Category Archives: Riding a Tiger

New Competition! For A Hardcover Copy of Riding a Tiger and a $50 Amazon Gift Voucher

Although the hijacking of vessels in the seas around Somalia has abated recently (arguably the cost of ransoms has been transferred to the UK and US in the form of insurance policy hikes and investment in private security), it’s still of huge interest and we’re about to hit a major film season with Captain Phillips (starring Tom Hanks) out in mid-October here and across the pond. I read the Captain’s own account of his real-life experiences in his book A Captain’s Duty along with a good deal of other research. You might also want to check out A Hijacking if you can (it came out in May 2013 but is available on DVD/Blu-Ray) and Stolen Seas.

My book, Riding a Tiger is a fictional account of the hijacking of a super-yacht, Talisman – you can win a copy and a $50 Amazon Gift Voucher by entering the Rafflecopter below.

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riding a tiger book cover

Half a Dozen Novels About Somali Pirates

1) Crossbones by Nuruddin Farrah

crossbonesA beautifully written novel told by an author in the Somali diaspora often flagged as a potential Nobel Prize for Literature winner, and, according to The New York Times: “the most important African novelist today”, this gripping novel tells the story of Jeebah’s return to Mogadishu after a decade away.

“Mesmerizing… A searing look at individuals caught in the chaos of anarchy.” –The Daily Beast

2) Riding a Tiger by Helen J Beal

Riding a TigerI was one of the stewardesses on the fictional super yacht, Talisman, when she was attacked by Somali pirates while we were on our way back to the mooring in Cyprus from the Seychelles. There was just the crew on board, ten of us, we’d just dropped the owner, Herr Liebe off in Mahe to fly back to Paris for the last leg of his three month honeymoon with his third wife.

In this novel I tell you my story first hand – what happened, how we were treated, how it all ended.

3) Djibouti by Elmore Leonard

djiboutiThis action packed novel features the excellent and feisty documentary film-maker, Dana Barr and some pin-sharp dialogue.

The Independent on Sunday reported that the “pages fly by in a highly entertaining manner’ whilst the Sunday Telegraph said: “As usual, Leonard gives you plenty of bangs for your buck.

Here’s an interview with Elmore about his sixty year career and the writing of this novel.

4) Those in Peril by Wilbur Smith

thoseinperilConsummate action adventure: in this nail-biting tale of adventure, bestselling author Wilbur Smith brings his matchless storytelling to bear on the violent, ruthless world of twenty-first-century piracy.

While cruising on the family yacht in the Indian Ocean, nineteen-year-old Cayla Bannock is attacked and taken hostage by Somalian pirates. Her kidnappers demand a staggering ransom: twenty billion dollars. And Cayla’s not just anyone—she’s the daughter of Hazel Bannock, heiress to the Bannock Oil Corporation, one of the world’s foremost oil producers.

5) Rip Tide by Stella Rimington

riptideInternational conspiracy with twists and turns and a tonne of action. When pirates attack a cargo ship off the Somalian coast and one of them is found to be a British-born Pakistani, alarm bells start ringing at London’s Thames House. MI5 Intelligence Officer Liz Carlyle is brought in to establish how and why a young British Muslim could go missing from his well-to-do family in Birmingham and end up on board a pirate skiff in the Indian Ocean, armed with a Kalashnikov. After an undercover operative connected to the case turns up dead in the shipping office of an NGO in Athens it looks like piracy may be the least of the Service’s problems.

6) Dead Centre by Andy McNab

deadcentreHigh-octane action in the Nick Stone series from the consummate SAS expert. January 2005: Nick Stone is in tsunami hit Banda Aceh on a job to retrieve incriminating evidence of an oil deal. When looters arrive a fight breaks out and a man, Mong, is killed. Nick makes a promise to his dead friend to protect his widow, Tracey.

March 2011: Nick is in Moscow filling his days at a private gun range when he is lifted by heavies and taken to meet an oligarch. The oligarch wants Nick to track down his kidnapped wife and son. It transpires that the oligarch has married Tracey and so Nick is given the opportunity to fulfil his promise to Mong.

View and vote on this list in Listopia and Listmania.

Non-Fiction Books About Somali Piracy

Before I sat down to write Riding a Tiger, my novel about Talisman, a super yacht which is hijacked by Somali pirates on its way back to its mooring in Cyprus from the Seychelles, I read a lot of books about the recent phenomenon that has received so much media attention worldwide. Here’s my non-fiction reading list:

1) Hostage by Paul and Rachel Chandler

hostageThis husband and wife’s harrowing first hand account of what happened after they were hijacked on their private yacht off the coast of Somalia had me gripped from the first page. Paul and Rachel Chandler invest their life savings in Lynn Rival, their yacht, and set off to sail her around the world and enjoy their retirement. Hijacked off the coast of the Seychelles, they are forced to Somalia and then onto land where they spend over a year in miserable conditions as the pirates futilely try to negotiate a ransom for their release. This story made the headlines but it was the love and solidarity between the couple throughout their ordeal that made the story for me.

2) A Captain’s Duty by Richard Phillips

acaptainsdutyA seriously impressive first hand account of fifty-three year old Richard Phillips’ (captain of a US cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama) five day stand-off with Somali pirates and his eventual rescue by a group of Navy SEALs. A heart-stopping, adrenaline-packed tale of adventure and courage and an escalating battle of wills where training meets instinct and character is everything.

On his rescue, President Obama said: “I share the country’s admiration for the bravery of Captain Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew. His courage is a model for all Americans.”

3) Kidnapped by Colin Freeman

kidnappedAfter his bodyguards double-cross him, journalist Colin Freeman finds himself captured by Somali pirates – beginning a nightmare 40 days in the hands of some of the most dangerous men in the world. It is a terrifying experience – the gang’s hideout is attacked by rival pirates, Freeman is threatened with being handed over to Islamists who wish to execute him and he constantly fears death at the hands of his constantly drug-addled captors. But he survives – thinner, greyer and wiser – to tell the tale of an astonishing adventure in a surprisingly funny and fond way. ‘Essential reading for anyone interested in the world’s most broken state, and why it became that way’ – Oliver Poole, London Evening Standard

4) Hunting Pirate Heaven by Kevin Rushby

hunting pirate heavenKevin Rushby’s objective is to locate the descendants of the 16th century pirates who had carved kingdoms for themselves in the remote jungles of north-east Madagascar. Hitching rides on a motley assortment of freighters, dhows, yachts and fishing smacks, he sails up the African coast, then east towards his goal. It is a story full of incident: voyages to islands where forgotten Portugese forts lie covered in jungle, places where some have tried to shoot their way to paradise, and where the ever-present ocean can destroy lives and dreams as quickly as men and women create them. An enthralling guide to a little-visited corner of the world, haunted by the ghosts of its pirate past.

5) Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money by Martin N Murphy

small boatsSerious and sober, this is a text used at Naval War College. British scholar Martin Murphy seeks to untangle a difficult set of problems: what sort of threat do piracy and maritime terrorism present to the world and its shipping, what evidence suggests that terrorists and criminals might work together in some fashion, and what can be done about these threats? It is a book so meticulously researched that after more than 400 pages of heavily footnoted material the book places its substantial bibliography in an online .pdf rather than making an already long book even longer. If one has a personal, academic, or professional interest which would require a knowledge of piracy, the vulnerabilities of ocean-borne shipping networks, or maritime insurgency and terrorism around the world, this book is an essential read.

6) Pirates of the 21st Century by Nigel Cawthorne

pirates21Not just about Somalia, this book looks at piracy in the South China Sea, the Caribbean and South America too. It examines how a phenomenon thought to be consigned to history is once again a worldwide problem. It looks at attacks that have taken place in the Malacca Straits and the fate of the Chandlers (see above), and questions how the international community and its peacekeeping forces can try to bring stability and security back to the oceans. Nigel Cawthorne is the author of over a hundred books, from serious political works such as The Iron Cage to lightweight comic romps such as Sex Lives of the Popes. Sex Lives of the Presidents got him on the Joan Rivers Show. He was hauled in front of a Senate Select Committee for The Bamboo Cage.

7) Pirate State by Peter Eichstaedt

piratestateIn 2009, the United States was hit broadside by Somali pirates who attempted to capture the U.S. flag ship Maersk Alabama (see A Captain’s Duty above). Suddenly, the pirates were no longer a distant menace. They had thrust themselves onto the American stage. Are the Somali pirates a legion of desperate fisherman attacking cargo ships and ocean cruisers to reclaim their waters? Or is piracy connected to crime networks and the madness that grips Somalia? What threats do pirates pose to international security? To answer these questions, Peter Eichstaedt crisscrosses East Africa, meeting with pirates both in and out of prisons, talking with them about their lives, tactics, and motives. He discovers that piracy is a symptom of a much deeper problem: Somalia itself.

8) Dangerous Waters by John S Burnett

dangerous watersWhile sailing alone one night in the shipping lanes across one of the busiest waterways in the world, John Burnett was attacked by pirates. Through sheer ingenuity and a little bit of luck, he survived, and his shocking firsthand experience became the inspiration for Dangerous Waters.

Today’s breed of pirates are not the colorful cutthroats painted by the history books. Unlike the romantic images from yesteryear of Captain Hook, Long John Silver, and Blackbeard, modern pirates can be local seamen looking for a quick score, highly trained guerrillas, rogue military units, or former seafarers recruited by sophisticated crime organizations.

9) Deadly Waters by Jay Bahadur

deadly watersWhat are the lives of modern day pirates like outside of the attack skiffs? How do they spend their money? What clothes do they wear and what is their drug of choice? Deadly Waters takes us to the heart of Somalia, where Jay Bahadur, the intrepid 25-year-old author has ventured where most journalists fear to tread. As the ‘go to’ journalist for all major media, and with unparalleled access to all the major players, from government officials to local residents – and of course the pirates themselves – Bahadur sets out to discover who is behind the masked menaces who appear on the news. Exploring the politics and history of the self-governing region of Puntland, Bahadur looks at the challenges facing this troubled mini-state as piracy rises – and examines how the UN and other bodies are attempting to deal with the scourge of every sea-faring nation. Evocative and incisive, Deadly Waters is a highly original analysis of the international pirate crisis.

See and vote on this list in Listopia and Listmania.