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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 3 Summer 2007
Frank Gardner

Tale of courage ...

Some people write from research; some from direct experience. Frank Gardner OBE, the BBCs now wheelchair-bound Security Correspondent is very much in the latter category as evidenced by his fast moving autobiographical "thriller" Blood & Sand. The thriller in this case is a serious but accessible and highly personal account of Middle East politics, beginning with Gardner getting shot eleven times by terrorists in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and ending with him back at work, a paraplegic who is still trying to make sense of any number of different terrorist incidents. In between there is Gardners Boys Own style, helter-skelter trip through the Arab world, taking in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Yemen, to name but a few.

Being Frank Gardner, who studied Arabic at Exeter University before heading for some of the worlds more challenging locations, this is journalism in the raw with plenty of repetition but lots of action. Amid all the action, the packing of bags and rushed deadlines, the book contains a deeper message about trying to understand ordinary people, Arabs, who with their own culture and their own customs are simply trying to go about their daily lives. Gardner the Arabist writes with genuine sympathy about peoples he has come to love and perhaps most important with whom he can communicate. At the same time he makes a clear distinction between mainstream Arabs who are Muslims and terrorists who continue to act in the name of their faith and the Arab world.

Anyone reading this book will enjoy a highly personal story while at the same time gaining valuable insight into terrorism and its causes and, at an everyday level, what really makes the Middle East tick.

Blood and sand by Frank Gardner OBE (Bantam Press paperback with revised Afterword, 2007 ISBN 978-0-553-81771-3) 7.99