A Season in Hell

A Season in Hell

My 130 Days in the Sahara With Al Qaeda

Book - 2011
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For decades, Robert R. Fowler was a dominant force in Canadian foreign affairs. In one heart-stopping minute, all of that changed. On December 14, 2008, Fowler, acting as the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Niger, was kidnapped by Al Qaeda, becoming the highest ranked UN official ever held captive. Along with his colleague Louis Guay, Fowler lived, slept and ate with his captors for nearly five months, gaining rare first-hand insight into the motivations of the world's most feared terror group. Fowler's capture, release and subsequent appearances have helped shed new light on foreign policy and security issues as we enter the second decade of the "War on Terror."

A Season in Hell is Fowler's compelling story of his captivity, told in his own words, but it's also a startlingly frank discussion about the state of a world redefined by clashing civilizations.

Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins Canada, c2011.
ISBN: 9781443402040
Characteristics: xxi, 342 p., [16] p. of plates :,col. ill., maps, col. ports. ;,24 cm.


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Jan 07, 2015

Fowler had nothing good to say about the RCMP or DFAIT nor their understanding of the situation in West Africa. Fowler is not a writer, so his account is somewhat stilted. This is the perspective of a Canadian liberal bureaucrat.

This is an amazing book the last chapter is the piece de resistance, with its diplomatic critique of the RCMP and the Department of Defence as well as snub at British politicians who were so anxious to save face the criticized the Canadians for letting Africa intercede. The brutal truth of captivity, including life threatening constipation, is something I will never forget as I continue to read in the new about beheadings and kidnappings by religious fanatics

Jun 05, 2013

Interesting story but sometimes it goes into too much detail as the author is describing being tied up, taken from one location to another, etc. I really did not need to read 3 pages about constipation and the details of making an enema out of recycled materials and the resulting effect. In general, I found the kidnappers to be disgusting hillbillies. They had no interest in anything other than their religion, kidnapping, and ridding the area of infidels. Why don't they do something useful for their region like building it up or providing education? Mr. Fowler will be speaking in Ottawa in October. It is not mentioned in this book but it was in the news recently that Canada paid $1M ransom to free him.

BPLNextBestAdults Jan 17, 2013

Retired Canadian diplomat, Robert Fowler’s recent, personal recounting of his kidnapping by Islamic fundamentalists is especially timely given recent events in Mali & Libya. Shortly before Christmas 2008, Fowler, fellow Canadian diplomat, Louis Guay and their local driver are grabbed off the road in Niger and quickly trucked across the Sahara desert to a series of bleak camps in northern Mali. What follows can be described as 4 months of extreme camping. Fowler details their health problems, their attempts to fight off boredom and their attempts to communicate with a rotating group of guards. Their captors are portrayed as joyless, committed, with a narrow focus. The only authority they recognize is Allah speaking through the Qur’an. Non-believers, who wish to substitute any other authority, including democracy, for God’s, must be killed as blasphemers.
The book can be read on both a personal, “How would I have reacted if I’d been kidnapped” level and to gain insight to current jihadist terrorism.

Aug 06, 2012

This is a very sobering book which offers much to reflect on; reflections on how they coped, relations with the captors, insight into the captors perceptions and goals, the roles the Mali and Bukino Faso presidents played in their release, and critique of RCMP and Canadian Defense department.
This is a must read book to have a look inside their world and mindset.

Feb 05, 2012

I was in the audience when Fowler gave a presentation of his ordeal to members of the Vancouver Institute at UBC several months after his release. While his book covers the same info, I wanted more details on the terms of his release. Fowler is not forthright in stating what those terms were...money, release of imprisoned Al-qaida fighters, etc. Thus the 4 star rating. In his account, however, Fowler contrasts his own captive experience with several other news stories of such events and thus he underlines how lucky he was to have achieved freedom in such a short time. The reader can read between the lines what his terms of release might have been. Fowler writes as though he is speaking to a friend so the adventure is easy to read. He leaves the politics he was involved in as well as those of his captors for the appendix.

Jan 23, 2012

This Canadian author was a senior government official who was captured by Al Qaeda in 2008 and held for ransom for 8 months. It is a very worthwhile read, and very readable. Robert Fowler details the daily problems and discomforts that made his kidnap sometimes tortuous. But you also learn a lot about his captors and what they represent. Very interesting!


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LudditeLord Dec 17, 2012

“Their minds were alien to me,” Robert Fowler.

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