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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Frank Gardner's "Blood and Sand"

My son Sukh gave me the paperback of this book a few years ago but I only started reading it recently as I had other things on my mind over the last year and a half.

It is a great introduction to certain areas of the Middle East that Frank has travelled to through his student years and in his twin careers of banking and the BBC. Through his own passion for the region, he unfolds the language, culture and the political scenario of each country.

After years of freelancing and paying for his own travel, he eventually lands a contract job with the BBC (the corporation loves folk to freelance and send stuff in from abroad or at home completely at their own cost - a tried and tested way for people to get longer contracts) Frank became Security Correspondent and was immensely valuable due to his knowledge of Arabic and the Middle East.

On 6 June 2004, he and his very experienced cameraman Simon Cumbers were ambushed in a carefully planned attack by Islamist gunmen in Riyadh. Simon was killed immediately. Frank was hit in the shoulder and the leg. As he lay on his stomach in agony, pleading for his life in Arabic, four more bullets were pumped into his body at point-blank range by an unknown killer.

The chapter dealing with the detail of Frank's injuries and treatment was so graphic it made me feel physically nauseous (the first time I've ever had that reaction to a piece of written text), and the episodes describing coming to terms with his paraplegia were extremely moving. I could sense him willing himself to carry on and pick up his life despite what had happened. An unforgettable book.

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