Damien Lewis became an author largely by accident, when a British publisher asked him if he'd be willing to turn a TV documentary he was working on into a book. That film was shot in the Sudan war zone, and told the story of how Arab tribes seized black African slaves in horrific slave raids. Lewis had been to the Sudan war zone dozens of times over the past decade, reporting on that conflict for the BBC, Channel 4 and US and European broadcasters.
His slavery documentary told the story of a young girl from the Nuba tribe, seized in a raid and sold into slavery in Khartoum, Sudan's capital city, and of her epic escape. The publisher asked Lewis if the Nuba girl would be willing to write her life story as a book, with his help as co-author. The book that they co-wrote was called 'Slave', and it was published to great acclaim, becoming a number one bestseller and being translated into some 30 lanc guages worldwide. It won several awards and has been made into a feature film.
Over the preceding fifteen years Lewis had reported from many war, conflict and disaster zones – including Sudan, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Burma, Afghanistan and the Balkans (see Author's Gallery). He (and his film crew) traveled into such areas with aid workers, the British or allied military, UN forces or local military groups, or very much under their own steam. He reported on the horror and human impact of war, as well as the drama of conflict itself. Often, he worked alone. Often, he filmed his own material over extended periods of time living in the war or conflict zone.
During a decade spent reporting from around the world Lewis lived in deserts, rainforests, jungles and chaotic third world cities. In his work and travels he met and interviewed people smugglers, diamond miners, Catholic priests 'gone native', desert nomads, un-contacted tribes, aid workers, bush pilots, arms dealers, genocidal leaders, peacekeepers, game wardens, slum kids, world presidents, heroin traffickers, rebel warlords, child prostitutes, Islamist terrorists, Hindu holy men, mercenaries, bush doctors, soldiers, commanders and spies. He was injured, and was hospitalised with bizarre tropical diseases – including flesh-eating bacteria, worms that burrow through the skin and septicemia – but survived all that and continued to report.
It was only natural that having seen so much of global conflict he would be drawn to stories of war, terrorism, espionage and the often dark causes behind such conflicts when he started writing books. Having written a number of true stories, in 2006 he was chosen as one of the 'nation's 20 favourite authors' and wrote his first fiction, Desert Claw, for the British Government's Quick Read initiative. Desert Claw tells of a group of ex-Special Forces soldiers sent into Iraq to retrieve a looted Van Gogh painting, with a savage twist to the tale. That fiction was followed up by Cobra Gold, an equally compelling tale of global drama and intrigue and shadowy betrayal.
Damien Lewis's work, books and films have won the Index on Censorship (UK), CECRA (Spain), Project Censored (US), Commonwealth Relations (UK), Discovery-NHK BANFF (Canada), Rory Peck (UK), BBC One World (UK), BBC-WWF Wildscreen (UK), International Peace Prize (US), Elle Magazine Grande Prix (US), Victor Gollanz (Germany), and BBC One World (UK) Awards. He is a Fellow of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Damien Lewis's books in the media:
'Reveals a true story of British courage and daring.' - The Sunday Times
'Riveting.' - Richard & Judy Show
'Searing … Gives voice to the unspeakable.' - USA Today.
'Grotesque, glorious and utterly gripping.' - Bolton Evening News
'A rollercoaster journey into the very heart of darkness.' - The Gerry Ryan Show.
'The most dramatic story of a secret wartime mission ever.' - News of the World
'A gripping thriller,' - the Mail on Sunday
'Reveals the horror,' - Sky News
'The exclusive, inside account.' - Zoo Magazine
'Shines a light on bloody courage and a terrifying ordeal,' - The Gerry Ryan Show
Heartrending and chilling,' - Kirkus Reviews
'Wrenching', - The Washington Post
'Harrowing', - People Magazine
'Powerful, harrowing and brave … A triumph,' - The Economist
'Mesmerising,' - Vogue
'Having experienced war, terror and espionage Damien Lewis is now writing about it, and his new book is a griping thriller.' - The Gerry Ryan Show
'Remarkable.' - New York Post
'An extraordinary memoir.' - New York Times.
'Compelling,' - FHM
'Gripping,' - Eye Spy Magazine
Fellow authors and commentators:
"A brave book," - Mia Farrow.
"An enthralling story, brilliantly told," James Barrington;
"Helps keep the Darfur tragedy open as a wound not yet healed," Elie Wiesel;
"A tremendous read," Max Arthur;
"A searingly frank testimonial," Tim Butcher;
"Unleashes pure hellfire, death and destruction with the mere spoken word," Duncan Falconer;
"Attention must be paid," John Prendergast.
"High velocity writing at its very best," Peter James;
"Gripping and revelatory," Patrick Bishop.
"As good as any thriller I have ever read," Freddie Forsyth;
"At the cutting edge of modern warfare," Colonel Tim Collins;
"A gripping tale of our forces at their finest," General Sir Mike Jackson.