A Book Review of ‘The Sett’ by Ranulph Fiennes. Published 1996 by William Heinemann. London.
This incredible biography leaves the reader thinking ‘could this really be true?’ This mild mannered, archetypal man called Alex Goodman, (not his real name), should surely be the hero of the next action packed blockbuster. An Accountant by profession, his life is irrevocably changed on the afternoon of 29th July, 1984, whilst walking in the woods with his wife and daughter. After witnessing a horrendous badger killing, he is savagely beaten and none the wiser when he awakes in a Birmingham hospital, suffering from traumatic amnesia. In the following year, his memory gradually returns and what unfolds are riveting ‘cat and nine lives’ type scenarios, whilst he seeks revenge for the callous murders of his wife and daughter. The search for his family’s killers eventually takes nine years.
Since regaining his memory, Alex Goodman is thrust into the world of the now defunct, but notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (B.C.C.I.), C.I.A. and the White House He faces drug runners, the illegal traders in human organs, repugnant badger baiters, as well as murderers, using torture and extreme violence as a way of life. Could these events really happen to a quiet, family orientated white collar worker, whom after reading ‘The Feather Men’, approached the author in the hope of having his own story told? Alex Goodman knew he was dying. He wanted his story published. His resolute motivation to avenge the deaths of his family is commendable. After being taken in and accepted by a criminal drug and manufacturing gang who called themselves ‘The Family’, he was approached by American government agents to infiltrate the B.C.C.I., as an employee to gain access to the information needed to bring the Bank down.
Alex Goodman uncovered corruption on a massive scale involving the C.I.A., the White House, the kidnapping and systematic murder of South American children to obtain human organs for sale on the black market and the workings of ethnic gangs within the United States and Britain. Readers of this book will be intrigued by the detailed recounting of the events which take place. Throughout the book, the events, names and places has been meticulously researched and backed with authentic documentation. This attention to detail is a hallmark of Fiennes’ writing and the reader will not be disappointed.
Goodman does find love again, but the union is short-lived. He befriends a prostitute, who, after some time feels empathy for this strange man who has appeared in her life, and he learns to love again. She bears him a child, but Goodman’s tragedy is compounded when both are killed as he hunts the assassin of his first family. Again and again Goodman has escaped from the revenge of the killers he hunts, only to discover that the friends and acquaintances he has made on this incredible quest are themselves killed.
‘The Sett’ is undoubtedly, amongst one of the best books I have read. This ‘tour de force’ story conjures up many emotions. The cruelty involved in the badger killings was almost unreadable. Many a time I thought I could not continue, but the compelling story drew me back each time. All animal lovers and animal liberationists will find these chapters difficult to digest and come to terms with. The combination of violence, killing and the ‘edge of your seat’ scenarios make this book impossible to put down. Some readers may challenge the veracity of this book, and indeed this story does leave you wondering, how can a normal common man be caught up in the whirlwind of violence and intrigue that descended on Alex Goodman? As they say “You wouldn’t read about it!”
Sir Ranulph Fiennes is not only an accomplished author, he has also received the ‘Order of the British Empire’ from Her Majesty the Queen in 1993 for his efforts in raising 14 million pounds for charity. He was named ‘Best Sportsman’ in the 2007 ITV Great Britain Awards and in 2009 he became the oldest British citizen to successfully reach the summit of Mount Everest. These accolades pale into insignificance when viewed in the light of the trials and tribulations of Alex Goodman, a simple common man who only sought justice for the wrongs perpetrated against him by the evil men that lurk in the world’s shadows.