Sniper in Helmand – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sniper in Helmand
by James Cartwright with a foreword by Andy McNab
Hardback 224 pages
Published by Pen & Sword Military, October 2011
ISBN: 9781848846630

3383 Few soldiers are deemed good enough to be selected and trained as snipers and even fewer qualify. As a result, snipers are regarded as the elite of their units, along with so-called “single fighters”, and their skills command the ungrudging respect of their fellows – and of the enemy. It is therefore that snipers are the targets of counter-snipers in all theaters of war.

The author of this book is one such man who recently served a full tour of duty with 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
James (not his real name, as snipers like other special operatives in the military are not allowed, for security reasons to divulge their real identities) describes the highs and lows of almost daily front line action experienced by our troops deployed on active service in arguably the most dangerous area of the world.

As part of the Battle Group’s crack Mobile Operations Group, James’s mission was to liquidate as many Taliban as possible and the reader experiences sniper tactics and actions, whether in ambush or quick pre-planned strikes, amid the ever present lethal danger of IEDs.
His book, the first to written by a trained sniper in Afghanistan, reveals the psychological pressures and awesome life-and-death responsibility of his role and, in particular, the deadly cat-and-mouse ‘games’ with the enemy snipers intent on their own kills. These involved the clinical killing of targets at ranges of 1,000 metres or greater.

Sniper in Helmand is a thrilling action-packed, but first of all very human, account of both front line service in the intense Afghanistan war and first-hand sniper action. Andy McNab inspired James to join the army and has written a moving foreword.

“Sniper in Hemland” is a recent book the MoD tried to ban (there were some before this one and there will sure be others after) and once you have read it I am sure you know why.

While this book is, as I have said, a good and interesting read of what it is really like out there for our troops in Afghanistan and especially the Helmand province the enjoyment of the book is being spoiled by a serious lack of proofreading and editing. Very little of that seems to have gone into this book from the side of the publisher.

Also, referring to a camp of Afghan desert nomads as a “Bedouin camp” is rather erroneous, to say the least, as there are no Bedouins in that country. This has, however, more to do with a error on the side of the author than the editor though proper editing should have spotted that also.

The lack of proper editing is obvious in many parts of this book where, as an example, something like “stopping en route to pick up more guys en route during the withdrawal” has been written and which does make the reader rather stumble a bit. The term “en route” should have only been used once in this sentence and something like that is the job of an editor and proofreader to spot and flag up.

Similar syntax errors, missing words, spelling errors, and wrong words in the context, occurred in a number of other places across the book and it is a shame that a lack of editing and proofreading is allowed to spoil an otherwise great book and read.

While the writer may have relied on a spell checker, and I know only too well how mistakes can creep in just relying on the software, a proofreader and editor should not reply on it but properly read and reread the manuscript before allowing it to go to press.

Top marks for the book as to the story and James' writing efforts, but as for the amount of errors and mistakes in the book, which was due to bad editing and proofreading, one can but give minus marks.

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