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Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Macmillan (18 April 2008)
Bob Shepherd is clearly a man of experience, with 20 years of SAS operational service under his belt participating in a number of high profile activities including the Iranian Embassy siege in London, the Falklands War, the First Gulf War and Bosnia not to mention a never before published role in the infamous Bravo Two Zero patrol, having retired from the regiment he took up work as an CP ( Close Protection) advisor on the international commercial security circuit.
This book doesn't pull any punches, its matter of fact, its honest and very to the point from the authors perspective so those looking for the heroic highway shootout stories of close protection teams will be disappointed.
Bob is an advisor, if you happen to be a high profile news agency looking to get into a hot zone of conflict...but also want the added benefit of coming out alive again then Bob is your man, the book brilliantly describes his day to day as an advisor, sometime armed, sometimes unarmed but while Bob is man who believes in getting the job done with some risk to himself he never risks the safety of his various clients. His level of awareness underlines why he was in the SAS, the book is startling in terms of the lengths that Bob goes to in order to prepare for any assignment with his clients.
The book dedicates a large proportion to Bob's CP work for CNN ferrying journalists across the lethal checkpoints of The West Bank and Gaza strip to the badlands of Afghanistan dodging opium warlords, tribal feuds and insurgents. while in Afghanistan he was forced to spend the night as the only Westerner in Khost - with a $25,000 bounty on his head. One of the most incredible accounts in the book is when Bob works as part of a two-man 'recon' team, to search for ITN Correspondent Terry Lloyd and his missing crew in Basra, Iraq. Bob investigates the scene like a crime scene investigator going nearly as far to evaluate the forensics of the correspondents last known whereabouts.
The book does have some truly edge of your seat moments but what never ceases to amaze is how prepared Bob is, he plans everything down to the finest detail, routes in, routes out, how much weight everyone is carrying, has the vehicle they're using been serviced, when was it serviced and who serviced it, does it have a blind spot or mechanical problem he needs to know about, is it low profile enough, which of the additional team is first aid trained and so on. Above and beyond the day to day planning it has to be said that Bob reads people very well, its part of his job to be able to read any kind of situation but also to evaluate threat.
Close protection isn't about heroic shootouts, it's primarily about evaluating threat and risk assessment and specifically the risk and threat his clients may not be aware of. During the height of the war in Iraq CP operators could earn in the region of $900+ per day as sub contractors, winning contracts to do the jobs that the military didn't need to do - Close Protection teams could take the pressure off military personnel to do the same job such as convoy protection of raw materials, protecting oil company personnel, buildings, news teams, members of government etc.
However the one thing that Bob does emphasize is how badly managed the circuit has become, what was once a a niche business staffed by top veterans has now descended into an unregulated,billion dollar industry that places profits and cost cutting above the value of peoples lives. Invariably it does bring to light that every day we hear about military personnel losses in places like Iraq and Afghanistan but never about the hundreds of Close protection members ( who are ex military) who have also tragically lost their lives in the course of duty.
I've only read one other book about CP teams in action, Making a Killing by Captain James Ashcroft, a starkly different read and perspective with some truly ferocious firefights and conflict. The Circuit is a much more informed read providing balance and perhaps much more detail about the finer points not to mention helping you understand so much more about the political climate he operates in, providing background, historical information about the location, the risks of a situation which gives an insider account like never before.
A well paced read, exciting but never over the top it remains one of the best books written about the role and risks of Close Protection in today's hot spots.
Readers who like this might also like: Sniper One by Dan Mills, making a Killing by Cpt James Ashcroft, Apache by Ed Macy.