Blog Archive

Journalism Under Siege

I had the honor of speaking with Diane Foley — Jim Foley’s mother — and Mike Boettcher at Oklahoma University, in late October, on the topic of violent threats to journalists around the world.

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Journalism Under Siege


26 Hostages Freed in Somalia

The men from the Naham 3 are all friends of mine — a crew of 26 sailors from southeast Asia who worked on a tuna long-liner flagged in Oman but owned by a company in Taiwan, which abandoned them after Somali pirates hijacked the ship in 2012. By then pirates in central Somalia had captured me, and I suppose to save money they placed me on the ship for 5 months. I’ve kept quiet about this phase of my captivity, but now, two years after my release, the men are free. I went to Nairobi this week to see them. CNN interviewed a couple of us there (see below).

They weren’t fishing illegally. Somali pirates complain about rapacious fishing by foreign trawlers, but the Naham 3 was a long-liner — not a trawler, as reported in certain magazines — fishing outside Somali territorial waters as well as Somalia’s EEZ. It was an industrial ship, but not an illegal one. If Somalia had a working navy, rather than corruption in Mogadishu and a rash of pirates, these men would not have been captured.

Twenty-six freed hostages isn’t enough — the ship had an original crew of 29. Pirates shot the captain dead when they boarded. Two crewmen I knew in 2012 died of unnamed diseases, and Arnel Balbero addresses their needless deaths in the video. Around 15 people are still held hostage by pirates in diferent parts of Somalia, but the release of this crew represents the end of the heyday of Somali piracy, since the Naham 3 was the last major vessel to be hijacked between 2005 and 2012. I couldn’t be more delighted.

Re-posted in 2018

posted 28 July 2018 by Michael Scott Moore


"So, Where's Your Book?" 2

After a lot of work, it’ll be out on July 23 (tomorrow). To order, click on the left-hand side of the publishers’ page.

posted 23 July 2018 by Michael Scott Moore


Readings and Events

… this week, next week, and into the autumn for The Desert and the Sea:

July 19
Pages, a bookstore
7pm
Reserve early; ticket price includes book purchase
904 Manhattan Ave.
Manhattan Beach, CA

July 23
The Half King Bar & Restaurant
7pm
505 West 23rd Street
New York City

July 28
Politics & Prose Bookstore
1pm
5015 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC

August 1
Vroman’s Bookstore
7pm
695 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA

September 4
USC Annenberg School of Journalism
Los Angeles, CA
Details to come

October 17
Mechanics’ Institute Library
Part of LitQuake
7pm (subject to change)
57 Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94104

October 18
Book Passage
7pm
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA 94925

October 22
The Frontline Club
13 Norfolk Pl
London, UK
Details to come

posted 19 July 2018 by Michael Scott Moore


Pre-Publication Opinion

The first general assessment of The Desert and the Sea is a starred review in Kirkus.

There’s plenty of gallows humor as Moore settles in for his long spell of unhappiness. When his young captors, ‘stoned on narcotic cud,’ blast music from their cellphones, he asks a senior to get them to turn it down. ‘They’re soldiers,’ he’s told by way of explanation, to which he replies, ‘ask them to be quiet soldiers.’ … A deftly constructed and tautly told rejoinder to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, sympathetic but also sharp-edged.

posted 15 May 2018 by Michael Scott Moore


Talks and Events

A book about my captivity is still on its way, but in the meantime I’ll be available for talks — on Somalia, on pirate history, on migration to Europe, or on the history of surfing — so please drop a line here if you’re interested.

Some recent events include:

UC San Diego
“Pirates and Islam,” a guest lecture for Dr. Mark Hanna, May 2018

Oklahoma University
Journalism Under Siege, a talk with Diane Foley and Mike Boettcher, November 2017

Ft. Worth, Texas
“From Journalism to Life in Captivity in Somalia,” Bob Schieffer College, Texas Christian University, March and October, 2017

Barcelona, Spain
NUMA Startup Acceleration, a corporate retreat in Barcelona, July 2017

Boston, Massachusetts
Humor, Survival, and Somali Pirates, November 2016 TEDxBeaconStreet, 2016

Aboard the Frankfurt am Main, a German navy vessel
“What Happened in Somalia,” a talk to officers & enlisted sailors, off the coast of Libya, May 2016.

Washington, DC
“Pirates, Islam, and U.S. Hostage Policy,” The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, June 2015

posted 11 November 2017 by Michael Scott Moore


On the Telly

CNN ran an interview last week about my ordeal in Somalia. It accompanied a report about Somali pirate bosses, including Mohamed Garfanji, falling under investigation for links to al-Shabaab.

posted 15 July 2017 by Michael Scott Moore


Humor, Survival, and Somali Pirates

A few minutes about the long ordeal in Somalia at TEDxBeaconStreet, November 2016.

A printed version of what happened in Somalia is available as a Long Read at The Guardian, and, in somewhat shorter form, for German readers, in Der Spiegel. It’s not even near complete. Enormous parts of the story have been left untold. They’ll have to wait for a book (until about March, 2018?).

Meanwhile, a short Radio 4 interview about the story aired on the BBC as well as NPR. It’s archived here, at 29 min 55 sec. And the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting has a roundup of coverage so far.

posted 29 December 2016 by Michael Scott Moore


"So Where's Your Book?"

Some people have asked about the Somalia memoir. It’s right on schedule, I promise, but it won’t be out for at least another year. It’s been revised in full, twice (see above), and it’ll need a few more revisions before we get anywhere. Old-fashioned authorship. July, 2018?

posted 2 October 2016 by Michael Scott Moore


Sunday at Alexanderplatz

Just a street drummer in a giraffe mask.

posted 2 October 2016 by Michael Scott Moore


Planet Waves

While I was in Somalia a man called Geoff Carter wrote about a picture of Indian men surfing on stand-up boards around 1800 off Chennai, which altered the known history of surfing a bit, even though the picture was hiding in plain sight at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Madrassan Men Surfing (scroll to #13) shows some local men loading an East India Company freighter near Madras Roads using a “catamaran,” a three-log board that was probably invented for fishing. (Above you see a photo from the ’40s.) An Indian catamaran is similar to the Middle Eastern hasake and the Peruvian caballitos de tortora — both fishing boats used for navigating waves while standing. For a long time no one grasped just how old these Indian contrivances were, even though the English captain and pirate William Dampier, who circumnavigated the globe in the 17th century, saw caballitos de tortora in 1684 and remembered similar surf-boats from the Bay of Bengal: “On the Coast of Coromandel in the East-Indies they call them Catamarans.”

It’s always interesting when old examples of stand-up surfing turn up outside Hawaii. The roots of the modern sport are still Polynesian, since no one seems to have surfed on their feet, without a paddle, just for fun, outside Hawaii until George Freeth and Duke Kahanamoku became “surf ambassadors” from Hawaii in the early 1900s. But the idea that people were stand-up paddleboarding before 1800 off Chennai — where modern surfing has just taken hold — is fairly wonderful.

For more, as usual, see Sweetness and Blood.

posted 11 August 2016 by Michael Scott Moore


The Long Read

A version of what happened in Somalia is available as a Long Read at The Guardian, and, in somewhat shorter form, for German readers, in Der Spiegel. It’s not even near complete. Enormous parts of the story have been left untold. They’ll have to wait for a book. But it was important to lay out some basic facts and correct the strange idea that I had traveled in Somalia without security. That rumor was nonsense, and the rumor that I’d been shot in the hand was also pure pirate fabrication. Those bits of gossip had a strange half-life among my friends after I went free; now I hope they’ll be put to rest.

A short Radio 4 interview about the story aired on the BBC as well as NPR. It’s archived here, at 29 min 55 sec. And the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting has a roundup of coverage so far.

I want to thank everyone who helped get me out of Somalia, in Germany and the United States, and for the still-astonishing support from my family and friends.

ALSO: The picture above shows our arrival in Hobyo in January 2012, several days before my abduction. A Land Rover shaped in plaster, on the right, decorates the mansion of a Somali pirate boss named Fatxi.

Republished from June 3, 2015

posted 18 March 2016 by Michael Scott Moore


The Language of Torture


Litquake 2010

A picture by Cynthia Wood of a Sweetness and Blood reading at Litquake in San Francisco, fall 2010. Seems like a different lifetime.

posted 18 March 2016 by Michael Scott Moore


The Man Who Toppled the Wall

Günter Schabowski was an unloved apparatchik of the East German government who brought down the Berlin Wall, inadvertently, during a rushed news conference on a new policy of tolerance for East Germans who were leaving the country in droves. He flubbed the announcement, threw the government into confusion — which opened border crossings in the Wall, which started a chain reaction that collapsed the entire Communist bloc — twenty-six years ago today. Schabowski died last week, on November 1, so this year’s Mauerfall anniversary should also be a tribute to the Cold War’s last accidental hero.

posted 8 November 2015 by Michael Scott Moore


La France

posted 20 October 2015 by Michael Scott Moore


Wish I Knew How

A year ago this morning I woke up in a filthy house in central Somalia, feeling weak and miserable. I’d been captive for two and a half years and had no reason to think my status would change. The Somalis fed me a sullen porridge of beans, the way you might feed a goat or a horse, and a few hours later they put me on the phone with a negotiator. The good man had no time to tell me a thing before one pirate grabbed the phone from my fingers — “Proof of life, only!” — and ended the call.

My blood pressure rose and stayed up for hours. I didn’t know what was about to happen. My heart just thumped with anger and grief. In most respects it was a normal day.

By the afternoon I was on a single-engine plane for Mogadishu. Twenty minutes after that I was on an Air Force transport plane for Nairobi. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of my family, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a number of US and German publications, members of the FBI and their German counterparts (the BKA), an unending nightmare had come to an end.

I wish I knew how to thank everyone.

For several months in Somalia the Nina Simone song above had dominated the part of my mind that responds only to music. I’d caught a snatch of it on my shortwave early in 2014. It still wrenches me like no other song.

posted 23 September 2015 by Michael Scott Moore


Warren Zevon in 1980 Looks Like a Longhaired Elton John

And his guitarist looks like Zappa.

posted 1 July 2015 by Michael Scott Moore


The Hostage-Policy Review, Reviewed

Some hard-won opinion about Obama’s hostage-policy review can be found at the NewsHour, where I was interviewed by Margaret Warner, and at Al-Jazeera America and Deutsche Welle TV. My talk last week at the Wilson Center is also online.

Briefly: Obama’s new policy moves in the right direction, since it clarifies who’s in charge during a hostage case and loosens the flow of information. I suspect the new “fusion cell” will create a new layer of bureaucracy, but the old confusion caused by a 2002 Bush directive about hostage cases, which Obama has replaced, should be gone. America’s ongoing “no concession” policy will not prevent kidnappings, compared with European policy — abduction rates for Americans and Europeans are about the same — but Obama’s review was never going to change that. A no-concession policy without consistent, successful rescue by force, I’m afraid, is no deterrent at all.

In that sense my Politico piece from last March is still relevant. More ideas from Austin Tice’s family can be heard at CBS This Morning. Oh, and flip-flops by Fox News on the whole issue have been traced over here.

posted 28 June 2015 by Michael Scott Moore


Michael Scott Moore is a literary journalist and a novelist, author of a comic novel about L.A., Too Much of Nothing, as well as a travel book about surfing, Sweetness and Blood, which was named a best book of 2010 by The Economist and Popmatters. He was kidnapped in 2012 on a reporting trip to Somalia and held hostage for two and a half years. The Desert and the Sea, a memoir about that ordeal, is out now from HarperCollins.

full bio

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Speaking Events

September 28, 2018

NOTE NEW DATE


Pilgrim Surf + Supply

7pm

In conversation with William Finnegan

68 N 3rd St
Brooklyn, NY 11249



October 03, 2018

Cambridge Public Library

6pm

Main Lecture Hall

449 Broadway
Cambridge, MA

more speaking events

VIDEOS

My review of Ingrid Betancourt's first novel, The Blue Line, is up at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

While I was in Somalia a man called Geoff Carter wrote about a picture of Indian men surfing on stand-up boards around 1800 off Chennai, which altered the known history of surfing a bit, even though the picture was hiding in plain sight at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The men from the Naham 3 are all friends of mine — a crew of 26 sailors from southeast Asia who worked on a tuna long-liner flagged in Oman but owned by a company in Taiwan, which abandoned them after Somali pirates hijacked the ship in 2012.

A version of what happened in Somalia is available as a Long Read at The Guardian, and, in somewhat shorter form, for German readers, in Der Spiegel. It’s not even near complete. Enormous parts of the story have been left untold.

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