Take yourself to 1992, and the region of the world known as the Horn of Africa. There you will find Somalia. This once peaceful country with a history that goes back to the biblical days has degenerated into open warfare, chaos, and anarchy, where whichever warlord has the most guns makes the rules. This is where the United States, working under UN resolutions, sweeps in to save the day and the new novel, Mogadishu Diaries Bloodlines dives into headfirst.
The author, Eddie Clay III, spent 21-years as a marine, and he writes what he knows. He served in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope/Continued Hope and he freely admits that portions of the fictional work are autobiographical. The book has the feeling that it was scratched into a green rite-in-the-rain will book with a skillcraft pen while the writer shaved with a K-bar. Don’t let the conversations involving chits and Space-A flights, or knowing the difference between S-1, J-3, CLP, or JP-5 trick you into not reaching for this novel. While Clay brings the Corps out in his writing, you do not have to have a bird, ball, and mudhook on your shoulder to easily understand the tale.
Clay's hero is US Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, referred to in the work primarily as "Gunny T,” an augmentee to the Security Company of the I MAF as it gets ready to deploy to Somalia. The character is a likeable single-father and career NCO who relates the tale in a first person narrative that, while limiting in sweep, gets the point across. Gunny T and his sidekick strategic corporal quickly end up on the wrong side of an arrogant and overbearing company commander--, which is told with such realism that it reads just like a conversation with any active duty member of the military.
Gunny T and company get their call to the Moog and find themselves in a world of anarchy, missed opportunities, military catch-22's, and the like that would seem to almost be dark comedy if it wasn’t for the underlying ring of truth to every interaction. Awkwardly trying to figure out the local culture, the hero has hits and misses in a one-man effort to win hearts and minds. As the work picks up pace, it runs into the inevitable combined arms land battle hinted to in the opening 'flash-forward' chapter that is told with great attention to realism that leaves the reader almost expecting to have to move piles of empty brass to turn the next page.
A quick read at just over 30,000 words, Diaries is borderline novella in length. This keeps character development to a minimum but with the first person narrative from the eyes of Gunny T, this is nearly inescapable. This makes the work a great novel for anyone interested in an oft forgotten military history told from a personal level, and is basic enough in its telling to be approachable to readers of a wide scope.
Bring your Kevlar.
(review of free book)