High Risk is a dark, raw and uncompromising tale of the human condition in extremis, drawing on the many lives of Ben Timberlake: as an archaeologist, special forces soldier, combat medic and drug addict.
Ben pursued the rush, and often the chase took him over the edge. Instead of asking why, he asked, why not? Blending confessional narrative, classic reportage and acerbic humour, this memoir takes a gonzo look at terrorists, junkies, soldiers and strippers through the tale of one extraordinary life.
Starting with Ben’s first near-death experience in a Nazi-themed bar in wartime Yugoslavia, High Risk is a whirlwind tour of everything from service in the SAS, combat in Iraq, encounters with a gambling-obsessed 9/11 hijacker and steroid-fuelled mercenaries, to veterans blissed out on MDMA, hook-ups in the world of extreme sex, and battling a heroin habit on a remote Scottish island.
Ben Timberlake’s undercover missions have concerned nuclear terrorism, the Far Right, and the trafficking of people, wildlife, looted antiquities and organs. He has written for the Financial Times, The Guardian and The Economist, and made Channel 4 and Discovery films on topics from Japanese mummies to prehistoric rock art.
Over the last year, I've been reading a lot to relax - when in the middle of a global pandemic, it's always nice to have a book that has a neat and tidy ending - allowing you to rest easy in the knowledge that somewhere, somehow, things do come to an end.
'High Risk' is not the thing to pick up if you're looking for something relaxing. It's high octane, and at times jaw-dropping. But it's also far more than it appears at first glance. Yes, it covers author Ben Timberlake going into some insane situations and escaping by the skin of his teeth, but it doesn't stint when it comes to exploring just what effect those situations can have on a person, and how they can be driven to seek more and more danger.
Timberlake is remarkably open - and his humour breaks up the tension wonderfully - there's a dry wryness which makes Timberlake both a charming author and a great narrator. At times it felt like listening to a slightly mad mate tell his stories down the pub - which at this point in time is something I had sorely missed!
With the humour and the action though, comes a raw honesty and a human emotion. Timberlake explores what has driven him to such extremes during his life - and from that comes a rather wonderful reflection on the human condition and how it can be shaped by external factors, and Timberlake also explores the nature of addiction in it's many forms.
Speaking personally, I come from a family with a history of addiction, so have always walked a tightrope personally, wanting to live life to the full but also conscious that doing so may result in unpleasant circumstances. Timberlake explores addiction and the effects they can have in minute and fascinating detail, and does so in an honest, open fashion.
I started this prepared to be overawed at Timberlake's bravery in the SAS, and I came away overawed by his bravery at being open, straight talking, and admitting his own flaws. Any book that can help people whilst also entertaining is worth it's weight in gold, meaning that 'High Risk' is very valuable indeed.
Many thanks to MidasPR for a copy of the Audio Book