2013 Finalist


Robert R. Fowler

A Season in Hell: My 130 Days In the Sahara With Al Qaeda

A Season in Hell: My 130 Days In the Sahara With Al Qaedaby Robert R. Fowler

In the fading sunlight of a quiet Sunday afternoon in mid-December 2008, Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, the UN Secretary-General's special Envoy for Niger and an experienced Africa hand, along with his colleague Louis Guay and their driver, were kidnapped in a "slick, violent, well-coordinated and impeccably executed grab" by the notorious Al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM.) In severe pain, profoundly disoriented, sleep-deprived, desperate and virtually robbed of sight when his eyeglasses are ripped from his face, Fowler is nevertheless the consummate observer of his surroundings, and the reader experiences with him, day by day, the physically and psychologically punishing months of his "Season in Hell" in the vast and hostile Sahel.

We come to know the terrifying quirks of his captors: often unpredictable and nervous, reckless and even foolish, but always menacing and vigilant; we come to learn about - if not exactly understand - the extreme fatalism of these jihadi warriors, the depth of their religious beliefs and commitments, rooted in the 7th century but practiced in this 21st century world. And because the reader sees only what the author sees, and knows only what Fowler knows, the book reads with the tension and pacing of a fictional thriller, despite the fact that we know from the outset what the eventual outcome will be.

Fowler's gripping account, from the moment of his abduction, is astonishingly detailed, at times chillingly detached and at times heart-wrenchingly moving, but always nuanced and thoughtful, never maudlin or self-aggrandizing. And while never bogging down in unnecessary background or context, Fowler poses critical questions about foreign policy and security issues, and gives the reader a powerful insight into an unknown but strategically crucial part of the world.

British Columbia Achievement Foundation
T. 604.261.9777 | Toll Free 866.882.6088 (in BC)
E. info@bcachievement.com
F. 604.261.1964


2015 Longlist


BC's National Award for Non-Fiction information


Previous Award Winners