trying to do a good job, he also brings out the humanity in what is essentially a grim and impersonal experience war, with a long view of the inhabitants of the country over time. The book starts to get a picture of what it is like to live in a land who's culture is completely alien to ours. Reading about the friends made and lost gave this book more of a sentimental / realistic side (may they RIP). I also have to admit that the author's perception as to why we went to war gave me something to think about. I'd recommend this book, it's easy to pick up and hard to put down; definitely worth buying.
My only complaint was that i did not realise the paperback was out yet and when i made the purchase i did not check an was expecting a hardback. i thought i was getting an excellent buy, not to worry i am a dumb **** and the paperback was just as good.
The further humane twist / side is that the author has been giving profit from his books to support his friend Sammy, I take my hat off to you James for your integrity.
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