More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 52

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, edited extracts from the memoirs of Scottish war correspondent, Paul Harris. ‘More thrills than skills: A half-life in journalism’, is being scheduled for publication next year.

THE ‘war tourists’ are a curious breed.

They are a curious mix of intending ‘do gooders’, hopelessly-out-of-their-depth academics and thrill-seekers with battered copies of Combat & Survival stuffed in their flak jacket pocket.

In Croatia, I once encountered a mercenary who confessed to arriving just with his passport and a copy of Combat & Survival. That was a stroke of luck for me as I wrote for the magazine and it provided some excellent copy.

For months, there was a young chap hanging around the Holiday Inn in Sarajevo, perpetually drunk, sporting a press pass and sleeping in the hotel’s laundry cupboards.

We called him ‘Finnbar’ and were quite taken in for ages. It turned out he was a 17 year-old schoolboy who’d expertly conned a press pass using his school magazine and who was there to write his final year thesis.