Rogue Warrior, Richard Marcinko & John Wiseman

Pocket, 1992, 397 pages, C$8.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-671-79593-7

On the surface, Richard Marcinko’s Rogue Warrior appears to be one of the most entertaining autobiographies you’re ever likely to read. Told in the language of warriors, with the tough-guy style and the mucho-macho attitude, it’s the life of Richard Marcinko, SEAL. Marcinko, among other things, fought in Vietnam and Cambodia, founded SEAL Team Six (the Navy’s counter-terrorist unit), founded Red Cell (the Navy’s simuli-terrorist unit) and then was kicked out of the Navy.

Marcinko is a real-life action hero. His training exercises had more bite that the average Stallone movie. Some of his actual operations are sometimes too good to be easily believed. His rise through the rank, even despite his gung-ho attitude, is impressive.

As it’s an assisted autobiography, you can bet that Marcinko plays his tough-guy role to the hilt. He swears, he talks back to superiors, he sleeps around with every female not seriously overweight, he kills enemies, he hates wimpy paper-pushers, he always have impeccable justifications -moral, if not legal- for what he does.

For Marcinko, the ends justifies the means. If he has to disobey orders; fine. Overrule the chain of command; sure. Disregard protocol; no problem. Use excessive force; we’re in a war, man!

And this is where Rogue Warrior becomes fascinating. While such blatant disregard for authority might be excellent fodder for action movies and military thrillers, Richard Marcinko is a real-life figure. He fits the profile of an out-of-control operative perfectly, in acts if not in spirit. He might have been too successful; we (helpless, wimpy, naive civilians) can’t help but being uneasy at the casualness of the swearing, the macho ideal of sleeping with as many women as possible, the quasi-“boys-with-toys” attitude.

Rogue Warrior is likely to be one of the best military-related book you’ll read this year, or any year if you’re a fan of the genre. (Having a predilection for action movies and right-wings political tendencies certainly helps, by the way.) More sophisticated readers will find here a provocative testimony to the difference between fact and fiction.

It seems that even Marcinko realizes this; four novels by the co-authors of Rogue Warrior have appeared since 1993 (Red Cell, Green Team, Task Force Blue, Designation Gold) each with the distinctive tough-guy approach that made this autobiography so readable, but without the “Hey! This happened!” feeling. (Amusingly (?), at least one page on the Internet mixes up the novels with the “real-life adventures” of Richard Marcinko. Doom on us.) I’ve been told the guy’s a regular hero in some of the most extremist right-wing groups. Strangely, I can see why…

February 1998: Marcinko’s forays in fiction aren’t particularly worth remembering, but if you want something really off-the-wall, grab a copy of the non-fiction Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior. It’s worth the quick read. In Leadership Secrets, Marcinko applies his style, vocabulary, anecdotes and attitude to the fine art of… management. No kidding. Corporate America better start shaking in their boots. For the most part, his advice makes sense. (“Lead from the front, keep asking subordinate to prove themselves, do the unexpected, etc…”) But the style is just light-years away from any management book you’re ever likely to read. And the swearwords are the least of it. It’s hilarious and ten times more fun than Lee Iacocca’s biography, it’s the kind of book you keep just to show to friends. A real curio. Just don’t start shooting business rivals, okay?

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