An interview with Damien Lewis
1 Oct 2006
Damien Lewis is making an all too rare trip to London from his writing retreat in the mountains of France, on a publicity programme to support the launch of his latest two books, Bloody Heroes and Desert Claw. Both are very much in the same vein as his best selling Operation Certain Death, the true story of the SAS’s daring and dangerous mission to rescue hostages held in the jungles of Sierra Leone by drug crazed, lawless and lethal rebels known as the West Side boys.
Damien is smaller than you might imagine from his picture and even settled comfortably in his favourite hotel with a pot of tea in front of him, he looms large and radiates a restless energy. His dark eyes never stop moving and you sense that he is always watchful and alert. It’s hardly surprising really, his hard hitting work as an author and, before that, his work as an investigative journalist have made him some powerful enemies and got him into some of the most dangerous conflict zones in the world.
He has the look of an Arab about him, which he freely admits has helped enormously on some of his assignments, filming and reporting from such hellholes as the jungles of Burma, the blistering sands of the Sudan, not to mention the Congo. He can merge in with the locals and attract rather less attention than a more obvious European looking journalist might.
His close working relationship with soldiers from Special Forces has, he admits, had a powerful influence on his life. His admiration for the way they go about their duties and the missions they undertake has helped him devote more and more of his time telling the world (despite the MOD’s best efforts to clamp down on such publicity) that these soldiers are without equal and (without endangering security), that they have stories that deserve to be told.
But it isn’t just soldiers and their derring do that Damien writes about. His best selling book Slave took the lid off the disgusting slave trade still prevalent in Sudan, literally saved the life of the young girl whose story it was, has been translated into 20 languages and is now being made into a feature film.
“I’m proud of what that book achieved” he says, “ and despite the tiresome legal complications thrown in my way and the ugly death threats I get sent, I’d do it all again. More than that, the quiet fortitude and amazing courage of Mende Nazer in escaping the clutches of those sad specimens of humanity was nothing short of inspirational. What’s more she doesn’t seem to hold any grudges, which is an object lesson to us all.”
His book Operation Certain Death has been optioned as a feature film by, London based, Rainy City Productions and his evident pleasure that this story of outstanding SAS courage can now be appreciated by a wider audiance is clear to see.
Bloody Heroes, his newest book, tells the true story of an SBS action in Afghanistan, the details of which are only now being discovered by a startled world. It is a must read for all Damien Lewis fans.
Desert Claw represents a move into fiction, but based on fact it is the story of a daring raid into Iraq to rescue a looted Van Gogh painting. Both books are available now and if you’d like to know more about Damien, his books and his own amazing life story, you can read it for yourself on www.damienlewis.com