Fiction based on fact.
The Mogadishu Diaries by Eddie Thompkins
Book Description (from author)
Ten months before Blackhawk Down, US Marines launched its first major offensive against Mogadishu’s militias. Top US military strategists for Operation Restore Hope recognized the critical importance of identifying Somali clan leaders responsible for the country’s instability and violence. It became apparent that one man needed to be captured in order to help establish order. This warlord eluded the most elite US Special Forces teams in our military for almost a year during Operation Restore Hope/Continued Hope. There are many theories that explain how Mohamed Farrah Aidid won the cat and mouse game. This is my account…
Stills from the VHS tape capturing the US Marine Air/Ground assault are featured in this book.
Front cover image courtesy of Roland Ocampo
Echo Co. 2/9 Weapons platoon USMC
This is fiction based on real events, but it is more than a just another journal type story. It really makes you feel you knew what went on, on the ground, and in the heads of the military men (and women) in the story. I would have liked a glossary for the unfamiliar terms but got by with a dictionary and a bit of imagination.
The internal politics and rivalries in the military ranks were well told and the story moved at a fast pace. There was an accurate history of Somalia included, from 1969 to 1991 which helped put some background to the events of 1992.
I found it interesting that the rules could be bent in certain situations like the time when some women were being attacked and raped by gang members and there were no regrets or comebacks, and when a patrol of ‘Project feed Somalia’ was not disarmed as they were on a mission of mercy. This ended badly but not through any fault of the patrol involved.
Gunnery Thomson is a likable character who values his friendships and does everything he can to help his mate Ramirez in his career advancement. He spends time with the interpreters and shows them respect and also has his eye on one attractive female Somali interpreter.
The writer is able, very concisely, to paint word pictures to describe his colleagues and superiors with wit and humour, which gives the story reality. I hope there is another book in the pipeline as I would like to know if Thompson ever gets together with the girl, and would like to know about his family. For me, he has done what good writers do, he leaves you wanting more.
Guest Reviewer Marshal Parrent
I read Eddie Clay’s book as two different readers: The U.S. Army veteran and the college English professor. The veteran in me liked the book, and because I could relate to the protagonist. As a solider, I experienced first-hand some of the very same issues as our Gunnery Sergeant Thompson: following orders that simply weren’t logical, working under egotistical and childish officers hell bent on making your life a living hell, and overeager NCOs willing to topple anyone that stood in the way of their promotion (or the CO’s butt). The book brought me back to the days I served from 1997-2001. It revived the memories of those men and women I served with that had in fact seen action in Somalia, their stories faded like old newspaper pages until now. It reminded me of every little frustrating or invigorating nuance that was standard issue with military life. Those were good days then, and my enlistment immeasurably shaped my life for the better. I’m grateful for having read this book and been reminded of all of that.
However, the English teacher in me had a few issues with this novel. I enjoyed the nostalgia, the story overall and the first-hand perspective from an enlisted man, but I couldn’t get passed some of the problems with the writing. First off, a reader unfamiliar withU.S.military jargon may find the book difficult to follow. I’ve found that when you write about the military, it’s best to treat it like science fiction or fantasy: The places, the nomenclature and the special circumstances of the characters must be explained in an entertaining and thoughtful way for an audience that does not know or understand this new world. I would certainly recommend that the writer keep in mind that only a small portion of his audience will understand how the American military works, and to write for everyone in mind.
Despite some issues with punctuation, the novel was readable. I can certainly live with the unnecessary and at times incorrect use of ellipses. What I really had trouble with, though, was the organization of the book. Each chapter is quite short, and at times painfully so. Chapter 11, for example, explains the general situation inSomalia, and in just one page. The action comes to an abrupt halt in this chapter to explain to the reader what’s going on. This information would have been better served to the reader if it were integrated into the story. A footnote would have sufficed. Each chapter should advance the story in some form or fashion. On occasion, a chapter would end in the middle of a scene and then resume in the next chapter, which honestly didn’t make much sense.
Parts of the narrative were either confusing or went nowhere. For example, the protagonist, Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, falls for a female interpreter. He goes through some great pains to woo her and learn more about this native Somalian’s culture. After some effort, it appeared as though she was warming up the Gunny, but then we never hear about this budding relationship again. It seemed to be an important part of this fictionalized account, but the author seemed to forget about this part. Also, the ending of the book, and how the arrogant and menacing Captain Shaffner was finally outsmarted, was quite frankly confusing.
Overall, I don’t think Clay’s book is bad; however, it could use some improvements. I enjoyed reading it and because I am familiar with the military and enjoy war stories. If you want to read a fresh perspective of America’s involvement in Somalia(that has absolutely nothing to do with Black Hawk Down), take the time to read this novella.