Looking for Trouble – Book Review
Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World. Ralph Peters. Stackpole Books 2008. 368 pages. Hardcover. $27.95.
Peters virtually circles the globe, “looking for trouble” – and, as he describes with a compelling “you are there” narrative, he usually found what he was looking for.
Acclaimed author, strategist and former Army officer, Ralph Peters is today’s most astute observer of world affairs. And with experience in 70 countries on six continents, few are as qualified as Peters is to observe, comment, analyze and report on the critical issues that have shaped – and are shaping — our world today. With surgical precision, Peters’ scintillating narratives cut to the heart of even the most complicated issue, whether he’s writing in his highly-popular column for the New York Post, his superb two-dozen books — such as Never Quit the Fight and Wars of Blood and Faith — or his regular "Crisis Watch" department in Armchair General magazine, consistently singled out by our readers as their favorite feature. “Tell it like it is” may be a clichéd phrase, but it remains all too rare in what passes for serious commentary today. Yet, Ralph Peters, indeed, “tells it like it is,” and does so with skill, panache and a finely honed narrative style that rises to the level of literature. Frankness and common sense today are, sadly, too uncommon; but to Peters they seem to be a cardinal virtues.
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His latest “must read” book, Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World, is non-fiction, but reads with the pace and excitement of one of his prize-winning historical novels. Not since Robert Kaplan’s critically-acclaimed Balkan Ghosts appeared in 1993 has an author managed to capture the atmosphere and feel of nations in crisis like Peters has done in his latest book. Yet, while the scope of Kaplan’s book was the troubled Balkans and surrounding regions, Peters virtually circles the globe, “looking for trouble” – and, as he describes with a compelling “you are there” narrative, he usually found what he was looking for. Experiencing adventures in the “broken” countries through which he traveled that could rival those of Homer’s legendary Odysseus, Peters’ own globe-trotting “odyssey” is packed with exotic landscapes, strange characters, and one-of-a-kind adventures. Peters does not merely describe to readers what happened on his travels, Looking for Trouble takes them along for the ride.
The most personal of Peters two-dozen books, Looking for Trouble is a memoir that is as much a story of self-revelation as it is a series of “traveler’s tales.” As Peters explains, “I needed to write down a few of my traveler’s tales. … I felt an almost painful urge to capture the past on the page, to preserve a few of the journeys I had been privileged to make, alone or in splendid company.” And what journeys those were! Peters roamed the globe, from the crumbling “Evil Empire” during the last days of the Soviet Union, through the rugged wastes of Central Asia and Pakistan, to the drug-financed thugdoms in Southeast Asia and South America – and many places in between. The cast of characters he encountered seems so outlandish that it requires the skills of a novelist to adequately describe. Fortunately, Peters is that, too, introducing readers to the likes of an improbable collection of real people that includes an Elvis-impersonating Thai general, swastika-adorned Armenian hoodlums, a KGB-trained Russian colonel whose vocabulary seems to consist chiefly of “Nyet!,” venal bureaucrats – including American ones – more concerned with “turf and perks” than in serving their countries, and a host of other outlandish characters who might challenge the imagination of even a Hollywood screen writer.
For this reviewer, Peters’ sojourns in Tbilisi, Georgia, the Baltic countries, and in Moscow and St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), Russia during the dying days of the Soviet Union were déjà vu-like snapshots that perfectly capture the people, places and atmosphere of that “broken world” (the “Soviet sickbed,” in Peters’ words). Having visited each of those places only a few weeks before Peters did, I can attest that his richly detailed narrative nails it perfectly. What Peters describes is exactly what it was like, and reading it evoked a flood of memories that vividly brought the sights, sounds, smells and experiences back to life. While most readers will not have visited these “lost worlds,” they will still be able to vicariously experience them through Peters’ superbly written “traveler’s tales.”
Ralph Peters’ Looking for Trouble is a literary tour de force, the fascinating journeys of a modern-day adventurer who possesses the unmatched narrative skill to bring his improbable — but true — experiences to life. Don’t miss this latest “must read” book.
Author: Ralph Peters has been a lifelong traveler in and out of uniform, with experience in 70 countries on six continents. After rising from the rank of Army private, he retired shortly after his promotion to lieutenant colonel to write with greater freedom. His two-dozen published books, written under his own name and as Owen Parry, include influential works on strategy and security affairs, prize-winning historical novels, and bestselling thrillers. An opinion columnist for the New York Post, Peters has written for a wide range of publications and is a frequent media commentator. Recent travels have taken him back to Israel, throughout Africa, and back to Iraq. Peters is a member of the Armchair General magazine Advisory Board.
Reviewer: Colonel, U. S. Army, ret., Jerry D. Morelock, PhD is ARMCHAIR GENERAL Editor in Chief. From 1990 – 94 Colonel Morelock was Chief of Russia Branch on the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate and, as such, traveled extensively in the Soviet Union and Russia.
After Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia in support of South Ossetia seperatists in August 2008, Ralph Peters wrote an exclusive military analysis of the situation for ArmchairGeneral.com. Click here to read his article Assault on Georgia!