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Publisher's Summary

A parallel army lives on the margins of the Iraq war - nearly 100,000 armed men, invisible yet in plain sight, doing jobs the overstretched and understaffed military can't or won't do. The U.S. media call them "security contractors." They call themselves "mercs," and they operate under their own rules.

Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru traveled with several groups of security contractors to find out what motivates them to put their lives in danger every day. What emerges is a searing, revealing, and sometimes darkly funny look at the men who live and work in the battlefields of Iraq: some are desperate, some are confused, and some are just out for a lark. Some disappear into the void that is Iraq and are never seen again. It's not a pretty picture that Fainaru reveals, but it is brutally real and shockingly honest.

Big Boy Rules is an unforgettable leap into the mayhem of Iraq and into the dark recesses of the minds of American policymakers and the warriors they hire.

©2008 Steve Fainaru; (P)2008 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"An informative, dramatic look at a significant, often unexamined, aspect of contemporary military culture." (Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

A must read....

If this book had been pitched more as a look at the events surrounding the kidnapping and murder of five Private Security Contractors in Iraq and the company they worked for it would have been received better by readers here. It was not at all what I was expecting. However, I am very glad I read it. It was well written, and an easy read. Everyone it is very relatable, and by the end you feel that you really knew these men and their families…and grieve for them. It makes no excuses, though it does toss out a few more accusations than I liked. Of all the books on the subject matter, I have found it the most relatable thus far.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Doug
  • Austin, TX
  • 02-02-11

Read it in two days

This is a superior book. Mostly books on the war in Iraq or Afghanistan are hit or miss, often they are watered down with political angles or outright redactions. This book reads like a story. Its scope ranges from vivid life in America to the saunas of urban warfare in Iraq. You will feel this one because it is well written and sincerely conveyed. I instinctively wondered if the book won any awards, and my research revealed that the author won a Pullizter. You'll know it's worthy too. You will be reading a 'real' book packed with real information and real people. You'll know something important about something you KNOW lies just between the lines on war coverage in Iraq. The political slant is NOT here, and we are given a stark look at the places, the people and their decisions behind the private business of warfare. I highly recommend this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Daniel
  • Fond du Lac, WI, United States
  • 04-21-11

More a journalists notebook than a tactical book.

This is a good book in general, but the author too often crosses the line into his personal commentary. He seems to be no fan of the war, but I enjoyed it completely even though I am a strong proponent of both the Iraq war and the (albeit imperfect) use of private contractors. I would have enjoyed a book with more tactical details and war stories. This is more a notebook.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Great read.

I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of engaging writing and narration. The subject matter isn't for everybody, but the author conjured up an interesting exploration of different personalities and their lives and motivations, and wove it together with an engrossing look a very much neglected aspect of the current U.S. war in Iraq.

I especially liked Patrick Lawler's performance, which made me feel as if I were actually experiencing the events being described. To borrow another reviewers words about a different book, "Patrick Lawlor could read the tax code and make it sound interesting."

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Amazing

I always heard stories about the war but I guess I never realized what goes on. Half way through the book I found myself so disturbed. I'd look online to see pictures of the faces of the Crescent Security men who were kidnapped. Every time I'd shut my eyes I'd see their faces telling myself, "I'm only reading this, I cannot imagine living it!" I feel horrible for the family members and I have a whole new respect and understanding for the men and women who fight for Our freedom.
Thank you...

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • BrentDC
  • Portland, TX, United States
  • 03-02-13

Stunning look at Future War in the Present

Where does Big Boy Rules rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very well, The author does tend to interject a lot of his personal story and life into the narrative as he covers modern security/civilian contractors but that aspect was actually compelling and well written.

Who was your favorite character and why?

My favorite character was Jon Cote. He was representative of so many of our guys and gals in Iraq.

What does Patrick Lawlor bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Good narrative pace and tone.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me MAD! When you use locals as contractors, treat them like garbage and then fire them that SCREAMS to me "security breach!" but many of these guys seemed to be "sleepwalking" their time commitments. The tragedy that occurred was 100% avoidable.

  • Overall

The world of the private security forces

The author goes into detail about the secretive and deadly world of private security forces in IRAQ. The story revolves around one particular “mercenary” a prior service US ARMY soldier brought back to the fight in IRAQ after serving a tour of duty there. I myself served in IRAQ and understand the persistent call for a return to the front, even with the danger. This was an extremely emotionally difficult book for me to finish, and while it speaks only of the soldiers for higher in IRAQ, anyone who has server over there knows a private security force member and can speak to the losses that they absorbed for a few dollars more. I enjoyed the book. But don’t look for answers in this story.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kevin
  • irvine, CA, USA
  • 05-07-09

light on story, heavy on memoir

Just finished this one. It was a decent tale of merc forces evolving job in Iraq. As the author had befriended one of the main characters it tends to drift more into his life. Overall it was entertaining, a little sad and a little random.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful