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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 1 April 2012
There's a line in this book by Sky News' reporter Alex Crawford, where she reveals that she hates just 'reporting news', ie passing on details of things that have already happened. Instead, she much prefers to be there while events are actually unfolding - and that's exactly what she managed for 6 months spanning the middle of 2011 when the Arab Spring saw Libya eventually flower from tyranny into freedom. And Crawford was there at every key step along the way - dodging bullets, chasing stories, evading road blocks, and generally being ahead of the press pack in telling the World what it needed to be told. The result is an electrifying book - more like one long-running, breathless, hand-held camera shot through a war zone, than a conventional news memoir. It has real pace and emotional power - so much so, that despite the compulsion to keep turning the pages, there are times when you just can't, and you have to pause to regroup and realign your own emotional reserves. The action follows the ebb and flow of the rebels' efforts to unseat Gaddafi, starting with a near death experience in Zawiya and ending with the tumultuous events in Tripoli when Crawford really was in the vanguard of history being made, courtesy of a cigarette-lighter-charged-camera in the back of a pick-up truck. But there's much more to this book than the whizz-bangs of battle - the human cost, to the ordinary people of Libya, the incredible Libyan doctors, the defeated Gaddafi forces, and the journalists themselves is laid bare for us all to feel at first hand. Make no mistake, this is not the story of one reporter - it is a tribute to all of them, and what they go through to bring us our view of the World. Crawford's story is shot through with her gratitude and affection to those who run with her through the narrow Libyan streets - the cameramen, the producers, the Mr Fixits, all helping her get big stories on air. She describes herself as just happening to be 'the singer in the band'. Well, she's some singer, and this is some song.
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on 10 April 2012
Colonel Gaddafi's Hat
Crawford lets her terrifying story tell itself and her first book is all the better for it. It is a straightforward account of a television foreign correspondent's three visits to Libya during 2011's revolution. She and her Sky News crews witnessed, at the very closest of quarters, the setbacks and triumphs of the rebels opposing the Gaddafi regime. Twice they scooped global television news - first by reporting from the inside on the government's murderous retaking of rebel-held Zawiya, then by being in the vanguard of the final advance into Tripoli (thereby encountering the ordinary guy who took the colonel's titular, gold-braided titfer from a bedroom in his Tripoli compound). She and her crews, whose contribution is fully acknowledged, succeeded through great determination plus a mixture of raw courage and recklessness...and a little dumb luck. Indeed, they were lucky not to be killed, and rebel friendly fire was as great a threat as anything the regime's forces threw their way. Do not expect an in-depth treatise on what made the the colonel's dictatorship last so long, and why it was eventually brought down. Instead, this is a sweaty, first-person, present-tense account of broadcast news at its most exhilarating, immediate and instinctive. Much of the book's appeal value lies in it being her own account of what if all felt like and what the experience did to her. Even so, she attempts no explanation of why a mother of four turning 50 makes her living in quite such a dangerous way. She probably cannot explain it to herself. Perhaps no explanation is required, but one does start to emerge from this book - and it's simply that she's rather good at what she does.
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on 25 April 2012
If you ever wanted to know what it's like to be a war correspondent, then this is it.
The book that tells it how it is - warts and all. And at times it's pretty scary.
Alex guides us graphically through her personal journey of the Libyan uprising: a compelling, breathless and utterly vivid account of the horrors of war.
As she takes us with her inside that death-trap of a mosque in Zawiya, onto the frontline in Misrata and riding into Tripoli with the liberating rebels, what comes bursting through is Alex's compassion, her professionalism and her humanity.
She admits that war is `hideous and cruel and bloodthirsty'. And it's no fun being shot at. `It's not the danger I love,' she says. Of course it's an adventure, but above all it's about that gut instinct to get to the core of the story, that desire to shine a light into the darker corners of the world and that dedication to getting the tale on TV so we'll all know the truth of what's going on.
Alex gives us a real sense of the chaos, the carnage and sometimes the comedy of war.
In doing so, she's brutally honest about the personal price a reporter can pay in going almost to hell and back to get a story. She describes the stark, sweaty, fear-filled reality of facing death.
She talks openly of her fears and tears, her guilt and the impact on her family.
But in the end it's all balanced against the need she feels to tell the world about those ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times; to expose suffering, inhumanity and injustice.
The book also gives you a real insight into the teamwork that goes into bringing a story to air. We maybe the faces you see on your screens, but we'd be nothing without the courage and professionalism of a host of colleagues.
Alex's book is a tribute to all those men and women who bring you your daily news.
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on 23 April 2012
As a Libyan writer, I received this book with excitement. I watched Alex's reports from Libya during the revolution, and was stunned by them. In this book Alex does the same thing. She proves to be a top journalist. But most importantly, she wrote it with great passion, as mother, a sister, a journalist and, on the top of that; as a real human being. I genuinely hope that this wonderful book will reach my fellow Libyans in Zawiyya, Musrata and Tripoli ASAP. Well done Alex.
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on 24 April 2012
Having watched the news unfold Having watched the news unfold early last year and Alex's amazing coverage from Libya, specifically Green Square I could wait to read this book and it did not disappoint. Alex's honest, vivid and passionate account of her experiences really opens your eyes to the world of a war correspondent. A must read, I cannot recommend highly enough.
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on 30 March 2012
I watched the news unfold and admired Alex Crawford's bravery in telling the story on screen. This book is an honest account of what life as a war correspondent is....graft, tenacity, sweat, blood, tears and fear. She is just an ordinary woman who has an unbelievable drive and desire to tell the truth. It is a book you will not want to put down.
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on 25 April 2012
Reading Colonel Gadaffi's Hat was like sprinting a marathon. The intensity of what was experienced, physically and emotionally leaves one 'breathless'.
Alex's vivid account of the revolution as it unfolds keeps you sprinting through the pages. Phew!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 June 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
all adjectives that can be used to describe Alex Crawford and all necessary qualities in journalists trying to survive and bring back the good story to the public from war-torn regions or countries.

This is her riveting account of her travels and reports from Libya in 2011 during the last 6 months of the Gaddafi regime that held the country in its iron fist for 42 years.

It's at once interesting for historical purposes but also as an insight into the life of journalists that risk their lives for the big story.

She describes the horrors of a country at war, the brutality of Gaddafi's regime, the hardship of not being with your family when things are tough, the excitement and adrenalin rushes, the bravery of the fighters (and journalists and camera men) and the technical challenges they experienced trying to obtain footage of the historical uprising and liberation of the country.
She doesn't delve into politics so this is a fast-paced recount of her and her crew's experiences during the 3 or 4 visits she made to the country and the situations they found themselves in to be able to tape the now very famous reports from a country on the cusp of freedom.
4.5 stars and very much worth a read
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on 5 June 2012
The 20th anniversary of Sky News in 2009 was marked by a promotional book 20 years of Breaking News in which Alex Crawford wrote a chapter Should a woman be doing this? It explored whether gender had ever been an issue for the channel's correspondents reporting from war zones and, whilst admitting there were both advantages and disadvantages to being a female correspondent, her conclusion was, "Absolutely not." But she noted that, despite over sixty years of war reporting, "it is still viewed as something novel to see a woman in a flak jacket under fire." Not any more. In her first book, Colonel Gaddafi's Hat, Alex takes us behind-the-scenes of the Libyan uprising, giving a gripping, personal, blow-by-blow account of the circumstances surrounding her and her team's now famous scoops: reporting from the heart of the battle on the government's retaking of rebel-held Zawiya and from the vanguard of the final advance into Tripoli. Alex shows us the chaos and the destruction of war and is honest about the price a journalist can pay - facing both death and trauma. Alex has previously said, "reporters...are programmed to be bonkers, to run towards danger ... this is the very nature of the job and it's hard to explain how intoxicating, how interesting, how utterly addictive it can be". You get the sense of that in Colonel Gaddafi's Hat yet she makes clear it's not the danger she loves, it's, "The chance to make a difference somewhere to someone." Torn between being a foreign correspondent, a wife and a mother of four, she also wants, "my family to be proud of me. I want them to feel like it's worth it." She can now rest easy. The Head of Sky News, John Ryley, tells her as she leaves Libya for the third time, "I don't think you realise what an impact the coverage has had" . If anyone, anywhere, needs reminding why there is still a need, in the age of citizen journalism, for impartial, well-funded, professional tv news, this is it. Tv news is about teamwork and Alex's book is a tribute to the team of men and women - both on and off air - who bring us an objective account of what is happening before their eyes, before the lens.
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on 13 April 2012
I've just finished reading Colonel Gaddafi's Hat by Alex Crawford, initially I thought it'd be too much for me, I'd watched the 'lives' on the Sky News channel, the raw and frightening images transmitted from another Middle East war zone and Libya, where we had only seen a fraction of the country and it's peoples, because only one man would allow us.

Now here was a journalist, a person I'd worked with in 'live' graphics at the start of my career in 1990, here was Alex in amongst all the terrifying 'action' in amongst all the danger and tellling us the 'truth' shedding 'light' on a country in turmoil and helping us to see for ourselves what was really going on, not what the Gaddafi minders wanted us to 'know' but, Alex and her team were showing us 'on air' what was actually happening to the people of Libya.

To then read her account in all it's humanity and it's frankness and from not only a journalist/reporter story telling but, from a female perspective. I don't read very quickly, I'm not someone who can skim or glean - I have to digest re-read and the story behind the images we saw on the news channel made for a riveting and frankly scary process.

I'd recommend this book to anyone, not just because I've enjoyed reading it, simply because it tells the story behind some of the best reporting from Libya's uprising, giving us a glimpse into how much suffering the people of Libya have endured and hopefully the sentiment recalled by Alex from Mr Alwindi, it's an uplifting and rewarding read all round.
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