Now, first thing I have to say is that he is a very nice guy and extraordinarly easy to chat to.Clearly a very bright bloke and certainly has talent, but then, that goes with being part of an elite, a unit that is the envy of the world, but sadly the Royal Greenjackets are no more, so he has to make do with the other rag tag outfit he went to.
I did tape the chat, on two seperate dictaphones, including one with a clever device that attaches to the telephone, but I seem to have cocked that up somehow, so most of the chat is from memory..
I started by asking what the book - 'Battle Lines' was about, and what was different to his other books. Andy said that this one related very much to the families that wait at home when the troops are deployed, the stresses and strains that the wives and children feel, the struggles they have with the ordinary and the mundane. How small things become huge problems and how isolated they feel from their partners. He had spent considerable time visiting, both with deployed and resting troops, and with their families, asking about the problems, getting a feel for what it was like for those left behind, along with his writing partner, Kym Jordan, and believed he had a small inkling into how the families felt.
Another area he was interested to explore was the reaction of partners and families to those who came back injured, especially from I.E.D injuries, and in this he had the help of Headley Court and other places. He tries to convey the frutrations and obstacles encountered both by the injured party and their families, the psychological problems that can occur as well as the physical.
From the deployed troops perspective, he has explored the communication difficulties, and the frustrations that can be found with not being able to talk with your loved ones. We now take for granted the e mail facilities, the satphones and even mobile 'phones, and in an earlier time, the old-fashioned bluey, or even ( prehistorically) the handwritten letter! The anxiety that is felt by both sides when the comms systems are locked down, following an incident and the anger that can be felt by not being able to tell your partner that you are safe, and the sheer terror that the families feel, not knowing what has happened and who is the victim.
Andy tells me that he spent time with a rifle coy from 2 Rifles on Herrick, trying to get a feel for what the troops think, how they feel and how they deal with the stresses of families left behind, the seemingly minute and irritating problems that are mindless to blokes in the field, constantly under threat to their life and limb. The simple things, like car tax, nursery school and so on; the minutae of life have no - at least very little - relevance when under fire, or walking carefully and slowly along a dusty track, hoping that at the end you will still be alive and whole, but to those at home, these minor things assume a life of their own. If your husband/boyfriend has always taken care of things, how do you cope when the washing machine breaks? What should you do when you get a parking ticket? McNab and Jordan do cover this dilemma well and there is huge empathy.
But, for you, when in a FoB, or patrolling, how do you cope when your wife is the subject of gossip? How can you deal with rumours that she is over the side? Especially if you are unable to talk to her, if comms are down, or you can't get a quiet time to talk. Even if others eem to and whisper in your ear the scandals that their own partners pass on to them.
Leaving his latest book for a moment, we talked about other things; he is a frequent reader ( and sometimes contributor to ) Arrse. He was interested in the recent debate on the Lee Child character, Reacher, and the casting of Tom Cruise. He was quite of the same opinion as most of us on that subject, and as he had talked with Child, and discovered that the physical description of Reacher was based on Lawrence Dallaglio, he echoed our thoughts, to a degree.
I asked if there were any plans to film his books, and he told me that it was happening even now. The casting for his hero, Nick Stone, is ongoing, with Jason Statham, Tom Hardy and Joel Kinneman ( The Killing, USA version) as possibles.
Andy also told me that he is used as a consultant by some Very Senior army officers, as well as the MoD and they also visit our site frequently. It is seen as a sounding board, an indicator of how the troops think and feel, and considered a Good Thing by those in the towers of power.
During our chat we spoke of many things but concentrated on the new book, and it was sheer happenstance that it arrived as I was talking to him, and so I read it. The review will follow.
We did touch on the supposed furore that followed the publication of 'Bravo Two Zero' and he told me that he had been effectively asked to write it, that he had recieved total and utter cooperation from all parties and both the Regiment and the MoD had seen the advacnce drafts. They were happy and had no problems, and the supposed outrage was manufactured by the press with no foundation in truth. Now, I know that it will come as a surprise to us all that the popular press would be less than honest about things, but it does happen! Andy was quite happy about it, since it was publicity that couldn't be bought, and all publicity can be useful. It certainly helped the sale of the book, and he hasn't done badly since.
In summary, a nice bloke, and someone i would be happy to have a pint with, as i suspect so would most of you.