Happy Friday my lovelies – it’s the WEEKEND!!! Today I’m delighted to be on the blog tour for Appetite for Risk by Jack Leavers. Not only am I bringing you a review BUT an extract too!!
A fast-paced action thriller inspired by real events in the aftermath of the Iraq War.
With Saddam Hussein deposed and an entire country in need of rebuilding, former Royal Marine John Pierce hears the siren call of adventure and opportunity. His fledgling UK business is struggling to support his young family and he has connections in the Iraqi capital – fate seems to point one way.
In early 2004, Pierce rolls the dice when he jumps into a taxi in Jordan and heads for the turmoil of postwar Baghdad to grab a share of the reconstruction gold rush. But when Iraq spirals into the hell of a full-blown insurgency, he must rely on his wits and his local friends if he’s to evade the rampant bloodshed.
As the action rolls across the blood-stained Iraqi landscape and embraces London’s seedy underbelly, Pierce tangles with the authorities at home and finds himself thrust into the heart of British and American covert operations against Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Having set out with little more than ambitious goals and an appetite for risk, can a determined ex-bootneck survive the mounting chaos unscathed and succeed in hitting the jackpot?
This extract comes from the start of Chapter 9. No imagination was required – all the information came from my memory of being in Baghdad at that time.
Baghdad – February 2004
In early 2004, Baghdad had the feel of a wild frontier. A few Western expats still lived out in the city and many continued to zip around town without armed protection as they ate in restaurants, visited shops, and attended meetings. There was an air of insecurity, of uncertainty, but not yet the menacing feeling death stalked the streets with purpose.
The soundtrack to the city was punctuated by regular gunshots and bursts of automatic fire, mixed with the occasional explosion. It reminded me of Bosnia with UNPROFOR in ’95. The constant reminder war was close by, even if you didn’t actually see it very often. The way they celebrated weddings and just about everything else in this place, the sounds of a ‘Lebanese unload’ could be either violence or celebration. If you knew which, you were probably in the wrong place at the wrong time, whatever the answer.
The Palestine Hotel in the heart of the city was a melting pot of security contractors, military personnel, Iraqi businessmen, and Western executives. It was outside the Green Zone which sat on the other side of the river, so a useful location for someone like me who needed freedom of movement for easy access with my local contacts. There were no checkpoints to navigate or American troops to bypass.
An eighteen-storey hotel with a unique facade of concrete flower-type designs on most of the balconies, the Palestine was located on the east bank of the Tigris River by Firdos Square – the square where the huge statue of Saddam was torn down by Baghdad residents with the help of US forces. Now a different statue stood in its place: a modern art piece with a ball balancing on a crescent moon. I’d read it was meant to symbolise the unity of the three main branches of Iraqi society – Sunni, Sh’ia, and Kurds. Art isn’t really my bag, but it looked as though they just threw up the first thing they found to fill the void from Saddam’s previously imposing figure.
Also perched on Firdos Square was the next-door Sheraton Hotel. Compared to the tired brown and orange decor of the Palestine, you might expect the Sheraton to have been a picture of luxury. However, it had been a long time since the real Sheraton Hotels had managed it and, by comparison to my lodgings, it was a dark and dreary place which resembled a bunker on the ground floors. The one good thing about the Sheraton was that most of the gunfire, bombs, and rocket attacks seemed to be attracted that way instead of hitting the Palestine. Not so good if you lived in the Sheraton of course.
Many of the international press corps also based themselves out of the Palestine, including CNN on the floor directly above me or very close to it. How did I know? Because when CNN reported from Baghdad, the backdrop was identical to the view out of my window down across the square and over the blue-domed mosque visible in so many news reports. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones to see that backdrop and the locals would pitch up to demonstrate their grievances in the knowledge it would all be shown on American TV.
In amongst the mix, a few entrepreneurs like myself flitted about. Guys representing small companies or their own interests, all searching for contracts to get a foothold in the melee of post-war Iraq. I didn’t bump into anyone quite as ‘seat of the pants’ and low budget as my efforts, but they might simply have been good at blagging it, like me.
My room was basic but comfortable and the ‘Welcome Home’ card on the desk became my bookmark for several years. The water pressure wasn’t stellar, and the temperature hardly luxurious, but in a city with many people struggling to survive it was plenty good enough. A balcony provided a view across the city, although I kept clear of it following a whispered warning given to me on the day I arrived.
Watch out for the snipers. They take potshots if they spot any Westerners.
I hadn’t seen any reports along those lines, but better safe than sorry.
The other key advice for when you’re staying in a country with fluctuating power supplies and ambivalent levels of maintenance: never use the lifts, always take the stairs.
For a change I’m not going to give you a run down of the storyline as the blurb says it perfectly!
The story is told from the first person and most of the time I completely forgot that this was a work of fiction, and not somebody’s actual story! It is inspired by true events though, and I spent so much time wondering which bits had genuinely happened! It honestly feels like John is a real person and we’re reading his memoir, which makes it really interesting.
Having had an ex in the Military who served in Iraq whilst we were together, it was really interesting for me and I loved the fact that I knew some of the lingo!! The action bits of the story really have you on the edge of your seat; I regularly found myself fully immersed in the story and not wanting to put it down.
I really connected with John and his wife Claire. His need for a bit of adventure is never going to change, and his wife’s reluctant acceptance of this is one which I’m sure many military girlfriends and wive’s would fully understand.
There were times when the story did slow down a bit, for example when we’re learning about what John is up to back in the UK; which is probably what made this feel more like a memoir. But it just added to the character building of John and helped me to get to know him a bit more and understand his personality.
Overall I really enjoyed this. I loved getting to know John, immersing myself in the story and wondering which bits may be true! I’m looking forward to reading book 2 to see what other adventures John gets up to!
about the author
Jack Leavers is a former Royal Marine with over thirty-years’ experience spread across the military, private security, corporate investigations, maritime counter-piracy, and risk management. His varied career has included numerous deployments to conflict zones around the world such as Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, trouble spots in Africa, and the Somali pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean.
Jack continues to work in challenging environments and has now begun to pen novels inspired by some of the more enterprising projects that got the green light, and other audacious plans that didn’t.
The current WIP is a follow up to Appetite for Risk that sees ex-bootneck John Pierce return to face a ruthless enemy in Africa.
Jack is normally based in London, UK, but finds he’s at his most productive writing-wise when deployed overseas. Trips to Iraq and Africa beckon, so the follow up should be finished soon.
tour hosted by:
Massive thanks to Emma for inviting me on to the tour and to Jack and the publisher for providing me with a paperback copy in return for an honest review, and allowing me to share an extract with you lovelies.
Make sure you check out all the other fab bloggers too!
Have a fabulous weekend!