And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East

And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East

4.3 10
by Richard Engel

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“Gripping astute, fast-paced overview...[Engel] gives us sharp, unnerving snapshots.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Based on two decades of reporting, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent’s riveting story of the Middle East revolutions, the Arab Spring, war,



“Gripping astute, fast-paced overview...[Engel] gives us sharp, unnerving snapshots.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Based on two decades of reporting, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent’s riveting story of the Middle East revolutions, the Arab Spring, war, and terrorism seen up-close—sometimes dangerously so.

When he was just twenty-three, a recent graduate of Stanford University, Richard Engel set off to Cairo with $2,000 and dreams of being a reporter. Shortly thereafter he was working freelance for Arab news sources and got a call that a busload of Italian tourists were massacred at a Cairo museum. This is his first view of the carnage these years would pile on. Over two decades Engel has been under fire, blown out of hotel beds, taken hostage. He has watched Mubarak and Morsi in Egypt arrested and condemned, reported from Jerusalem, been through the Lebanese war, covered the whole shooting match in Iraq, interviewed Libyan rebels who toppled Gaddafi, reported from Syria as Al-Qaeda stepped in, was kidnapped in the Syrian crosscurrents of fighting. He goes into Afghanistan with the Taliban and to Iraq with ISIS. In the page-turning And Then All Hell Broke Loose, he shares his adventure tale.

Engel takes chances, though not reckless ones, keeps a level head and a sense of humor, as well as a grasp of history in the making. Reporting as NBC’s Chief-Foreign Correspondent, he reveals his unparalleled access to the major figures, the gritty soldiers, and the helpless victims in the Middle East during this watershed time. We can experience the unforgettable suffering and despair of the local populations. Engel’s vivid description is intimate and personal. Importantly, it is a succinct and authoritative account of the ever-changing currents in that dangerous land.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Engel's harrowing adventures make for gripping reading…and he deftly uses them as a portal to look at how the Middle East has changed since he arrived in the region as a young reporter back in 1996. The result is a book that gives readers a brisk but wide-angled understanding of the calamities that have unfurled there over the last two decades…What makes Mr. Engel's tactile eyewitness accounts particularly valuable is that they are fuel-injected with his knowledge of the history and the politics of the region. His analysis is so acute that the reader wishes that the book had been more expansive. But Mr. Engel writes with great concision—honed, no doubt, by years of having to compress momentous stories into a few minutes on the evening news…Whether the reader agrees with all his assessments, they are rooted in his deep understanding of the region and are never less than compelling.
“Engel… has been in the Middle East, getting a viscerally up-close perspective on these world-historic events. And as this fast-paced and engaging new book makes clear, even if it hasn’t always been easy, Engels’ time in the Middle East has always been important.”
starred review Booklist
“As a print and broadcast journalist with his own boots on the ground in the Middle East for more than 20 years, Engel has seen it all . . . Now Engel takes a long view . . . His grasp of Middle East history is encyclopedic, yet Engel distills the major tenets of geopolitical and religious conflict into comprehensible and comprehensive terms. . . . Clear, candid, and concise, Engel’s overview of the ongoing battleground should be required reading for anyone desiring a thorough and informed portrait of what the past has created and what the future holds for the Middle East and the world at large.”
Associated Press Staff
“The author's quick-paced account is a thrilling adventure story laced with historical context to help readers make sense of the longstanding sectarian hatreds that propel the violence in Iraq and elsewhere. . . . No one can argue that Engel, now NBC's chief foreign correspondent, missed the boat when he decided to head to the Middle East to cover what he believed would be his generation's biggest news venue. ‘My ambition was to ride the train of history, and the train came rumbling right at me.’”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Engel offers an adventurous overview of the past, present and future of the area.”
New York Social Diary - Liz Smith
“Engel — who is NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent — offers a brisk, concise, often-hair-raising saga beginning with his early, fondly remembered years in Cairo, to the increasing bloodshed and intransigent policies, wars and terrorism of Jerusalem, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan . . . The book often reads like a thriller . . .”
The Jerusalem Post
“[Engel’s] fascinating new book . . . chronicles his often dangerous journey in a complicated neck of the woods. Engel was always restless, driven and filled with wanderlust. . . . Engel has proved to be a fearless reporter. He has covered every major crisis with incredible moxie. . . . Engel spends a large portion of his narrative deftly explaining to us these sectarian differences and their centuries-old history.”
The Kansas City Star
“Brisk . . . Engel, the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, has written an absorbing book about his eventful career. . . . At heart, [the book] is a nerve-racking autobiography by a journalist on the front lines, covering wars and terrorism in Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, Iraq and Syria. On another level, it’s an informative portrait of a troubled region, one that has been unduly influenced by charlatans and madmen and poorly served by two consecutive American presidents, Engel argues.”
Library Journal
NBC Chief Foreign Correspondent Engel, whose stash of honors include Peabody and Overseas Press Club awards, reflects on his nearly 20 years of covering Middle East conflict, starting with a massacre in Egypt when he was just signing on as a reporter. Since then, he's seen war in Iraq, the fall of Gaddafi, the Arab Spring, and the rise of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS while surviving a kidnapping in Syria.
Kirkus Reviews
A deft personal account of a career spent reporting from the Middle East, witnessing the evaporation of peace and stability. NBC chief foreign correspondent Engel (War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq, 2008, etc.) takes a confident, thorough approach to this fusion of memoir and journalistic narrative, beginning with evolutionary overviews of both Islam and the modern Middle East. Looking back, he concludes that his own youthful, improvisational journalistic beginnings in Egypt in 1997 coincided with the impending downfall of dictators like Saddam Hussein. "Saddam was the first of the Arab big men to go," he writes. In cleanly structured chapters, the author explores his reporting during particular flash points, beginning with ominous early examples of fundamentalist terrorism, through the Syrian war and the spread of the Islamic State group, illustrating a harsh thesis of entropy fueled by successive American administrations: "Bush's aggressive interventionism and Obama's timidity and inconsistency completely destroyed the status quo." Engel's personalized viewpoint supports this claim, presenting a coherent episodic narrative alongside his own high-risk career. He was offered a position as Palestinian-affairs correspondent for a French press agency in time to witness the violent Second Intifada. From there, he often wound up in harm's way, as when he found himself the last American correspondent in Baghdad at the outset of the second Iraq War, leading to employment as a foreign correspondent for ABC. The depth of Engel's experience is clear, yet his boldness may have led to an overconfidence that contributed to his 2012 kidnapping in Syria. "Those [experiences] gave me a false sense of security, and I guess I got greedy," he writes. "In journalism, you never want to get greedy." Engel seems capable and likably frank, in contrast to his pessimistic conclusions: "A lot of killing remains to be done before leaders of stature emerge—and before the fires of chaos are tamped down once again." An intriguing journalistic memoir built around a lucid, alarming overview of where the Middle East has been and where it is heading.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 2.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

And Then All Hell Broke Loose

  • THE OFFICES OF THE MIDDLE East times were in the Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo, on an island in the Nile. Zamalek was a cosmopolitan oasis, with nineteenth-century apartment blocks and villas. It was known for its restaurants and cafés and was a favorite of European expats. You could go into a restaurant in Zamalek, find a waiter who spoke English, and get a beer and Western food.

    When the phone rang at midday, one of our tipsters said there had been a shooting on a tourist bus in front of the Egyptian Museum. The museum is in Tahrir Square, the busiest part of downtown, the Times Square of Cairo. The newspaper was a short hop away. You go across one bridge and you’re almost there. I jumped in a cab and arrived five minutes later. Our tipster had been fast because the attack had just happened.

  • Meet the Author

    Richard Engel is the award winning Chief-Foreign Correspondent for NBC and has been in the Middle East war zone for over twenty years. He is the author of And Then All Hell Broke Loose, War Journal, and A Fist in the Hornet’s Nest.

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    And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    If you want to understand why ISIS exists, you must read this book. He was there, he saw it as it happened and he doesn't sugarcoat the USA'S blunders in the Middle East.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Compelling, I couldn' t put it down.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This should be a guide for any politician who wants to make the same mistakes that have been made since the end of World War 1. Excellent read eritten by someone who was there.
    Tacitus 5 months ago
    An exciting account of political developments in the Middle East since 1996 by the NBC News correspondent who has covered events from the Arab Spring in Egypt to the war in Iraq to the rise of ISIS in Syria. It provides a running account of his career as a TV correspondent, as well as well as explanations of developments in each country he covered.
    Anonymous 9 months ago
    Anonymous 12 months ago
    VeggieGirl1 More than 1 year ago
    B-loNY More than 1 year ago
    The bad guys would love to get their hands on this guy. Exceptional book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Never disapears
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago