SO who writes the best modern special forces army books in the world – is it Andy McNab or Chris Ryan? Read on and I will give you a definitive answer without any fudging of the reasons.
Both are ex SAS and served in the same unit. Andy was a high profile captured soldier while Chris escaped, the only member of the unit to do so, in the Iraq conflict in the early 1990s. Respect to both of them for that, they are far braver and been through a lot more danger than I can imagine and I am in awe as a result.
Both of them started writing careers when they left the SAS and both have been successful. I am pretty sure I have read all of their books and really enjoy them all. So neither is a bad writer, both are good, however I’d like to answer the question which author would I take to a desert island if there was only one choice.
The Chris Ryan books are mostly stand alone stories with gritty characters with a real world believability stitched in to them. The writing is not terribly descriptive or evocative. It is basic nuts and bolts, it gets the job done, just the way you expect a soldier to approach a task and complete it successfully.
What is magic about it though is that believability. A little disturbing at times, it is exactly the sort of thing that not only you believe can happen but somewhere know actually happens. His credibility is high and that is borne out by the endings of his stories. Don’t expect happy endings for American movie script writers. Tragedy and pain are there in equal measure and rather than disappoint, they reinforce the credibility.
Andy McNab writes with a little more grammatical flair but the differences are his books are plainly fiction. Nick Stone is his main character and while you empathise and get into the character, he is always a fictional character. A bit like James Bond, he’s great to read about but isn’t real.
The backgrounds and information in the McNab books are well presented and while you read it you know that it is based on real life, not actually real life. That is the big difference with Chris Ryan, I’d half expect the Ryan books to come with the caveat: “based on a true story.”
Both great storytellers but the credibility and real world belief that Ryan delivers makes him my choice every time.