I’ve had this book on the shelves for quite some time now and it never quite made it to the top of the pile. As I was recently travelling to Pakistan, an Islamic Republic, and this book deals both with terrorism and Islam I thought I’d read it. It’s pretty good.
For those of you who don’t know Frank Gardner is the BBC’s Security Correspondent and formerly one of their Middle East Correspondents. He’s an avid traveller with a love of Arabic and the Middle East. But he’s perhaps best known for being shot. In 2004 while reporting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia some Al-Qaeda operatives passed him and his cameraman, Simon Cumbers, by chance and decided to take them out. Cumbers was killed and Gardner left for dead. The result, for this athletic active, former biathlete, father of two was the loss of his legs and a future in a wheelchair.
Blood & Sand begins with the shooting and then goes back to chart his journey through life as a student of Arabic, a banker in Bahrain and then a journalist in Cairo and other places for the BBC. Before returning to the quite horrific injuries he sustained, he’s very lucky to be alive at all.
As you’d expect from a journalist it’s well written with lively pace and Gardner clearly has a deep abiding affection for the Arab world in particular. He does come from another world though, private school, same boxing club as Prince Andrew, had tea with explorer Wilfred Thesiger, earns a small fortune as a banker and then gets to know Kuwaiti princes and the like. Still it makes for an entertaining read.
My main criticism is that there isn’t enough comment on some of the situations, world news events and the dealings of terrorists as you’d hope. He merely tells you where he was at the time. I was hoping for alongside the adventure to have some analysis but we settle for the adventure. Neither, remarkably, do we get what Gardner thinks about Islam (although we assume it’s respectful) and in particular the place of violent Islam (which seeing as he was shot in the name of Allah) you might have expected.
Having come so close to death there is also little thought of the afterlife and Gardner admits he’s not particularly religious; instead of reflecting on his mortality his energies have been on recovering, living and surviving.
Verdict: A well read biography for those who love news, travel & adventure