This outstanding new memoir from former Royal Marines Commando, private military contractor (PMC), celebrity bodyguard and mental health ambassador Garry Curtis has all the ingredients for a gripping read – action, adventure and a dash of laddish humour. It also delivers a hefty emotional punch.
The author’s life story is nothing if not dramatic (he describes himself as more of a ‘Soldier of Misfortune’ than a soldier of fortune…), and in writing the book hopes to address the issue of PTSD and mental health among servicemen and women, destigmatising an issue which many find hard to talk about.
Having seen frontline battlefield action in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan, survived a hostage situation in Libya, suffered near-fatal injuries and ended up at such a low ebb that he almost succeeded in taking his own life, Curtis’ life story is every bit the Hollywood blockbuster – and then some.
His no-holds-barred approach to discussing the highs and lows of his career – including some truly horrific wartime experiences – makes this book a refreshingly frank read, and the ‘man on the street’ voice makes it easy to engage with his story. Pulling no punches and making no excuses, it candidly addresses his own personal regrets – particularly in relation to the breakdown of his relationship with a great lost love. He talks candidly about the ‘perfect storm’ of negative life events that led to deep depression and a suicide attempt.
The 49-year-old father-of-four from Uxbridge writes from the heart about the pivotal moments in his incredible life. Describing himself as a ‘rough diamond’ from a council estate, his opinionated style, together with some colourful language, help to brings his strong personality alive on the page.
As well as describing some seriously hairy moments protecting media crews in Iraq and Lebanon, Curtis touches on his time as a bodyguard to some high-ranking politicians and A-list celebs (including the Beckhams), so readers can expect a dash of non-malicious celebrity gossip along with the tales from the front line.
The author’s bravery and commitment to duty is commendable to say the very least, and the descriptions of events such as staging an escape and rescue mission from Gaddafi’s loyalist gunmen in Libya make for tense reading.
Readers of a delicate disposition should note that the book includes some brutally-frank descriptions of the violence of war. 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 and women are witness to.
Aside from the blood and gore of the battlefield, Incoming! addresses the emotional issues that led to Curtis attempting to take his own life. Hospitalised with injuries picked up in Afghanistan, the author almost died of blood poisoning following major surgery in 2012, and soon felt the financial blow of being unable to work and provide for his family.
Far from painting himself as an all-conquering hero, Curtis admits to his shortcomings in his personal life, and his description of the downward spiral that led to his breakdown and suicide attempt is refreshing in its honesty.
Having been seen as a ‘hard man’ all his life, his descent into depression and his almost-successful suicide attempt scared him into addressing the PTSD issues that had contributed to his mental health problems. Aside from being a great read in itself, the book does a great service to others who find themselves in a similar position, opening up a forum for discussion and debate.
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.
‘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.