Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Book Review: The New Jackals by Simon Reeve


  2. Genre: Non-Fiction/Terrorism
  3. Published: 1999
  4. Pages: 294



Written in 1999, before the 9/11 WTC attack, Simon Reeve was one of the first author to pen a book about Osma Bin Laden. It did not sell very well when first published, but after 9/11 it became a best seller. It starts in 1993 when a young man known as Ramzi Yousef planted a massive bomb in the car park under one of the World Trade Centre towers. His aim had been to destroy them, but in this he failed. What happened afterwards though was a manhunt that saw him “bombing his way around the world” as Reeve phrased it. The second half of the book covers Osma Bin Laden and the rise of the Al-Qaeda , accounting for his life and rise to infamy.

I started reading this on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2010 because I could not get into any of my other fiction books and it seemed in a way, appropriate. Simon Reeve is a very talented journalist/author. I have read another one of his books – One Day In September – which is about the 1972 Munich Olympics terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team and the following revenge attacks by Israel’s agency Mossad.

I am not a great reader of non-fiction because I have a misjudged prejudice that they are all written by boring old men with long white beards. Obviously this is not the case, because those that I have read have all been pretty clean shaven. Simon Reeve has also presented some very interesting travel documentaries on the BBC – but he travels around to places you’re unlikely to go yourself.

Reeve interviewed numerous sources in the writing of this book. This included FBI and CIA officers, police, witnesses and terrorists themselves. He would have interviewed Ramzi Yousef himself had he been given half the chance – but this was not allowed. Reeve comes across as a very intelligent and trustworthy author, although it may surprise you that he was only about twenty five at the time this was published. He is non-judgemental and analytical – but he never pushes himself or his opinions across too forcefully.

This book was written two years before 9/11 and so reading it retrospectively gives it a different dimension then it would have had originally. The book covers Yousef’s attempt to destroy the World Trade Towers and what happened next – both his escape, his other movements including an attempt on Benazir Bhutto’s life, and how the CSI tracked him down and captured him. Reeve also gives brief history and analysis of Osma Bin Laden and the rise of terrorism. It is a short book and of course by now there has been numerous books written about this subject that will go into much more detail – and more up to date. Reeve’s narrative of the events is both sensitive, well written and detailed without being dramatic or sensational.

After Yousef was arrested, one of the FBI officers said to him as they flew past the WTC towers: “They’re still standing.” To which Yousef replied “They wouldn’t be if I had enough money and explosives.”

Reeve ends the book with a warning about the future – little could he have known.

I would recommend this book even if you are well read on this subject, simply because it was written before the worldwide panic about terrorism really took over. If you are not so familiar with the history or haven’t read an actual book about it – then I think The New Jackals is a great place to start. It provides you with just the right amount of information to set you up for further exploration of the topic. I would also recommend Simon Reeve as an author and a presenter. Watch out for his series called Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn (also a book) because they were really good.

Here is the first part of one of his documentaries “Places That Don’t Exist” that seems to be available on Youtube. Very interesting and I recommend. You can see some of his others on Youtube as well, it seems…

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