Six Years with Al Qaeda

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Six Years with Al Qaeda is the winner of the South African Book Awards Adult Non-fiction Category 2021.

While riding his motorbike through Mali, on his way home from London to Johannesburg,
Steve McGown was taken captive in Timbuktu by Al Qaeda. Life as he knew it, changed in
that instant. With nothing to bargain with and everything to lose, for the next six years
Steve became reluctantly engaged in what he refers to as, “the greatest chess game of my
life.”

Reviews
“Genuinely gripping, surprising and haunting. Steve’s perspective is inspiring at a time when we could all use some inspiration.” – Rebecca Davis

“It draws you in immediately, starting with the kidnapping then backtracking to the broader sweep of McGown’s life. It’s an excellent read, part adventure story, part psychological drama, and part warning, perhaps, not to go gallivanting through war zones.” – Lesley Stones (via https://lesleystones.co.za/content/six-years-al-qaeda)

“This book was very much better than I had expected. Stephen McGown is a thoughtful man, and his reactions are rarely kneejerk. He was determined, if at all possible, both to survive and come out of the ordeal a better person. His reflections on one of the world’s most feared terror organisations are perceptive and nuanced.” – Vivien Horler (via https://thebookspage.co.za/2021/01/31/adventure-in-the-desert-turns-to-nightmare/)

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Description

While riding his motorbike through Mali, on his way home from London to Johannesburg,
Steve McGown was taken captive in Timbuktu by Al Qaeda. Life as he knew it, changed in
that instant. With nothing to bargain with and everything to lose, for the next six years
Steve became reluctantly engaged in what he refers to as, “the greatest chess game of my
life.”

Thousands of kilometres away in Johannesburg, the shock of his kidnapping hit his wife Cath
and the rest of the McGown family. Working every option they could find, from established
diplomatic protocols to the murky back channels of the kidnap game, they set to work on
trying to free Steve.

As the months turned into years, Steve would have to go to extraordinary lengths to survive
both his prison and his prisoners. His sole focus was to make it back home and to raise his
status among Al Qaeda. Steve taught himself French, Arabic, converted to Islam and
accepted a new name, Lot.

To this day he holds the unenviable record of Al Qaeda’s longest held prisoner and while the
captive-captor dynamic was always there, by virtue of the long years he spent with them
Steve got to see what no Westerner has ever seen before.
Six Years With Al Qaeda is not just an incredible story of mental strength, physical
endurance and the resilience of the human spirit, but also a unique, nuanced perspective on
one of the world’s most feared terrorist organisations. Not only did Steve McGown survive
his ordeal, but in many respects he came out of the desert both a changed man and a
stronger, more positive human.

Stephen McGown is now a full time speaker who speaks locally and internationally to
clients like KPMG, Sanlam, Discovery, Investec, RMB, with planned engagements to the USA,
Singapore, Australia, UAE, amongst others. Netflix has already shown interest in filming his story.

If you missed live virtual book launch with Daily Maverick’s Rebecca Davis in conversation with Stephen and the writer chosen by Stephen to help tell his story, Tudor Caradoc-Davies check it out here: https://youtu.be/sgrExv7-bZk