A gritty and exciting look at what happens just beyond the camera’s lens in the world’s hotspots, “Tears in Tripoli” by Paul Rice (@riceauthor) introduces Jake Collins, an ex-British Special Forces soldier working as a security consultant.
Jake, or JC as he is known, is as tough as an old leather belt — physically and emotionally. But his latest job, protecting a television news crew in Tripoli during the upheaval surrounding the final days of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya, will test the old soldier’s abilities in ways that he hasn’t seen before — at least not for a very long time.
I greatly enjoyed following JC as he traveled into, around and then out of Libya, and getting a peak at what happens just to the right or left of the news correspondent doing a stand-up report from some war-torn hellhole on my TV screen. As someone who spent a lot of his military career just a few degrees to one side or the other of some fairly big events, I know what the public sees or hears is only a fraction of the real story.
I found JC to be entirely believable. He isn’t a superhero and he certainly isn’t perfect — drinks much too much, smokes, and his equipment conks out with annoying frequency — but he also doesn’t make any excuses for what he is, or have any illusions about his life changing. He’s tried living a “normal” life, giving up living on cigarettes, energy bars and bottled water while sleeping in the dirt, but somehow JC always ends up back on an airplane heading towards the fire.
All of that could change for him in Tripoli, where the situation is confused and confusing.
But don’t pick “Tears” up expecting a written version of the latest big-budget Hollywood action flick. There is action here, to be sure, but this book is grounded in an absolute reality that puts paid to any notion that those movies are even slightly accurate.
There is grit, and dirt, and the blood that is spilled has ramifications. The lines of right and wrong, good and bad, get blurred and things don’t always work out for JC or his compatriots. After all, there is a revolution in progress, the people of Libya are breaking free after more than forty years of repressive rule, and something like that never happens in a way that is clean or easy.
This realism is only what you would expect from someone like Mr. Rice, who knows very well of what he writes. From the biography on his website:
I have served for 24 years in the British Army and saw many different and interesting things during that time. Since leaving the forces I have had the opportunity to visit several different countries, including: Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and several countries in Africa. I spent the majority of last year in Libya – it was a big year for the people of that country and I was fortunate enough to witness some major events unfolding whilst I was there.
Being there gave me the inspiration for my latest novel – Tears in Tripoli.
“Tears” is the second book I’ve read recently that featured a former British Special Forces soldier as the lead protagonist. I enjoyed them both very much, but the fun and freewheeling “Bones of Odin” by David A. Leadbeater (my review) is that Hollywood blockbuster summer flick: There is non-stop action and helicopters firing missiles into the sides of mountains to open a hole to fly through. A great summer popcorn read.
In contrast, “Tears in Tripoli” is like an Oscar-contending film from an Independent studio as JC pulls back the curtain on his world and his thoughts. There are other JCs out there in the world today, toiling away on the margins of history where the bullets fly and the good guys and bad guys just may be the same guys.
I looked forward to reading this book from the moment I read the blurb on Amazon, and I wholeheartedly recommend “Tears in Tripoli” to anyone looking for a book with a story that’s exciting and original, told with the sureness of someone who knows exactly what he’s talking about. Mr. Rice is working on the next Jake Collins book, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.