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My Friend the Mercenary Hardcover – March 22, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The fog of war, informational and moral, permeates this adrenalized memoir of Africa's dirty wars and the men who fight them. British documentarian Brabazon entered Liberia in 2002 to film rebel forces in that country's civil war, taking along bodyguard Nick du Toit, a mercenary and former soldier in South Africa's apartheid-era army. Worlds apart politically, the two men bond amid the savage conflict--in one excruciating scene, Brabazon films rebels cannibalizing a prisoner--as the author comes to depend on and admire his tough, courageous companion. Nick joins a byzantine conspiracy to overthrow the government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea and invites Brabazon to film the prospective coup, a proposal that crosses the boundaries of journalistic ethics, though it strongly appeals to Brabazon's lust for adventure and cash. His postmortem on the plot's disastrous outcome, with its cast of shadowy financiers, rival intelligence agencies, and soldiers of fortune, reads like a political thriller. Brabazon's searing narrative captures both the allure of war--the rush of danger, the deep camaraderie, the get-rich-quick mirages--and its brutal realities. It's both a seductive paean to and a harsh exposé of the mercenary ethos that fattens off of Africa's travails. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

The post-imperial history of West Africa has seen a series of horrific civil wars, from Nigeria to Sierra Leone to Liberia. Photojournalist and documentary filmmaker Brabazon was determined to cover the carnage in Liberia as rebels fought against the regime of Charles Taylor. Well aware of the dangers he would face, he hooked up with a �bodyguard,� Nick du Toit. He was a former officer in the South African army under the apartheid government. Like many others in similar circumstances, du Toit drifted into a career as a mercenary. Brabazon�s narrative proceeds on two tracks. It is a chronicle of a particularly savage military conflict, in which torture and even cannibalism come to be regarded as routine. It is also a story of his unlikely but deepening friendship with du Toit, and that evolving friendship also provides a sometimes surprising window into the motivations and characteristics of mercenaries. This is a disturbing, even sickening, but revealing account of just a few of the sufferings endured by Africans in recent years. --Jay Freeman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (March 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119759
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #735,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Persson on July 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"My Friend The Mercenary" is based on James Brabazon's spell-binding account of his own experiences as a war reporter in war torn West Africa and of his evolving friendship with South African mercenary Nick Du Toit. The book is superbly written, mesmerizing as well as highly amusing in retelling the author's experiences from West Africa as well as in revealing the plans to topple the leadership of Equatorial Guinea. The book (which literally reads like a thriller) puts the reader onto a pure a roller coaster into the murky waters of "guns for hire" but also into issues of morality and objectivity that pertains to reporting from a war zone. For readers interested in learning more about the tragic-comical plans to topple the government of President Obiang, this book offers a wealth of inside information retold with lots of charm and wit all however based on thorough research. "My Friend The Mercenary" is thus in a totally different league than the book "The Wonga Coup" by Adam Roberts (which also retells the faild coup attempt), and is much more well-researched and written than the hasty workings of Roberts.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A subtitle for this book: My Book About The Launch Of My Career, My Love Life And How Women Fail Me, My Accomplishments And Awards, Some Stuff About A Professional Soldier, And My Revelation That Journalists, And Especially War Correspondents, Are Mercenaries. The parts about Nick du Toit are worth reading as he is honest about what he is, as are the scenes depicting rebel actions. The parts about the author have a narcissistic quality. He cannot resist telling us that on the very day that du Toit stands trial for his life, he is attending an awards ceremony for one of his documentaries and he feels so bad about it. The worst moment for me is the author's description of his intrusion into the intimacy of du Toit's unexpected return to his family after a pardon, six years into his 35-year sentence. Instead of leaving the man alone with his family, the author shows up at the first moment of the reunion, brags about the number of firsts he enjoys with the former prisoner (e.g., walks, visits to town, ordering coffee in a shop) that clearly belonged to the man's long suffering wife, and on his second day of freedom interviews him for 15 hours on subjects covered in this book. The author seeks credit for realizing that he too is a mercenary. That is, he gets paid to deliver "news" reports consistent with the views and needs of his benefactors, which include the BBC and rebel groups. He is shocked, shocked to find that journalism is a business governed by ideology and money.
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Format: Hardcover
The book tells the story of James Brabazon's filming of a civil war in Liberia while employing the services of Nick du Toit, a professional soldier, for personal protection. In the second chapter of the book, Mr. du Toit involves Brabazon in his scheme to topple an African dictatorship and have Brabazon film the coup to make it appear to be a popular uprising. The story itself is interesting enough but it is hard to enjoy the tale when the person telling it is so utterly immoral, narcissistic and cowardly. Mr. Brabazon films footage of people being beheaded, mutilated, and shot. He does it not to report on the horror as a way of ending it, but simply to futher his carrer and satify his morbid fascination. He does this all while being protected by Mr. du Toit and having Africans carry his equipment, one of whom is shot in the head while carrying this load's load. Equally repugnant is Mr. Brabazon's description of himself as a soldier, part of the spy-game etc. Sorry, Mr. B, being around a bunch of thugs doesnt make a you a soldier; just a low life. At least Nick du Toit is honest about who is. Notice how when the mercenary's schme blows up in the end, it is Mr. du Toit who ends up in the African hell hole. Brabazon is back sipping champagne with his friends in England. Cowardly slime.
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Format: Hardcover
My Friend the Mercenary is a riveting read: it is a gritty retelling of the author's exploits filming the rebels in the jungles of Liberia during the civil war there and of his near involvement in an attempted coup to topple the corrupt president of Equatorial Guinea.
It is exciting gung-ho stuff with all the ingredients of a political thriller - except everything is real and really scary.
Brabazon had to trek with the rebels for hundreds of miles through the inhospitable and dangerous country to get the film footage he needed to prove to the outside world what was going on there.
He endured all manner of deprivations and illness while filming - and some of the things he saw were enough to give a man nightmares for life.
Such courage meant this journalist's life was on the line. Not only was he in constant danger under fire, Liberia's president, Charles Taylor, was made aware of Brabazon and put a price on his head.
By his side was his bodyguard Nick Du Toit, a South African mercenary, who saved Brabazon's life more than once. Over their many hours and days together a strange and deep friendship grew between these two men from vastly different worlds.
When that African Adventure was over Du Toit invited Brabazon along to film another one which was even more dangerous.
But a twist of fate saved Brabazon from the horrific results of the botched coup.
As well as being a ripping yarn, the book puts the meaning of friendship under the microscope and Brabazon ponders on the ethics and morality of what he was doing as a journalist.
Apparently Robert Pattinson is reading My Friend the Mercenary...I hope he finds it as brilliant a read as I did.
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