Kisses From Nimbus From SAS to MI6: An Autobiography by PJ ‘Red’ Riley
Shot at, bombed, imprisoned and arrested for murder. His is the story the establishment doesn’t want you to read.
Captain P. J. “Red” Riley is an ex-SAS soldier who served for eighteen years as an MI6 agent.
Riley escaped internment in Chile during the Falklands war during an audacious top-secret attempt to attack the Argentinian mainland.
He was imprisoned in the darkness of the Sierra Leonean jungle, and withstood heavy fire in war-torn Beirut and Syria.
In 2015, he was arrested for murder but all charges were later dropped.
In this searing memoir, Riley reveals the brutal realities of his service, and the truth behind the newspaper headlines featuring some of the most significant events in recent British history. His account provides startling new evidence on the Iraq war, what Tony Blair really knew about Saddam Hussain’s weapons of mass destruction before the allied invasion, and questions the British government’s alleged involvement in the death of Princess Diana.
Chaotic, darkly humorous and at times heart-wrenchingly sad, Kisses From Nimbus charts the harrowing real-life experiences of a soldier and spy in the name of Queen and country.
Q) For the readers can you give a summary of your memoir and you background?
A) A. I didn’t really. At first I just wanted to leave a few details of my life for my children and grandchildren, then someone came up with the suggestion that I should write a book. Now, I have been called many things during my long and often less than illustrious career with Her Britannic Majesty’s Government, but never an author. Nevertheless, I decided to get started.
I was introduced to a ghost writer but after only a couple of sessions it became clear to me that I wasn’t going to like what was being produced so we parted company. I then recalled the profound words of my dear departed father. ‘If tha wants owt doin, do it tha Sen’.
A new Poundland shop had just opened in Oswaldtwistle, a village not far from Accrington, so I decided to pay it a visit. I purchased a packet of twenty pens for a pound – yes that’s right – a pound! They used to cost more than that for one, for goodness sake! Sorry, I digress. But it just doesn’t seem to be possible that anyone can manufacture twenty pens, package them, ship them half way around the world and make a profit for only five pence each. I don’t know how many US cents that is, but it can’t be many. Where was I? Oh yes. Constructing an autobiography.
I simply sat down with my packet of pens and five note books (I am now fighting the urge to prattle on about how much the note books cost and where I got them from), and started to scribble. I quickly learned the importance of double-line spacing and only writing on alternate sheets. The amount of amendments and insertions rapidly made the pages indecipherable.
But slowly, memories turned into written words and the words became a story, which then became Kisses From Nimbus.
I spent most of my time writing, on my own, in my small villa in the mountains of Spain. I transposed the manuscript on to my iPad and sent a few hundred words at a time as an email to my wife Carol. She would then correct the grammar and the appawling spelling (see what I mean?) and knock it in to some sort of shape acceptable to a literary agent or publisher.
I was determined not to create another military history or an expose of the British Secret Intelligence Service, concentrating instead on the more personal side of my career. It wasn’t long after I started to write that I was contacted by the Government’s legal department and warned that I should not write ANYTHING, be it autobiographical or even fiction. And that if I did then I was likely to be indicted and possibly prosecuted under the Official Secret Act. The view of my lawyers is that my human rights take precedence over any other law, and I therefore decided to proceed towards publication.
I have been careful not to identify any individuals or give details of any on-going operations which could endanger the lives of agents or their families and aimed to build a vagueness into the details of any operations that I have mentioned.
Q) My husband is also a military veteran. We married when I was 17yrs old and he was 19yrs old, just a year, fresh out of basic training. He served for 15yrs and we moved all over, including Cyprus. Military life, is a life you just can’t explain to civvies. From the dodgy quarters to the naked bar lol My husband also served in Sierra Leone just before we met. He has explained and described the Sierra Leone jungle to me many times! How do you get that across on the page? Is it difficult to fully set the scene for readers?
A) Yes. Of the 25 years I spent in the Army I probably spent about 2 of them at home with my family, hence the self-criticism in the book regarding my performance as a husband and father.
I think my style of writing is unusual and a far cry from artistic. Rather sub-consciously, I tend to leave most characterisation and scenery to the reader’s imagination. As an example, rather than writing ‘ The door stood ominously ajar as I approached from the darkness. Tiny drops of rain frozen onto the deep blue paintwork caught the light from the waxing moon and glistened like distant stars. The large brass doorknob sapped what little warmth remained in my body as I eased the door open and stepped into welcoming 2015.
Q) The memoir details your arrest for murder in 2015. There have been significant cases in the press, of military personnel facing jail time for actions in war or Northern Ireland. In example the debate of Marine A, is one that me and my husband have spoken of regularly. With both of us pointing out various for/against point of view. We both felt that military personnel shouldn’t face trail by media or civilian court but by a military court with peers whom have served at war. What are your opinions on military personnel facing court cases?
A) As you will understand when you read Kisses from Nimbus, the murder I was arrested for, some 25 years after the event, was quite different from the one you might expect an ex soldier to be arrested for. Nevertheless I do feel quite strongly about the persecution of British servicemen and women accused of of unlawful killing during military operations, sometimes going back as far as fifty years. The investigations were in the main promoted by lawyers involved with the recently disgraced Iraq Historic Allegations Team. IHAT was closed down and some of the lawyers involved imprisoned after being found to have made totally unsubstantiated claims in order to make huge amounts of money. It would be reasonable to assume that that was the end of the matter but the government then established another team under another name and started the whole sordid process again!
The fog of war makes the gathering of reliable evidence against an accused soldier almost impossible, especially when years and possibly decades have passed. But unscrupulous lawyers are still being paid millions of pounds to undertake witch hunts based upon the flimsiest of evidence. When the investigations uncover nothing that could be relied on in a court of law the same lawyers are tasked again and again until their pockets are stuffed to overflowing. Meanwhile the alleged perpetrators of the crimes suffer months and even years of being hounded, sometimes to the brink of suicide. It is total madness and the government should show a duty of care to its employees, both past and present, just as any other reasonable employee would be expected to do.
The second Gulf war was started on the premise that Saddam Hussain was capable of launching Weapons of Mass Destruction against it’s enemies within forty minutes. One of my chapters catalogues how unequivocal evidence was provided to the British( and presumably the US ) government that no such weapons were in existence. Even if one could have been found there was no way it could ever have been launched within forty minutes.
I can only speak as a veteran with twenty-five years’ regular service. Obviously not all nation’s armed forces are beyond reproach and have the same ethos as the British. But I can honestly say that I never at any time witnessed anything that could be construed as a war crime.
Soldiers are often criticised or blamed for starting unnecessary military actions but believe me they only ever carry out the directives of the politicians. As the old saying goes. ‘ Mine is not to reason why. Mine is just to do or die’.
Q) In the UK/USA we have record high levels of homeless veterans on the streets. When my husband was medically discharged, he was given very little support. Sometimes I feel this is a dirty secret the government would love to see hushed up! I am a firm believer in ‘If you send them you should mend them’. The fight for justice/compensation/pensions/rights, is often tougher than the war itself. What do you think could be done to prevent the homelessness? Whilst also supporting current troops upon leaving the service?
A) I quite agree with you when you say that ‘if you send them you should mend them’ and I am sad to say that the British government has not been the best at mending any of its broken servicemen and women. Very few jobs entail putting ones life on the line. I believe that anyone who has done that, even once, deserves to be looked after properly for the remainder of their lives.
I do hate the thought of anyone who has served their country having to sleep on the streets, and my wife and I have often thought that we would like to establish a charity to provide decent accommodation for homeless ex service personnel. Who knows. Perhaps if a million or so copies of Kisses from Nimbus are sold then we can do just that.
Help is available in the United Kingdom through various charities to help not only with physical injuries but also with Post Traumatic Stress and other mental illnesses. But I would certainly like to see more positive help coming from the government directly or by them providing more funding for the charitable organisations.
It certainly seems to me to be completely unjust that more compensation is likely to be paid to a company director who has been wrongly dismissed than to a young soldier who has had both his legs blown off.
Q) Finally, now you have penned your memoir. Will you move into the realms of action/thriller novels?
A) I am already well into my next book. Although it is a novel it is based largely on true events. It definitely doesn’t involve another ex SAS hero turned vigilante, you may be pleased to know. I suppose it would be classed as a thriller since murder is definitely an integral part and I have tried my best to make it a whodunnit in the finest traditions of Agatha Christie
This is the first time I have ever written anything for a blog (never even read one before actually) so thank you so much for inviting me.
*Huge thanks to the author for agreeing to be part of a Q&A on my blog! I wish you every success with the release of your memoir.