I can't help it - I'm a sucker for true life adventure stories like Young and Severin (and if any of you can suggest similar things I'd appreciate it). Anyway, the book has three settings - Sierra Leone, Chechenya and Bougainville.
Sierra Leone is one genuinely fucked up place. From the government, to the rebels, to diamond exporters and miners, plus mercenaries and UN peacekeepers - its a mess. People were routinely mutilated and the rule of law (as of 2001) hadn't been routinely imposed. Corruption is abundant and helps prevent the utilization of natural resources by the country (particularly fishing - Young interviews a former South African mercenary turned poacher hunter). It is very sad to learn about it.
And as bad as Sierra Leone is, Chechenya is worse. It is a horrid mess. This is circa 1999 when journalists and foreigners were advised to abandon the country entirely as kidnappings became a growth industry in the country. Well, Young leads a crew of oddballs (a one legged American mujahideen (sp?), a wanna be war reporter and one burn out case of a camera man). Just getting into Chechenya from Georgia reads like a spy or crime novel, and once hitting Chechenya itself it is bizarre. From the rival governments, to the fighters, to the gangs, to the people just trying to get along. Eventually they make it to Grozny just before the Russians close in - its under constant bombardment and the only ones left in the city can't leave or ready to die there to stop the Russians.
Bougainville is paradise (heaven by the section headings) and details the two years it took for Young to meet the elusive rebel leader Francis Ona. The first attempt is a comedy of errors from NGO's to everyone mistaking Young and his team (including a camera man and Bob Woodruff from ABC) as a team of mercenaries out to assassinate Ona.
After that, we get a lot of details on Executive Outcomes and Sandline International, the two big name independent mercenary outfits of the time. From the circumstances that made them possible to meeting one of the accountants that make it all possible. Its interesting and informative.
Two years later, he manages the meeting in a pretty direct manner as well. The picture he paints is optimistic and not very western to my eyes at least.
Its a good book and a surprisingly quick read with a lot of little details that jump out at you.