Synopses & Reviews
Zero Dark Thirty meets 127 Hours—a riveting war journal from photographer Paul Conroy, who accompanied Marie Colvin (called by her peers “the greatest war correspondent of her generation”) during her ill-fated final assignment in Syria.
Marie Colvinwas an internationally recognized American foreign war correspondent who was killed in a rocket attack in 2012 while reporting on the suffering of civilians inside Syria. She was renowned for her iconic flair and her fearlessness: wearing the pearls that were a gift from Yasser Arafat and her black eye-patch, she reported from places so dangerous no other hard-core correspondent would dare to go. Paul Conroy, who had forged a close bond with Colvin as they put their lives on the line time and time again to report from the world’s conflict zones, was with her when she died. Under the Wire is Paul’s gripping, visceral, and moving account of their friendship and the final year he spent alongside her. When Marie and Paul were smuggled into Syria by rebel forces, they found themselves trapped in one of the most hellish neighborhoods on earth. Fierce barrages of heavy artillery fire rained down on the buildings surrounding them, killing and maiming hundreds of civilians. Marie was killed by a rocket which also blew hole in Paul’s thigh big enough to put his hand through. Bleeding profusely, short of food and water, and in excruciating pain, Paul then endured five days of intense bombardment before being evacuated in a daring escape in which he rode a motorbike through a tunnel, crawled through enemy terrain, and finally scaled a 12-foot-high wall. Astonishingly vivid, heart-stoppingly dramatic and shot through with dark humor, in Under the Wire Paul Conroy shows what it means to a be a war reporter in the 21st century. His is a story of two brave people drawn together by a shared compulsion to bear witness.
"News reporter Marie Colvin, an American war correspondent for The Sunday Times in London, died in February 2012 in a Syrian attack. Conroy, a British photojournalist, was with Colvin on assignment at the time of her death and recounts those final weeks in her life, delivering a paean to his dear friend, a remarkable woman whose 'reputation as a hard-arsed war reporter one of the toughest, best and bravest of our time preceded her.' Her decades-long career landed her across the globe in places such as East Timor, Chechnya, Baghdad and Sri Lanka. She had a 'superb sense of the absurd' as well as an 'easy-going manner and effortless charm.' Most of all, Colvin believed strongly in the power and responsibility of journalists to hold governments to account and to ' witness to the plight of ordinary civilians....' Writing also of his preparations for Syria and his own experiences once there, Conroy highlights the emotional toll war-zone reporting can take on journalists' families. He describes ways he and his colleagues navigated battlegrounds, 'walking a tightrope between life and death on a windy day.' Conroy's visceral account is provides readers with a greater appreciation for the work of war correspondents and insight into the sacrifices they make. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A riveting war journal from photographer Paul Conroy, who accompanied Marie Colvin during her ill-fated final assignment in Syria.
About the Author
is a former British soldier. As a photographer and filmmaker whose work spans 15 years, he has reported on the conflicts in Iraq, Congo, Kosovo, Libya, and Syria.
Q&A with author Paul Conroy
1. How do you settle the tension between covering situations like the one in Homs, Syria and leaving your family behind?
My family has been incredibly supportive of my career as a photojournalist covering conflict. That isnt to say they havent suffered in many ways. Its a very fine line to walk and, has in many ways, had a very detrimental effect on my relationships. My family understands the reasons I do such work, and my children have grown up watching me pack bags and disappear for months on end but, with every war it gets harder for both them and me. However, after a few months back at home they, rather cheekily, ask, What are you still doing here?” I know they are proud of what I do and I hope that I have instilled in them the curiosity to question the accepted norms and never to accept anything at face value, especially war.
2. When working with other journalists such as Marie Colvin, you all witness first-hand the horrors of war. How do you prevent yourselves from becoming entirely disheartened? What drives you forward?
When Marie and I arrived in Homs at the height of the Syrian armies bombardment of the town, we both agreed that it was the worst shelling we had ever witnessed. It is those extremes that push you forward; neither of could walk away from the situation. It was mass slaughter and it simply reminded us of what we did and why we were there. On the night before Maries death we were both shivering, wrapped in our blankets whilst undergoing continual artillery bombardment, when Marie turned to me and asked, If you werent being paid would you still be here,” Of course,” I replied. She simply smiled saying, I knew you would say that.” Even at that point we believed we could make a difference.
3. What made you decide to write this book? Was your experience in Syria something you always knew you would ultimately write about?
I had never considered writing a book about Syria. When I set off it was just another jobI was there to take pictures as part of a team. Im not sure I even took a pen. It was only when I was back in London that the idea for a book came up, and I was lucky enough to be asked to write about it when my agent Annabel Murello approached me. I was on a lot of heavy-duty painkillers at the time and thought it would be a good thing to do. I had a very large hole in my leg and I thought it wise to do something.
4. Was it difficult for you to revisit your experiences with Marie in Syria as you wrote this book? Or did you find it a cathartic experience?
On the whole I found it a very cathartic process. I relived every minute of the whole assignment in great detail, forcing myself to remember every moment in order to avoid burying memories that may come back to bite me in the future. Over the course of writing the book, I took great comfort in the fact that I was bringing Marie back to life for potential readers. It was as if, for a just few months, she was back with me. I would laugh out loud at her jokes and titter to myself as I remembered her quirks and foibles. The worst part was writing the chapter when the house was attacked and Marie and Remi were killed. For months I had them back with me but, inevitably, in my mind I now had to kill them again. I put it of for a week or two, but one morning I woke and wrote that chapter in one sitting.
In many ways writing the book was was like a gentle letting go of Marie, a long but sad farewell, not the short brutal horror in the ruins of Baba Amr where I never h