WAR REPORTING FOR COWARDS
Author: Chris Ayres
Publisher: PERSEUS / RUNNING PRESS, Mar 2005
With the gonzo style of Hunter S. Thompson & the biting wit of P.J. O?Rourke, an unlikely reporter recounts how he got the opportunity of a lifetime?& ends up between Iraq & a hard place. 6x9 inches, 240 pgs.
Chris Ayres is a small-town boy, a hypochondriac, and a neat freak with an anxiety disorder. Not exactly the picture of a war correspondent. But when his boss asks him if he would like to go to Iraq, he doesn't have the guts to say no.
After signing a $1 million life-insurance policy, studying a tutorial on repairing severed limbs, and spending $20,000 in camping gear (only to find out that his bright yellow tent makes him a sitting duck), Ayres is embedded with a battalion of gung ho Marines who either shun him or threaten him when he files an unfavorable story. As time goes on, though, he begins to understand them (and his inexplicably enthusiastic fellow war reporters) more and more: Each night of terrifying combat brings, in the morning, something more visceral than he has ever experienced-the thrill of having won a fight for survival.
In the tradition of M*A*S*H, Catch-22, and other classics in which irreverence springs from life in extremis, War Reporting for Cowards tells the story of Iraq in a way that is extraordinarily honest, heartfelt, and bitterly hilarious.
EXCERPTS FROM WAR REPORTING FOR COWARDS:
My name is Chris Ayres & I never wanted to be a war correspondent. Yet somehow, for reasons I will never truly understand, there I was --on the front lines of the Iraq War, or the "sharp end of the spear," as the Marines liked to say. My glasses were smeared with dirt & one of the lenses was cracked; my laptop had raised a white flag during the second or third sandstorm; & my satellite phone emitted a radio signature powerful enough to be traced from Baghdad.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. I was supposed to be The Times of London's Hollywood correspondent. Instead, I had accidentally ended up on the Pentagon's "embedding" scheme. And so, at the age of 27, with no previous experience of covering armed combat, I found myself facing heavy mortar fire from the Republican Guard somewhere near Al-Nasiriyah, while wearing a torn Marine chemical suit & a bright blue Times flak jacket, with a reflective white PRESS sign on the front. I was, as the Marines told me, a walking bull's-eye.
Before crossing over the border into Iraq, the colonel of the 1st Marine Division told me that my time with the troops would be like the "worst camping trip of your life." I didn't have the heart to tell him that it would be the first camping trip of my life. So how did it happen? How did a self-confessed coward, who started out as an intern on The Time's business desk, end up on the front lines? And how did he get assigned to Marines who called themselves the "Long Distance Death Dealers" because of the fields of Iraqi body parts they produced?
It's a tale that sometimes even I find hard to believe.
PRAISE FOR CHRIS AYRES:
?The most honest rendering we?ve seen of embedded life, hands down, comes from Chris Ayres.? ?Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post
?Chris Ayres has invented a new genre: a rip-roaring tale of adventure and derring-don?t.? ?Toby Young, author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
?Ayres explicitly admits the impossibility of embeds remaining detached . . . evidence of a degree of self-awareness that others responsible for covering the conflict might do well to emulate.? ?Lucy Mangan, The Guardian
?Of the new or unexpected stars the war created, my pick would be Chris Ayres, who emerged from The Times?s business desk in Los Angeles to become a stunning war reporter in Iraq. I suspect we will see and read more of him.? ?Charles Wilson, The Times (London)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chris Ayres was born in 1975. He joined The Times (London) in 1997 and was a media business correspondent and Wall Street correspondent before moving to Los Angeles. He was nominated as Foreign Correspondent of the Year for his reporting from Iraq.