“And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East,” by Richard Engel

  • Simon & Schuster. 256 pages. Hardcover $27.00.

“An unexpected, suspenseful page-turner.”

At once career memoir and analysis of recent Middle East history, Richard Engel’s new book, And Then All Hell Broke Loose, is an unexpected, suspenseful page-turner. It is the story of a young, enthusiastic journalist’s coming of age as a premier foreign (read “war”) correspondent. Fresh out of Stanford, and at first without employment, Engel plunked himself down in the major trouble spots of the Arab world, beginning in Cairo in 1993.

After a string of freelance assignments, he became NBC’s Beirut bureau chief and then the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News. As the book title promises, all hell is breaking loose around Engel, but that’s because he eagerly shows up wherever that is likely to happen. He is plying his trade.

Engel

Engel

One fascinating thread in Engel’s powerful presentation involves the tradecraft and survival skills of a foreign correspondent: where to stay, how to travel, what to bring from one place to another, how to develop contacts, how to interview effectively, and, perhaps most important, how to stay safe and out of legal trouble. Dozens of episodes dramatize the daily working life of someone seeking and developing the stories that will reach an editor and get into print or on the air.

Another thread is Engel’s take on the history he has reported. Of course, it wasn’t history yet, but the unfolding present: the downfalls of Mubarak and Morsi in Egypt; the second Intifada in Jerusalem; the wars in Lebanon, Iraq (where Engel spent several years), Libya, and Syria. For Engel, it was all close up and personal. Yet he wasn’t part of the story. Now he is.

Looking back, he can offer personal reflections on the political dimensions and consequences of U.S. actions undertaken or not undertaken during the Bush 2 and Obama presidencies. Engel understands the forces influencing their decisions, but he judges these men rather harshly and supports his judgments convincingly. . . .

For the full review, see: And Then All Hell Broke Loose | Washington Independent Review of Books

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