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on 6 October 1999
Set in the 1970's and 80's, this purports to be a factual account of the activities of a London-based group of professional assassins, and of the efforts of another clandestine London-based group - The Feathermen - to thwart them.
The assassins, known collectively as "The Clinic" because of their meticulous attention to detail in the planning and execution of murders, were much sought after by would-be buyers of such services for their reliability, effectiveness and discretion.
One such client commissioned the Clinic to kill a number of men who had formerly served in the UK's famed 22 SAS Regiment. Thus it was that the Clinic and its activities came to the attention of the Feathermen (so named "because our touch is so light"). These men and women, operating covertly, are tasked with protecting former serving members of the SAS and their families. Though highly unconventional in their methods, the Feathermen are claimed to differ from the Clinic in that they consider themselves constrained to operate within the law; also, and in stark contrast with the Clinic, their aim is the preservation of innocent lives. The Feathermen as individuals are motivated differently, but share a common high regard for the Regiment though many have never served with it. The Feathermen were founded, it is speculated in the book, by none other than the founder of the SAS, Colonel David Stirling.
Fiennes is famous and much admired in the UK for his adventures and feats of endurance. He is also an established and successful author with several best-sellers to his name. Most importantly perhaps, he himself formerly served with the Regiment for a brief time. He claims he was approached by The Feathermen and asked to write their account of the cat-and-mouse struggle for lives which had taken place with the Clinic. Though making some startling, even contentious, claims, Fiennes' book is notable for providing many details and facts. Specifics as to locations, times, dates and much else besides are provided. It would be a simple matter, presumably, to confirm that such specific events occurred, if not the reasons claimed to underlie them. Nor does his book hesitate to 'name names'. The members of the Clinic, and their victims, are identified, and photographs of all of the latter also appear. I should add (as this is a review) that all is couched in Fiennes' fluent, compelling and thoroughly accessible prose, and he manages to deliver smoothly and engagingly this stark catalogue of atrocities and their grim details.
One or two of the victims were already known to the general public here in the UK before publication of this book, having appeared in the press and elsewhere. Major Mike Keely, MC, for example, is identified in Tony Geraghty's definitive history of the Regiment - "Who Dares Wins" - and his untimely death discussed at length therein. The circumstances of Keely's death as related by Geraghty (who bases his account on the official version given by the Regiment and as discovered in the inquest), are nearly identical to those given in the Feathermen. However, the latter offers very different reasons for why those circumstances arose, and the assertion is that it was not an accidental death or one resulting from misadventure. Indeed, several events quite widely reported at the time of their occurrence, which, though tragic, were sadly too common to excite much suspicion or curiosity, are given sinister new significance by Fiennes. For those readers who lived here in the UK during the time these events were unfolding (70's & 80's) there will be an inescapable eeriness in places as the true nature of events well remembered is asserted by the author.
Having read the book, I have to say that I was left feeling that such claims could not possibly have failed but to exercise the police or the UK government to mobilise an enquiry. Not having heard tell of one I concluded the claims must have been discounted by those in a position to know. Perhaps one was conducted in secret.
Fact or fiction, The Feathermen is a very interesting tale, which is compelling for having purportedly taken place beneath the very noses of the general public, and indeed to have involved members of it unknowingly here and there.. I shall be very grateful to those who take the time to e-mail me with any titbits they have acquired which relate to events in this book, which, incidentally, I wholeheartedly recommend.
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on 13 March 2000
This is a marvellous account of derring-do, very skilfully related. I was living in Oman, the setting of most of the story, whilst reading the book. Discrete checks of many of the facts and visits to Christian cemetries in Muscat where some of the victims lie convinced me that the story is in fact true despite its incredible tortuosity. Unputdownable, and also disturbing, with a startling twist at the end.
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Sir Ranulph Twistleton Wickham Fiennes BT, OBE (and holder of the Polar Medal with Bar!) is undoubtedly the greatest living British explorer. He also served as an officer with the Special Air Service Regiment in the early seventies at a time when I was attached to that Regiment as a corporal in the Pay Office. We met briefly then and again in the late eighties when I was involved with Operation Raleigh. Though "Ran" - as he introduced himself on the latter occasion, has no reason to recall either meeting, I will always remember this man as someone with great presence who has come to symbolise great things and great achievements. In many ways he is the most British of men.

In his book "The Feather Men," the reader is left wondering whether or not it is a work of fact or fiction. It is an enthralling and exciting read and I am surprised it has not yet been made into a film.

Throughout the world there are certain "standards." For example, people might refer to a specific make of car, as that country's equivalent of a Rolls Royce. This is because Rolls Royce has become the standard for excellence in the making of cars. Similarly, when describing the world's Special Forces, they often refer to certain elite organisations as that country's equivalent of the SAS.

I had the privilege of serving with the SAS over 30 years ago but was never SAS trained. Ran Fiennes was and, therefore, knows what he is talking about. That is why you will be left wondering.

Altogether an excellent book.

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on 8 January 2001
I have only ever read Sir Ranulph Fiennes 'Fit For Life' before this so was unsure how he could write a novel. I was shocked, it is the best book that I have ever read. I found a few very small parts a little difficult to follow and others parts a little bit technical, but I just read on because I had to know what was to happen next. It is supposed to be a true story and I believe it. If you think that you might like it, just buy it (or borrow it) you will be shocked at how good it is!
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on 14 September 2011
A good read which starts in similar fashion to many of Ranulph's other non-fiction titles.
The opening leaves a questioning doubt over the stories origins. Is it fiction or non-fiction? Not having conclusively got an answer prior to picking up this book, it finishes with a first person account in the final part, one is left feeling little doubt that this is a non-fiction title.
In short good book from an inspiring author, which I recommend a read before the movie comes out. Surely hollywood cannot do this justice?
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on 3 February 2013
Originally entitled 'The Feather Men', they are a group of people dedicated to protecting ex-army/SAS colleagues. Another group, hired assassins called the Clinic, are slowly but surely taking out a succession of heroic soldiers who all have a common link. Based on Sir Ranulph's own time in the SAS and subsequent service in Oman, this gripping story is packed with realistic detail and local colour. And with a completely unexpected twist at the end it leaves one deeply impressed with Sir Ranulph's story-telling ability. Another feather in his incredible cap.
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on 20 September 2000
I finished this book in just over 2 days. Could not put it down. A prince wanting to avenge his sons "murderers" by using the Clinic. How these contract killers stalk and pursue ex-SAS and other special forces who served in the 60-70's in Dhofar.
Whether this is true or not, which I suspect it is, this book is fantastically written by Fiennes and as you get into the book, you actually feel that you could be there. Well done!
Can't wait to buy my next Fiennes book.
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on 10 March 2000
Just finished reading it, and was enjoying it so much I didn't want it to end. Truthful or not (I reckon it is), this is a fascinating account of a team of clandestine vigilantes pitched in a secret war with a team of contract-killers. The author avoids a good-guy/bad-guy battle and just lets the story tell itself with careful detail and unbiased opinion. Starts off with a great deal of scene-setting and jumping from one event to another. Do stick with it though, because it heats up in a hurry with an excellent twist at the end. Top stuff.
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on 20 August 2006
This is by any standards a gripping and very well written story. Before you start reading make sure you have time to spare because you won't easily put it down. The prose and pace is second to none, and the twist at the end astonishing.

On the whole the story is quite convincing, although there are a few details where I suspect the author has probably had to take too much on trust, or else had to fill in some gaps (an example is towards the very end, when we read about two phone calls being made to the same publicity agent about the same book; or the coincidence of David Mason leaving a target's home just as two "policemen" arrive- just can't quite believe it). But otherwise quite convincing. Very powerful stuff, and as another reviewer has said, it has an eery sensation for those who can remember some of the events. Gives a glimpse into the shadowy world of special forces and mercenaries etc.
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on 8 January 2016
Certainly one of best books that I have read and full of fact which I have known about for quite a long time. However, unless you have some knowledge of military matters you may find it a little bit hard going. The film was good, but the book is awesome.
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