Friends, sorry, today’s selection of my reading again comes from the New Yorker. You can read the abstract on their site. If you have a subscription, you should be able to see it online. If not, sneak into a doctor’s office and ‘borrow’ their copy.
The story profiles Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. You may remember the movie Lord of War—in it Nicholas Cage plays a character loosely based on Bout.
I tried to interview Bout a few years ago for a special I filmed with my friend and producer, Peggy Holter, about the AK-47. At the time he was on the lam and we didn’t get Bout, but we did manage to interview his finance guy, Richard Chichakli, in Moscow, who was also on the run from US and international authorities.
While in Moscow we also interviewed Mikhail Kalashnikov who invented the AK-47 in 1947 (hence the name). Fascinating fellow. He stands about four-foot-something high, was about 90 years old at the time and remained sharp as a tack. He was deafer than I am, though, which is saying a lot, but I couldn’t blame him for it. He’s a huge national hero in Russia and from what I could tell he’s followed by fireworks and a brass band everywhere he goes.
For the piece we also interviewed Ishmael Beah who wrote A Long Way Gone, a heart-wrenching memoir of his experience as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. It’s truly an incredible tale and Ishmael is one of the most beautiful people, both inside and out, whom I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
It was great special and reminds me how much I miss working with Peggy Holter. What an incredible producer she is.
(One side note: this special was filmed five years ago. As a television journalist I’m proud to say my voicing is much better now, even if it is a little cringe-worthy to hear how it used to be. I share with you the good, the bad and the ugly. Cheers, Josh)