Written in a familiar and easy tone and laced with an open honesty that few men – let alone combat-hardened warriors – are given social license to reveal, “A Failed State” unapologetically dives headfirst into the relentless duality that our warfighters experience every day – both in the field and at home. From page one, we are thrown into the spiraling life and mind of Damien Collins, just another operator in the shadowy no-man’s land where spec ops, 3-letter agencies and private contractors meet in the pursuit of military intelligence and execution of strategic action. Pulled in different directions by two very different worlds – both of which grind together the highs of unconditional love and the challenges of survival – Damien jumps back and forth between tactical engagements with his combat brothers and clashes with his wife as his mind works double-time to process the relentless onslaught of intel and emotions. His heart tugs at him as thoughts of family and home drift through, but his mind and body command the action when there are targets to hunt down and his spirit always remains with his brothers in arms.
Andrew E. Coussens opens his first book with an introduction to the main character as he returns home on leave and steps into the whirlwind that is his disintegrating family. Damien arrives to an unstable wife and a young daughter just beyond his reach, and immediately finds himself on the wrong side of the law without ever having committed any crime. His family continues to haunt him as Coussens suddenly takes us on a flashback to the other side of the world and into the eyes of a nondescript member of local security forces for a gritty segue into the violence and terror lived by so many people in conflict zones. In front of this backdrop, Damien engages in high-value engagements with razor-thin margins of error as his mind constantly turns towards the family that he’s created but cannot experience. We are pried away from imminent tactical action as we chase Damien’s mind back home to thoughts of the child he barely knows, only to be snapped back to reality as elements deploy and objectives are completed.
From the detailed descriptions of tactical engagement at the speed of life-and-death, to the easily-digested explanations of interactions and relationships between agencies and allegiances, Coussens lays out an interplay of storylines that give us a vividly-portrayed cross-section of both the mundane and dramatic in the day-to-day life of a high-performance modern-day warrior. He creates moving mental imagery with engaging descriptions of the stark contrasts between picturesque nature, besieged communities, and the humans who live their days on the razor-thin fringes of conflict. Throughout the book, Coussens transitions between characters and plotlines with a precision and pace born of countless tactical deployments over years of service. Out of the chaos of conflict, ideology and personal convictions emerges a complex story that reveals the thoughts and emotions simmering below the surface of those who face death with steely reserve.
The book is an easy read, but the content is far from relaxing. From the start, we are confronted with deep personal struggles and throughout the book we are challenged to wrap our heads and hearts around characters that many of us have a hard time understanding…while others of us may know them all too well. Coussens vividly portrays lives and scenarios that bring to the surface some of our most difficult questions in life while offering no easy answers, but if the ending of this first book is any indicator, the story may continue, and we’ll get to ride shotgun with Damien Collins as he engages new threats and fights new internal battles that defy military tactics.
To find out more about A Failed State and Andrew E Coussens, please visit www.afailedstate.com.