Chris Ayres is a small-town boy, a hypochondriac, and a neat freak with an anxiety disorder. Not exactly the picture of a war correspondent. He’s a twenty-seven-year-old reporter for The Times of London living in Los Angeles, and the only thing heMoreChris Ayres is a small-town boy, a hypochondriac, and a neat freak with an anxiety disorder. Not exactly the picture of a war correspondent. He’s a twenty-seven-year-old reporter for The Times of London living in Los Angeles, and the only thing he cares to be embedded in is celeb-studded after-parties. But somehow, he has a habit of ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time, whether it’s a few blocks from the World Trade Center on September 11 or one cubicle over from an anthrax attack at The New York Post.
When his boss asks him if he would like to go to Iraq, he doesn’t have the guts to say no.War Reporting for Cowards is the Iraq War—with all of its horrors and absurdities—through the eyes of a “war virgin” who was there, in the heat of battle, and wishing he were anywhere but. After signing a $1 million life-insurance policy, studying a tutorial on repairing severed limbs, and spending $20,000 in camping gear (only to find out that his bright yellow tent makes him a sitting duck), Ayres is embedded with the Long-Distance Death Dealers, a battalion of gung ho Marines who, when they aren’t playing Monopoly using Baghdad and France as Park Place and Boardwalk, are a “disassembly line, churning out Iraqi body parts.” They switch between shunning him and threatening to shoot him in the head when he files an unfavorable story.
As time goes on, though, he begins to understand them (and his inexplicably enthusiastic fellow war reporters) more and more: Each night of terrifying combat brings, in the morning, something more visceral than he has ever experienced—the thrill of having won a fight for survival.In the tradition of M*A*S*H, Catch-22, and other classics in which irreverence springs from life in extremis, War Reporting for Cowards tells the on-the-ground story of Iraq in a way that is extraordinarily honest, heartfelt, and bitterly hilarious.
It is sure to become a classic of war reportage.