Guests of the Ayatollah - The First Battle in the West's War with Militant Islam

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 May, 2007, 12:00am

Guests of the Ayatollah - The First Battle in the West's War with Militant Islam

by Mark Bowden

Atlantic Books, HK$165

Big-screen descriptions and research-heavy detail are helping make US journalist Mark Bowden the travel-weary executive's 'best-selling author' of choice. Black Hawk Down, better recalled as the Ridley Scott film, and Killing Pablo, Bowden's account of Pablo Escobar's ruthless rule over Colombia's Medellin Cartel, ensured Guests of the Ayatollah serious treatment from publications such as The Economist. Aside from quibbles about his gung-ho style and deadening Tom Clancy-like approach to detail, Bowden gets respect for piecing together factual jigsaw puzzles, even if the meaning-of-it-all bits are missing. The book is about the 11-month imprisonment of 66 Americans in the US embassy in Tehran after the overthrow of the shah of Iran by student followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It covers the internal political struggle within Iran between nationalists and clerics, and exposes the ignorance of the US about what was really happening - hence the subtitle The First Battle in the West's War with Militant Islam. Bowden exonerates US president Jimmy Carter for the blundering Operation Eagle Claw military rescue mission and suggests that Republicans dragged out the hostage crisis to embarrass the Democrat administration. The Daily Telegraph rightly says Bowden 'has mastered narrative non-fiction and this trips along like le Carre in top form'.



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