If you’re a fan of real-life action, drama and seat-of-your-pants adventure, then this gripping new memoir from Garry Curtis ticks all the boxes.
Curtis is a private military contractor (PMC), a former Commando, and a mental health ambassador. He was also the Beckham’s former bodyguard.
It’s near-impossible not to be both impressed and moved by the author’s dramatic life story, which contains more shocks and scares than the most far-fetched action movie or work of fiction. In a career that has seen front-line action in Northern Ireland and the Gulf, as well as private security services to some seriously high ranking politicians and celebrities, it’s clear that Curtis has a tale worth telling.
But it’s his no-holds-barred approach to discussing issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression that really set this book apart from other military service memoirs. Curtis’ straight-talking approach sees him address his own failings - particularly in relation to the breakdown of his relationship with love of his life Samantha - and he does not shy away from discussing the ‘perfect storm’ of negative life events that led to deep depression and a suicide attempt.
The 49-year-old from Uxbridge is a dad of four, and writes from the heart about the pivotal moments in his incredibly dramatic life. He describes himself as a ‘rough diamond’ from a council estate, and his opinionated style, with some colourful language, brings his strong personality to the fore.
While Curtis’ preferred line of work involves getting stuck in ‘at the deep end’ (the book describes some seriously hairy moments protecting media crews in Iraq and Lebanon), he has also worked as a bodyguard to big name celebs, including the Beckhams, so readers can expect a dash of celebrity gossip (none of it intrusive or malicious) along with frontline stories.
The author’s bravery and commitment to duty is astonishing. Without giving too much away, for instance, Curtis describes the events that led him to staging a daring escape and rescue mission while being held hostage, together with a TV news crew, by Gaddafi’s loyalist gunmen in Libya.
Readers of a delicate disposition take note - the book highlights harsh realities of armed conflict, and there are some brutally-frank descriptions of the horrors of battle. Together with the roll call of friends and colleagues lost in the line of duty, the author’s words cast a stark light on the horrors that servicemen are witness to.
Curtis sank into the depths of depression in 2012, when he was hospitalised with injuries picked up in Afghanistan, and almost died of blood poisoning following major surgery. Unable to work, Curtis began to feel the impact financially, and felt it as a crushing blow when he could no longer afford simple things like new shoes for his youngest daughter.
Rather than painting himself as an all-conquering hero, Curtis holds his hands up to mistakes made in his personal life, and his description of the downward spiral that led to his breakdown and suicide attempt is refreshing in its honesty, helping to destigmatise what is often a taboo subject - especially among ‘hard men’.
Having been exactly that all his life – a ‘hard man’ – Curtis’ descent into depression and an almost-successful suicide attempt scared him into addressing the PTSD issues that had contributed to his mental health problems, and in talking frankly about these issues he is doing a great service to others who find themselves in a similar position.
To say that Curtis’s life story has been dramatic would be a giant understatement. Would it adapt well to the Big Screen? Absolutely.
Curtis is an ambassador for Exmouth-based mental health charity Rock 2 Recovery, which supports men, women and families of the armed forces. Proceeds from Incoming! will help support this charity, and the author has also contributed time and money to London Air Ambulance - whose crew rescued Curtis after his suicide attempt.
Buy it, read it, enjoy it…and thank your lucky stars that however bad your day job, it’s probably a dream career by comparison.
‘Incoming!’ by Garry Curtis is out now in print, published by FastPrint Publishing and priced £10.57 in paperback. It is available for sale on Amazon UK.