hack in a flak jacket

Hack in a Flak Jacket – A review by Mr B!

Have you ever heard Billy Birmingham (a.k.a. the Twelfth Man) impersonate Richie Benaud in a pre-match rev-up of the rest of the Channel 9 cricket commentary team? It’s a bit like that here at Duffy the Writer. Duffy gets us going with stuff about the pen being mightier than the sword and regales us with stories of her most challenging reviews and then we all warm up by spelling a few tricky words………us junior book reviewers love it! The end of the meeting is particularly exciting because we find out what books we will be reviewing. One can of course volunteer to review a book, but then one has to be careful not to jump in too early………..

So I was sitting on the edge of my seat when Duffy called out the name of a new author. All I heard amongst all the din was: “Stefanovic”. My arm shot up! I thought this had to be Karl Stefanovic’s autobiography. The King of Australian Breakfast TV!

I thought he might come clean on whether he really was pissed on TV after the 2009 Logies:


I thought I might get some insight into the man who recently had to apologise to members of the LBGTQI community for calling them “trannies”:


But NO! It wasn’t King Karl. It was his brother, Peter. The boring one! Or so I thought…………….

Peter Stefanovic was Channel 9’s foreign correspondent in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for almost 10 years. “Hack in a Flak Jacket” is his account of the wars, riots and revolutions he covered over what must have seemed like a life time of reporting.

He gets right into some of the biggest news stories of our time. The bombing of Gaza by Israel in 2014, BOOM! The fall of Colonel Gaddafi and his regime during 2014, BOOM! The dawn of the Arab Spring in Egypt in 2011, BOOM! The Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris in 2015, BOOM! The shooting rampage of a mad gunman in Norway in 2011, BOOM! Fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, BOOM! The war in Ukraine, BOOM! Earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, BOOM!

This is not a book for those who like happy stories. It is raw. It is real. It demonstrates man’s inhumanity to man in some of the poorest and harshest places on Earth. It could only be written by a journalist on the ground. Being on the ground can mean life and death are not far apart. Early in the book for example, Stefanovic recounts how he and his cameraman heard the roar of an Israeli jet fly over Gaza and drop a bomb on a building just a few hundred metres away:

“The noise was deafening, and it happened so fast. In the time it took us just to look to the sky in response to the noise, a huge column of dark smoke was already rising from the bomb’s destination and the jet had vanished in the distance. Lives were gone in an instant.

……..We jumped in the car, and sped directly to the smoke and fire.”

So at what point do we start to question your sanity Peter?

Towards the end of the book, he lightens things up a bit with chapters on the Oscar Pistorius trial and the death of Michael Jackson.

For anyone out there thinking of being a foreign correspondent, this book is a great insight into what it can be like. Clearly one has to have a passion for telling news even in the most difficult of circumstances. In a chapter headed “Trouble Within” in which he talks about the psychological impact of witnessing constant scenes of death and chaos, Stefanovic gives us this:

“Being a foreign correspondent is truly the greatest profession and I always regarded my time travelling the world as a great privilege. I was lucky to be covering the biggest world events in recent history. I put my heart into every single story I told and worked hard to air as much as I could. That, to me, was important. The stories needed to be told, and I believe Australians are intelligent people who want to know what is going on in the rest of the world because we live so far away.

My time as a correspondent was not just a privilege, but also a real-life thrill ride. An adventure that I was always seeking. Breaking international news from one country to the next – I loved it.”

This is an honest book about one man’s unique experiences. To most of you who read it, it might seem to be about another world. In many ways it is. We have problems here in Australia, but nothing like those described in this book. The author’s style is engaging and he makes clever use of short, sharp sentences when he is describing the action. Remember the camera work in the opening scenes of “Saving Private Ryan”? I think short, sharp sentences can achieve that sort of effect in the mind of a reader.

Through a combination of good luck, good contacts and some good old Aussie common sense (in fact he reckons being an Aussie got him out of some tight spots because nobody has any beefs with Aussies……well, not too many), Stefanovic survived his journeys abroad. He is now safely back in Channel 9’s studios in Sydney and looking forward to getting married to Today Show newsreader Sylvia Jeffreys. Here is a picture of the happy couple:

hack in a flack jacket

Way to go Pete! You are punching above your weight buddy! Just make sure you let Sylvia choose your honeymoon destination!


Hack in a Flak Jacket is available from Booktopia now and this copy was read by Mr B in exchange for an honest review.