Eight Lives Down, Major Chris Hunter

I served with Chris back in 89 when he was an apprentice in the Royal Corps of Signals and he was always a switched on cookie. I discovered this book about a year ago on Facebook from someone else who served with us. I bought this and his second book, Extreme Risk, and read the second one first. I’m not sure why I did that, but in any event it didn’t really matter.

It follows Chris’s life from his arrival in Iraq to his departure and is quite an eye-opener. It is, as you would expect, full of military jargon, some of which I had forgotten. I’m not just talking about the abbreviation soup either; soldiers tend to form their own language and, after a while, it can become indecipherable to anyone else. As a linguist, of course I find this quite fascinating! It does, however, mean that you may have trouble with some of the vocabulary but it doesn’t detract from the book at all.

Chris does touch upon the strain that his chosen career had on his family life and it makes the book so much more real because of that. It must’ve been difficult to share such private thoughts in a novel, but it’s that that makes it work.

It does make me wonder what sort of thing I’d have been doing if I had stayed in, but I’m quite sure it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as crazy as what Chris was doing! I hope one day to get a chance to sit down with him over a pint or two and hear some sandbag stories first hand, but until I do, I’ve got his books.

If you enjoy these sorts of books, you won’t go far wrong with this and Extreme Measures. They are true, accurate and well-written accounts of what it’s like in danger zones that go way beyond what the media portrays.