OFF THE SHELF - The right reading
By SGT Damian Griffin

Volume 50, No. 18, October 04, 2007
The Beijing Conspiracy
Adrian d’Hagé

His last job in the ADF, Head of Defence Planning for the Sydney Olympics, provided much of the subject matter for Adrian D’Hagé’s latest offering dealing, as it does to a large extent, with terrorism in our biggest city.

Security was serious business and it was a matter of “think dirty” and what, if you were a terrorist, would cause maximum disruption in Sydney – both for the 2000 Olympics and for this novel.

Nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) warfare all get an outing – a major theme is biological warfare and how refusal to destroy the last remaining stocks of an all-but-extinct virus could, in malevolent hands, lead to development of a virtually unstoppable super-virus. He’s obviously done major research here, but I suspect the genetic engineering may be a tad more difficult than portrayed.

D’Hagé’s theological studies and foray into the West’s, and in particular the US’s, stance on the Middle East, give us the main thrust of this novel – US Christian bigotry and the West’s refusal to reconcile cultural dissonance with the Islamic world. The novel is quite long and resolved only in the last few pages – at a bit of a rush to my way of thinking.

Anyhow, it’s a rattling good airport novel – one I’d pick up and read happily en route to an overseas destination – perhaps something for the folks taking up postings to the Middle East or central Asia.

3.5/5 stars

Jeremy Scahill
Allen & Unwin

I’m sure most readers have heard of the Blackwater company before, perhaps some have even considered a career with them at some point.

But how much do we really know about what is now the world’s largest private army that boasts its own military base, a fleet of 20 aircraft and 20,000 troops at the ready?

Jeremy Scahill is an investigative journalist who has reported from strife-torn places such as Serbia and the Niger Delta.

In this, his first book, Scahill looks closely at Blackwater and its role as hired muscle by the US government. He also explores the right-wing fundamentalist Christian links of its mega-millionaire ex-Navy Seal founder, Erik Prince.

3.5/5 stars

A Reporter’s War
Hugh Lunn

It took Hugh Lunn 10 years to find a publisher for A Reporter’s War, but since 1985 it’s never been out of print.

It’s a brilliant piece of humorous, emotive and insightful writing that Lunn wrote shortly after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Lunn went to Vietnam as a 25-year-old Reuters correspondent for twelve months in 1967. He writes of his experiences witnessing the conflict and of living in Saigon alongside the entertaining list of characters he encounters.

But what he witnesses and experiences leaves him questioning not only the US/Australian role in Vietnam, but his own role in the war.

4/5 stars