High Risk

A True Story of the SAS, Drugs and Other Bad Behaviour

May 2021 9781787384637 328pp
Temporarily out of stock
August 2022 9781787388420 328pp
Available as an eBook  Available as an Audiobook
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This is a dark, raw and uncompromising tale of the human condition in extremis, drawing on the many lives of Ben Timberlake: as an archaeologist, Special Forces soldier, combat medic and drug addict.

Starting with Ben’s first near-death experience—in a Nazi-themed bar in wartime Yugoslavia—High Risk is a whirlwind tour of everything from service in the SAS, combat in Iraq, and encounters with a gambling-obsessed 9/11 hijacker, to veterans blissed out on MDMA, hook-ups in the world of extreme sex, and battling a heroin habit on a remote Scottish island.

Ben pursued the rush, and the chase often took him over the edge. Instead of asking why, he asked, why not? Blending confessional narrative, classic reportage and acerbic humour, this memoir takes a gonzo look at terrorists, junkies, soldiers and strippers, through the tale of one extraordinary life. 


‘The cost of human life was so low down there.’ Ben Timberlake talks to Times Radio about his near-death experience in a Nazi-themed bar in wartime Yugoslavia, his time in the SAS and his struggle with drug addiction.

‘[Timberlake’s] powers as both observer and writer make the journey utterly compelling. … It’s rare to find a book like this where the writing is just as exhilarating as the thrills. It is dark, visceral, clever and very funny. Boy’s Own with brains.’ — Justin Marozzi, The Sunday Times

‘Funny, chaotic but unexpectedly profound, [High Risk] provides not just a clear-eyed memoir of addiction, but an examination of human behaviour and the reasons why some people choose to put themselves in situations that most others would not.’ — Times Magazine

‘While publisher after publisher wanted him to tell an Andy McNab style story of hard men at war, Timberlake went his own way, writing a book that is as profound as it is eye-popping.’ — Vice

‘Full of scintillating prose and postmodern ruminations that explore topics ranging from the hive mind flow state of US Marines bounding through the city’s hostile streets to … the unfathomable beauty of dropping ecstasy on a Ramadi rooftop at Christmas.’ — Coffee or Die

‘A damn scary book so of course I loved it. Ben Timberlake makes a neurobiological experiment in a laboratory that I’d advise everyone to stay out of—the self. High Risk is, in a way, the story of a wicked Mr Hyde inventing a serum to transform himself into a reputable Dr Jekyll. Let’s hope the serum keeps working.’ — P.J. O’Rourke, author of Give War a Chance and Holidays in Hell

‘A riotous joyride to Hell and back… a life story that sits somewhere between a pilgrimage and a dare. Timberlake’s writing hits unexpected, lyrical notes and makes original, illuminating connections. Ferociously smart, startlingly honest and very, very funny.’ — Kate Weinberg, novelist and author of The Truants

‘An intimate, deep and poignant account of the adrenaline-driven yet toxic nexus of war, sex and drugs, Timberlake’s memoir is as disturbing as it is addictively absorbing. A powerful book.’ — Łukasz Kamieński, author of Shooting Up: A History of Drugs in Warfare


Ben Timberlake is a security consultant and medic in high-risk areas, specialising in Iraq and Syria. In a previous life his undercover missions concerned nuclear terrorism, the Far Right, and the trafficking of people, wildlife, looted antiquities and organs. He has written for the Financial Times, The Guardian and The Economist, and made Channel 4 and Discovery films on topics from Japanese mummies to prehistoric rock art.

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