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- Women in Security Awards
Author Garry Curtis
ISBN No 978 178456 474 2
Review date 23/07/2018
No of pages 407
Publisher FastPrint Publishing
Publisher URL http://www.fast-print.net/bookshop/2043/incoming
Year of publication 18/12/2017
Garry Curtis' memoir Incoming! is many things - entertaining, enlightening, at times funny or moving; and all by giving a frank - sometimes painfully so - insight into the professional and private life of a security and close protection operative.
Early on, Garry sets out that the work is not glamorous. "Some jobs demand that I address people as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’. Respect is crucial to serving our clients. Some of them are extremely wealthy and they pay for the protection, even though many of the business-end elements of that skill-set will never be employed. On the other hand, there can be exceedingly basic tasks to be undertaken, such as walking the dog, carrying the shopping bags, picking up the family, clearing up dog shit, following plasterers around a property, watching CCTV in a fancy mansion, booking the chauffeur, collecting the flower arrangements ... and so on. It might look glamorous, but it can make you feel really small ... It is up to the individual to determine cut-off points and limits as to how far he, or she, might go towards satisfying the terms of the contract."
Garry has preferred to work for the media in a war zone such as for the New York Times in Donetsk during Russia’s fighting in Ukraine; or, earlier, during the civil war in Libya during the fall of Gadaffi, in 2011. He served in the Royal Marines, then worked for the London Fire Service, but as he writes, after seven years as a firefighter felt that something was missing; he wanted to get the heart pumping. "However, to those people who want to get in my game, be careful what you wish for. The wheels come off really quickly and you have to be cool in head and calm, to keep the clients calm ... but you want to know something? It is the best feeling in the world, saving lives."
Even while serving as a fireman, he had on his days off worked on the film sets at Pinewood Studios. For some people, that might be the highlight of a career; for Garry, it's one of many things he writes of in passing. As he says, what he and the film crews he looked after in Libya went through in 2011 would fill a book by themselves.
Garry has in fact written several books in one; his years working as a private military contractor in Iraq from 2003; working in Helmand for the Foreign Office in 2007-8; Libya, and Ukraine; filling in by bodyguarding celebs (not work for him). To his credit, he has not tried to give half a story, the impression that the work is all, or at all, heroic; it takes a toll, physically and mentally. In extreme and hostile places, you can never relax, risk-assessing all the time in case of bombs or snipers or angry mobs. Even in the Green Zone in Baghdad, you had to be ready to take cover from mortar fire.
Garry did have pride in his work and enjoyed it; until 2012, his life had been 'brilliant'. Then he admits to a downturn; he had to undergo surgical operations, and work dried up and he felt low. He had witnessed 'many awful things that no human being should ever have to'. And yet, like others, he evidently felt drawn to the work - guarding media crews in war zones, rather than shadowing pop stars. The normal world, the 'tick-tock' of routine, of paperwork for the sake of it, isn't for him.
At times the book is painful, in recollections of bad and violent things that happened to him and colleagues and friends; and of troubles in his private life. But the book does end on a hopeful note, and with testimonials from people he has worked for. This man has already packed into the first 30 years of his working life more than many will achieve in the whole of theirs. While he boxed for the last time in May 2016 for charity, and lost, whether Garry goes on to work as a trainer, motivational speaker, or does more in security, we can hope that there's plenty more to come.
While Garry clearly felt like writing his autobiography, his story so far, at length, regardless of whether there might be an audience for it, there can be many possible readers who can enjoy and profit from this book, security and non-security people. As for the non-security, journalists who are interested in covering conflict zones, for example. For those working in security, Gary has provided a full and frank (including swear words; if that bothers you, note that the book has at times what we might call barrack-room language) account of life doing close protection. He sets out how while CP is a small world, a 'circuit' as he and many others call it, it is in truth several worlds in one; the protection of royalty, diplomats and pop and sport royalty between hotels, department stores and evening receptions has little in common with the tours of Afghanistan and working with TV crews so that they can get newsreel of bullets and shells, and broadcasts from roofs (despite making themselves a possible target).
He writes towards the end of trying to obtain balance; between private and working life, to finding answers, learning tolerance and having (although he doesn't use this word) compassion for others (and himself?). As he says, the people that might comprehend what he is talking about 'are likely to be serving, or ex-soldiers, ex-servicemen from all walks of emergency public service, the fire, police and ambulance, and professionals in either security, or the personal protection industries'.