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Sharkman Six Hardcover – Large Print, October 2, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Former Marine West shows staggering insight into the demoralizing dangers of Third World police duty in this powerful debut chronicling the clash of Marine vets and armed warlords in Somalia. Lt. Gavin Kelly went from Harvard ROTC to Desert Storm success, but lost a Marine under his command and wants to assuage the guilt with his latest mission protection Red Cross food distribution in Operation Hope. All goes wrong from the beginning, when a team member kills an armed Somali who turns out to be a reporter's bodyguard. The reporter in question, Mary Thayer-Ash, is convinced the killing is not the accident it is claimed to be, but is diverted by brass. In the field, the going gets even rougher when Somali warlord Muhammad Farah beheads a woman for her ration just outside the food compound, but Kelly's men can't retaliate unless personally threatened. Locals who know the rules play to the media, and things get dangerously personal when the Marines become attached to Little Joe, a frail Somali teen orphaned by Farah who becomes their translator and gets street intelligence on plans to bomb the compound. The combat scenes and face-to-face battles are eyewitness-horrific, and Kelly is a compelling everyman, always comparing himself to his war hero grandfather and Vietnam vet father. The novel makes plain the complex no-win strictures of do-good, media-moderated conflict, and a perfect, stunning conclusion leaves the reader revved for more from this engaging author. Agent Dan Mandel at Sanford I. Greenburger. (Oct. 10).
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
America's involvement in Somalia was messy, ugly, lethal, and, to many observers and participants, a totally botched job. U.S. troops confronted warlords who didn't care whether their own people lived or died, while absurd rules of engagement constrained our military. In this first novel written by an ex-marine infantry commander, Lt. Gavin "Sharkman Six" Kelly, a Desert Storm vet, finds himself in Somalia, surrounded by enemies and facing unimaginable barbarity while he tries to carry out his humanitarian mission of saving the lives of starving civilians. West does a credible job of describing hellish conditions in a "minor" military operation that seems to have no purpose, ably reminding us that the soldiers sent into harm's way are human beings who deserve much better. The result is a well-written and informative narrative, though the intense and continuous suffering makes for difficult reading. For larger collections. Robert Conroy, Warren, MI
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
It depicts the events that occurred during the UN/US intervention in Somalia in the early '90s, some that really happened, others fictional. The writer, himself a former Marine, clearly infuses his characters with the spirit of Marines he must have known. Our involvement in Somalia was relatively short lived, and marred by mishandling of the situation by the highest levels of the US government, but the heroism of the American warriors involved is without reproach. After almost two decades of military campaigns not producing a Medal of Honor recipient, two were awarded during the battle of Mogadishu.
A surprising amount of excellent literature has emerged from what was really a minor conflict in the history of our country. If you are interested in the Somalia campaign (and even if you are not) I suggest that you read the book "Blackhawk Down" to get a picture of what happened. It is an extremely well written piece. I have also heard the book "In the Company of Heroes" highly recommended although I have not read it yet myself.
Sharkman Six, while fiction, realistically portrays the political climate, and the conditions of the Somalia action. It is a riveting read, and one of the best pieces of military fiction I have ever read. The atmosphere, dialogue, and descriptions are quite authentic. The book is exciting, funny, and sad all at once.
As an avid reader, especially interested military books, fiction and non-fiction, I reserve the five star rating, and award it sparingly, because I think the ratings should mean something. A five star award should be reserved for only the most exceptional of books. This is one of them, so do yourself a favor and check it out.
I am looking forward to more similar work by this promising author.
It is well written if a bit boring. Maybe the story picks up later on, but I didn't read enough to find out.
Somalia was in our cross hairs in the 90's. Now, because of 9/11 and the terrorist's need for a new home base, Somalia will be on our military radar again, soon.
Mark Bowden's brilliant book, "Black Hawk Down" establishes the bar for other books dealing with military action in Somalia. Owen West's story of the hellacious problems that US military men encounter doesn't quite reach the bar that Mark Bowden set.
West builds the central charter of Lieutenant Galvin Kelly by flipping back and forth from Somalia to Lt. Kelly's childhood in the USA. One chapter you are with the LT. in Somalia looking into the faces of the suffering and famished. Then next chapter you are reliving Galvin Kelly's childhood, adolescence or college years; back and forth. This ocellation causes the focus and momentum of the story line to crippled. Thus, the first hundred pages of "Sharkman Six" F.T.E. (fail to engage) me.
However, about 100 pages into the book the pace picks up, the story stays in Mogadishu and the action engages both the enemy and my attention. Leadership demands decisions; decisions that will cause the Lieutenant and the reader to struggle with dilemmas and moral issues. Complex compromises will be made and great warriors will sacrifice their military career and lives. The climax and battle scene is absorbing and intense. Strongly recommended.
The novel�s protagonist, Lieutenant Gavin Kelly, a third generation marine, is a conflicted hero trying to live up to his grandfather�s heroism and live down his father's cowardice. The book is set during humanitarian aid operations in Somalia in the 1990's. It begins with a secret nighttime amphibious assault on Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. As the troops reach the beach they are greeted by a robust media contingent.
Amid the chaos of the landing a local press bodyguard is killed by a marine thus creating the central tension of the novel: how to operate a military both dependent on the media for publicity and resentful of the scrutiny that comes with attention.
The marines must survive in an environment that is lawless and violent. They resist continual provocation and wrestle with complex moral dilemmas such as, should we act or should we just stand here and listen to that woman being raped? Often attempts to help the innocent result in deadly reprisals from warlords against those same innocents. A series of events triggered by the marine presence turns operation 'Restore Hope' into a classic right of passage story (cowardly boy to heroic man).
West's language, like that of Irish writer Roddy Doyle, is so testosterone charged that it sometimes crosses the line from highly entertaining to tedious. None-the-less this book provides a fascinating look into the tense world of international military coalitions and the role of a superpower in the modern world. Most interesting of all is the interdependence of the media and the military. Four stars.