18 Apr The Shot by Sarah Sultoon
Conflict flares between a seasoned war photographer and rookie reporter
There is a church on Fleet Street in London, St Brides, which pays homage to some of the unsung heroes of war – the journalists and photographers who put themselves into danger to bring home the truth of what is happening in battle-torn countries and paid the ultimate price.
On the journalists’ altar, names and faces that once flitted across our TV screens or appeared in newspaper reports remind us of their ultimate sacrifice – people like Marie Colvin who died alongside French journalist Remi Ochlik while on tour of duty in Syria.
We read about them, and cry for them, but can we really appreciate not just the physical but emotional toll of the job they do?
As a former production editor and journalist for a major news network, author Sarah Sultoon knows only too well the personal ramifications of “holding power to account” and brings all her experience to bear in this fictional story of two journalists prepared to put their life on the line for others.
The story opens in 2003, taking us straight into the heart of war-torn Iraq.
Samira Nassar and Kris Gonzales couldn’t be more different. She’s a minor player in the newsroom, working the nightshift at the London offices while longing to get out in the field. Young, idealistic and yearning to make a difference in the world, she’s ready to seize her opportunities.
He’s a seasoned photo-journalist, just back from a spell in Iraq where he has been seriously wounded. Cynical after all he has seen, he no longer believes reporting atrocities has any effect back home – but what other job can he do?
Circumstances see Sami and Kris working together on assignments in Afghanistan, Iraq and Darfur, bringing the stories of innocent victims of war to screens back home. People like Ahmed in Iraq, who has lost all his family to the wars there; Habibi in Afghanistan, who self-immolated to escape her abusive husband; Yousra in Darfur who saw her young daughter raped in front of her.
Sami and Kris know they must do all in their power to help them, but with their different attitudes comes different approaches to their methods. That causes conflict between them, and leads to a powerful denouement almost as shocking as the stories themselves.
What a powerful novel!
While it takes us into the danger zones, helping us understand just a fraction of what it must be like to be caught up in conflict, it also takes up different, important and fascinating themes and issues about humanity and inhumanity, addressing them through the narrative in a wholly accessible way.
There’s the question of whether or not journalism does make a difference to people’s lives. Of how much we truly care once we put down our papers or switch off the TV. Of whether the news networks put profit before people, exploiting their employees in their quest for good stories.
Then there’s the issue of idealism. Is Kris right to scoff at Sami’s optimism and ambition? Will we see her lose her missionary fervour once she is out in the field and discover, like Kris, that some of the worst battles are in your own head?
Running alongside these themes is the other, very important issue of just what has shaped Sami and Kris. Both are haunted by their fathers though they couldn’t be more different – Sami’s journalist father lost his life in Iraq; Kris’s abusive father kept him in fear of his life.
Is their choice of job a subconscious way of making amends to their family?
This story works on the reader on so many levels. The pace, power and emotional pull of Kris and Sami’s story is one that, for me anyway, kept me turning the pages, and made me ponder how I react to the news I see every night – especially now, with the continuing crisis in Ukraine.
Fictional their story maybe, but Kris and Sami hold a light to all that is good and bad in our world.
Your emotions will be wrung out by the end, and you’ll never watch the news in the same way again, but you’ll be gripped to the pages of this dramatic, truly thought-provoking book.
The Shot by Sarah Sultoon, published by Orenda Books, is available in paperback and ebook here
About the Author
Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs.
As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television.
When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if…
Her debut thriller The Source is currently in production with Lime Pictures, and was a Capital Crime Book Club pick and a number one bestseller on Kindle.
Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blogtour and to publisher Orenda for a copy of the book.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster