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Summary

Sex and drugs and lock and load. 

Ben Timberlake has spent a lifetime in pursuit of the ultimate rush. This is an account of his near-execution in wartime Yugoslavia, his time in the SAS, combat in Iraq, encounters with a gambling-obsessed 9/11 hijacker, veterans blissed out on MDMA, as well as exploring hook-ups in the world of extreme sex and battling a heroin habit on a remote Scottish island. In this pilgrimage on the road of excess Ben looks at the social, biological, religious and personal factors that drive people to the edge and has a whole lot of fun along the way.

The why? As Mallory said of Everest, ‘Because it’s there.’ In Ben’s case, there was no risk too high or gutter too low.   

Like a cross between Jason Bourne and Anthony Bourdain, this is Kitchen Confidential for the War on Terror. An unforgettable Audible Exclusive that will sate even the most hardened adrenaline junkie.

©2020 Ben Timberlake (P)2020 Audible, Ltd

What listeners say about High Risk

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Straight shooter

Under the exquisitely deceptive camouflage of the rush of adrenalin and heroin, this is a beautifully written book about a man who truly dares. Who dares to explore where angels fear to tread, who dares to dance with devils, and who dares to look unflinchingly in the mirror. Compelling, cogent, charming, profound, hilarious, terrifying and fiercely humane.

23 people found this helpful

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Simply superb. Gripping & hilarious. Must listen

The most entertaining, tense, gripping, laugh out loud and jaw dropping story. I absolutely loved it.
Imagine Malcolm Gladwell joined the SAS became a junky reporter and lived to tell the tale.
He hangs out with Marines in Fallujah, war criminals in Baghdad, gangsters in London and even ex ISIS terrorists.
He tells his tale with such wit and insight. At times the tension is unbearable and then he hits you with laugh out loud moments.
A mix Malcolm Gladwell, Anthony Jeselnik, Andy McNab, PG Wodehouse, Jack Reacher, and Frankie Boyle.
Unforgettably wise, funny and brilliant.

21 people found this helpful

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Glad I found this one.

Less of a SAS memoir and more a telling of some genuinely gripping, funny, shocking and ( I am ashamed to say) relatable stories about fighting, addiction and a life hard lived. Well done to Ben for having the bottle to openly talk about it all. Well worth a listen as the audibook is full of informative bits too mostly about the mind and how it all works with some very funny tension breakers offered up too.

10 people found this helpful

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More William S. Burroughs than Andy Mcnab

Extremely well written with wonderful passages of descriptive writing, self reflection and black humour. My disappointment was due to the obsessive meanderings of a drug nerd. When I say obsessive, I mean an almost autistic fascination by the author in drugs and bio-chemical processes that left me baffled for the most part. If you are hoping to learn about SAS missions or combat you will be disappointed. The lack of a chronology means you have to try and fill in a lot of blanks. How long did he serve for example? Most of the book is taken up by describing a descent into addiction and degradation. Ultimately, even by the author's own admission, this is tedious and uninteresting. Why spend so much time talking about it then? I do not find drugs interesting personally nor the attempts to explain why some people do this to themselves. Burroughs was interesting in that he explained, quite brutally, the degradation, subculture and appeal of the life of a junkie. The difference between Burroughs Junkie and todays is perhaps the absence then of trying to explain this as some type of pathology or product of trauma and therefore subsequent lack of agency. The debate is probably endless and fruitless and I have heard it so many times that it really does not appeal to me and for this reason I lost interest in the book towards the end. Having said that there's no denying this book is literate, a modern day Seven Pillars of Wisdom perhaps but with much less military battle and more of the personal. My other minor gripe is that the SAS (at least in this case) do not seem to know how to pronounce Pen-y-Fan. It's not 'penny fan' but 'pen uh van' . You would think given their cultural sensitivities they would know this.

9 people found this helpful

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it's alright

narrator was alright, book was fine. i dont regret listening to it, but it isnt a must read either.

9 people found this helpful

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read it listen to it!

a must listen/read for anyone interested in the mechanism of addiction.
not just extreme sports or drugs but any form of addictive behaviour.

6 people found this helpful

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Smug, pretentious, dull - didn’t get the humour

I was really excited about this book based on the reviews. I gave it to half way through however and was ultimately disappointed.

At the beginning the author proudly introduces himself as “an arsehole” which on reflection should have been enough to put me off, but I persisted nevertheless, because of my initial intrigue in the title.

To me the book became the (very articulate) ramblings of someone who is fully and proudly aware they are a member of a club and an attendee of parties to which 99.9% of the audience would never be invited. I guess I am somewhat stupid to think this kind of read could be anything else, but to me it seemed to lack humility and ultimately left me very cold, and a bit bored if I’m honest.

That said I fully respect the incredible job that the armed and special forces undertake on our behalf, and am in total admiration of the author as a soldier.

I guess as I didn’t really get the “laugh out loud humour” mentioned in other reviews, the book just didn’t resonate with me, I felt too far removed from the content to relate to it in any meaningful way.

I suppose it just wasn’t for me, which is a shame.

5 people found this helpful

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Some cool stories mixed with gap year philosophy

The stories were great, entertaining and pretty rich. However it doesn't escape the thing it tries to, which is the current pop mold of private school kids joining the SAS and then writing about it or making a TV show. Nothing separates this particular brand from Bear Grylls.

It's very hard to feel sorry for the character in this book whilst also understanding that this isn't the point. Some pointless sex stories thrown in complete with awkward details that people need not know. The poor me attitude of intentionally getting addicted to heroin and then going and living on a remote island is almost a caricature.

4 people found this helpful

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Take a breath and marvel at the courage

It doesn’t take long. Maybe half way through the first chapter. Maybe even earlier. You suddenly become aware you’re reading something important; a thing that every man should see, a thing whose power and gravitas are grounded in a brutal honesty that you haven’t heard before. At least this was my experience.

High Risk’s somewhat sensationalised cover-art and tag-line belies its real reward; namely the admiration for the bravery of a soul so nakedly bared. High Risk is a within-and-without journey that glides between parable, text book and confessional without compromise. It left me reeling - unsettled and relieved - and just as the author shared his experience in living this extraordinary life, so I can but share my experience in reading about it.

While most books seek to coax a series of narrative threads into some sort of comforting resolution, this author grasps three concurrent 2,000 volt live wires in the same fist, grapples with their life-and-death kinetics and never lets go. It is at once distressing and exhilarating; intimate and epic, pathetic and inspiring.

The first wire is charged with the discipline and commitment to ego-free excellence of the military. Its training and shaming and its ever-hovering question: what are you gonna do when you confront life and death at close quarters? The army experience spans Welsh hills to villages in Iraq. There are guns, girls and gallantry aplenty. Left there, the story would be fit alongside the many ‘My Life in the Army’ titles that perpetuate the ‘soldier as hero’ myth. The second narrative seeks to deconstruct the mythology through neurology. This is the science wire. It is up-to-date, well-researched and, most importantly, set in the context of the author’s deeply personal journey so as not to stand out like a sign language interpreter on the 6 o’clock News. The ‘science bit’ nips away at our preconceptions of heroism and simmers them down to unglamorous, but rational molecules of received wisdom. All this in preparation for the book’s most highly-charged narrative wire: addiction and the author’s love-hate relationship with it. This addiction story has recognisable tropes: lack of agency, alienation, physiological servitude. But such is the clarity of the author’s perspective that this part of the journey is less about self-loathing and and the emotional abyss; and more about a sense of identity and a lonely pride that comes with being a truly committed addict.

High Risk is not perfect. A stricter editor would have redacted some of the more prurient prose bestowed on drug-consumption; and the question of ‘Why?’ (by the author’s own admission) feels almost-but-not-completely unresolved. But personally, I gobble up most artistic output for its imperfections - and a story such as this needs to err to be so human.

I can only suppose that the author could not have written High Risk any earlier or later in his life and I can only thank him for his courage in sharing. May we all read it and be so bold.

3 people found this helpful

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Powerful and Original

With a style combining Jonathan Meades and P.J. O'Rourke; this is far away from Andy McNab that you can get. The author is a tremendous narrator. It is a life well lived, and well told. There is plenty of risking taking and thrills, but more than that you get to understand what drove him to seek all this out. All along it is coloured with dark, yet frequently laugh out loud humour.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-05-22

What an absolute madlad

At several points in the book it gets so bizarre with so many sudden twists it just becomes hard to believe. Is he making this shit up or at least bending the truth? What does it matter anyway. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story they say, and a good story it was. I’ll just stick to believe it all with a hint of doubt.

Learned and laughed!

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  • Kai’s footprint
  • 29-04-22

Raw and Honest

I heard about this book thru a public figure who rant and raved, a must read!! So I did… a little apprehensive but thought it’s a true story what do I have to lose. I can always turn it off. I couldn’t stop listening.. Ben’s voice somehow gave me calm and laughter at the same time. I must be crazy I kinda grew a crush on him. I have 2 grown sons one in the Military and have told them they have to read it. Seriously, mom your reading this book? Yep… To be honest I did forward thru chapter 9 but for some reason I was drawn to the addiction part. Raw, honest, and totally crazy. Thank you for writing and I highly recommend this book. Grandma of 3

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  • Will Hearn
  • 28-12-21

Good story, sub par narration

I'm not sure this review is even fair, but I found a lot of Ben's narration techniques to be noticeable and annoying. like his frequent pauses and almost hesitations as if he's struggling to find the right word, knowing that we all know he's reading from a script. I know it's a technique, but I would rather him find a different one that allows the story to flow a little more naturally instead of the silent um that I heard so often in this. The story would have been better if he removed about half of the heroin addiction descriptions. they were flowery and sometimes pretty, but often superfluous. The part of the story that I enjoyed the most was his describing of the flow state and even some of his descriptions of getting high and his withdrawal. just personally believe there was too much time spent in the throws of addiction. his explanations afterward were very solid too.

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  • J. Rowlands
  • 18-10-21

A wild ride

British English notwithstanding;) it’s excellent experience to walk with Ben through his journey. It’s one of those stories that’s equal parts holy shit and deep introspection.

I think readers/listeners will walk away with a deeper empathy and appreciation of certain aspects of society and also maybe see a bit inward too.

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  • Jim mcmurray
  • 02-10-21

I haven’t picked a book up in 10 years other than a school book.

This is the best book I’ve found, a story of experiences you feel close to have endured with with writer. Ben is a genius to be able to describe feelings and reactions to drugs (naturally occurring and taken) to an extent you can wrap your head around almost the exact feeling of what he’s describing. A great book. I’ll possibly read it a second time, maybe more.

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  • Dred
  • 11-06-21

A book that transcends the standard SOF fair

A book that transcends the standard SOF bravado and delves into the mindset of failure and more importantly the humanity involved. This has been one of the most amazing and insightful stories I have read in a long time. There is something uniquely special about the dichotomy of an elite special operations soldier and a junkie. It really highlights some of the core facets of humanity in us all. The monkey, the lizard and the shrew concept examined in so many stages of the authors life is really easy to identify with. I truly feel this is a must read for every warrior

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  • Father misty
  • 02-06-21

Bravo to zero to bravo again.

Magnificent, unputdownable for my ears. Fantastic autobiography of an insanely interesting character bringing together the hugely popular questions of meaningful life, philosophy, addiction and growth. a smorgasbord of fascinating topics told in a laugh out loud style mixed with genuinely moving prose. will listen to it at least twice more, loved it. Bravo indeed.

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  • Daniel
  • 19-05-21

Very informative

Ben did a great job of explaining what drug addiction is or for that matter any addiction actually is.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-12-20

Eloquently narrated, riveting story

Such an intriguing story - my life seems so mundane compared to Ben’s life experiences. Really enjoyed the research aspects. Learned so much about many random subjects - bondage, heroin, SAS training, etc.

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  • Confido13
  • 19-11-20

I felt like I was back in a war zone.

Like the firing of an MDMA pumped synapse, or the adrenaline fuelled flick of a safety catch, Timberlake's crazy autobiography bounces fluidly from travel journal, to war biography, to drug diary, to literature. Philosophy, psychology, archeology, physiology and the tortured workings of the human soul all are covered here with empathy, insight, wit and crude humour.
High Risk takes on Michael Herr's 'Dispatches' and Anthony Loyd's 'My War Gone By I Miss It So' and in it's vivid descriptions of the tragedy, chaos, madness and almost sexual thrill that is the reality of war. It makes normal macho Special Forces autobiographies read like teenage fan fiction.
This is Graham Greene or Joseph Conrad for the Ecstasy generation: Apocalypse Now for the 21st Century. A crazy, funny, tragic ride that I connected with deeply and enjoyed immensely. If you want to know war but don't want to die, read this.