cover image Baghdaddy: How Saddam Hussein Taught Me to Be a Better Father

Baghdaddy: How Saddam Hussein Taught Me to Be a Better Father

Bill Riley. Brown, $26.95 (456p) ISBN 978-1-61254-292-8

Riley’s memoir, by turns grueling and entertaining, spans his difficult childhood and early Air Force career in the Middle East. The most brutal sections cover his early life: Riley grew up in Farmingville, N.Y., on Long Island, and suffered abuse from his mother and harsh strictness from his often-absent father while trying to protect his sister, Isabel. After high school, Riley joined the Air Force in the early 1980s and became an intelligence analyst. The book focuses on his time in Kuwait before and during Operation Desert Fox as he built a coalition command center and learned about Middle Eastern cultures, and later in Baghdad six months after the first Iraq War ended, going on communications repair missions, the last of which involves a dramatic firefight. He relates his military experiences with wit, a slightly twisted sense of humor (wringing laughs from an unexpected duel with a hissing camel spider), and evocative imagery (describing rain falling “while the sun touched the earth through the holes in angry clouds, like an illustration from a child’s Bible story”). While the book doesn’t follow through on the fatherhood focus indicated by its subtitle, it’s an amusing, often exciting war memoir that readers of the genre will enjoy. (May)