Source: Review copy
Publication: 28 April 2022 in p/back; e-book 28 February 2022
My thanks to Orenda Books for an advance copy for review
Samira is an up-and-coming TV journalist, working the nightshift at a major news channel and yearning for greater things. So when she’s offered a trip to the Middle East, with Kris, the station’s brilliant but impetuous star photographer, she leaps at the chance
In the field together, Sami and Kris feel invincible, shining a light into the darkest of corners … except the newsroom, and the rest of the world, doesn’t seem to care as much as they do. Until Kris takes the photograph.
With a single image of young Sudanese mother, injured in a raid on her camp, Sami and the genocide in Darfur are catapulted into the limelight. But everything is not as it seems, and the shots taken by Kris reveal something deeper and much darker … something that puts not only their careers but their lives in mortal danger.
Sarah Sultoon brings all her experience as a CNN news executive to bear on this shocking, searingly authentic thriller, which asks immense questions about the world we live in. You’ll never look at a news report in the same way again…
Sarah Sultoon’s The Source was a terrific portrait of abuse viewed through the lens of a newsroom and the people in it. The Shot takes this journalistic perspective to the next level and beyond. It is raw, emotive, incredibly powerful and absolutely unmissable.
The Shot takes as its central theme international journalism and specifically the journalism of war. It’s a subject that throws up so many moral and ethical dilemmas and the question of objectivity is one that rears its head every time a journalist is in the midst of a war zone, looking at the various atrocities that are committed in the name of armed struggle.
Sami is a young inexperienced producer in the London base of an international news organisation. She’s fiercely ambitious, an Arab speaker and she is desperate to prove herself on assignment, but for now she’s stuck producing graphics for the films that others provide. Sami has something to prove and she’s determined that she won’t stop until she does just that.
Kris is a battle hardened cameraman and photo journalist. He’s been shot at, recently injured and still he lives for the combat zone. He plays hard, sometimes drinking himself into oblivion. His marriage is in trouble because home does not feel like a place he can stay and he itches to get back to war torn areas almost as soon as he arrives home.
The International Federation of Journalists documents those journalists who have been killed during targeted attacks, bomb attacks and cross –fire incidents. In 2020 that number was 65 in 16 countries, 17 more killed than were in 2019. Hundreds more will have been affected by what they saw and heard and Sarah Sultoon brilliantly captures the frenetic nature of trying to hold it together when the bombs are falling, the improvised explosive devices are going off, the snipers are at work and the journalist has a news report to deliver in the midst of it.
She doesn’t forget, either, the role of the brave men and women who operate as fixers and translators in their own territories ad who make it possible for these journalists to operate, often at severe risk to their own lives.
When an opportunity opens up for Sami to go to the Middle East to work with Kris she grabs it with both hands and she impresses Kris both by how well prepared she is for their visit and by the risks she is prepared to take to get a story that is way better than anything a team embedded in the US army camp could ever hope for.
Her initiative and foresight earn her praise at home and though she finds that not everyone is as impressed with her as her bosses, she has earned the right to pitch for more work. Sarah Sultoon’s brilliantly plotted, very well told story is a thrilling and horrifying look at the horror of war reporting. It considers the choices that have to be made, the stories that are difficult and heart-breaking to tell and the risks that journalists and their fixers take every day to bring home a story that people very often just want to turn away from, because the truth is just so unpalatable.
The quest is for that one image that can make the viewer stay and look; that image that can turn public opinion and sway it so that governments are forced to act. That’s the goal and Sami has her own reasons for needing to make sure she delivers that.
Sarah Sultoon captures the atmosphere and the quest so brilliantly. Her writing is sharp and perceptive; this is prose that delivers authenticity in every sentence; that captures the raw and emotive experiences and brings the story alive in a way that sweeps you along, living it beside the journalists as they work. The impact of seeing so many people in despair, of understanding the impact of war on those who are its victims is told her with a gut wrenching rawness and it is never less than incredibly moving. Sultoon brings the individual stories of so much atrocity vividly to life in this book and it is impossible to look away.
This is never truer than when Sami opts to go to the Sudan. She and Kris go to Darfur with the UNCHR to find the story that she wants to tell; the story that will bring the genocide of a nation home to viewers across the world. It is a story that needs to be told because the world has turned its face away and Sami knows she can find a way to turn that face back towards one of the truly terrible war crimes of the 21st Century.
Coming face to face with the atrocities committed by the local Arab militia, the Janjaweed, Sami finds a young Sudanese mother whose experience is beyond imaginable and whose pain and suffering is interminable. It is her story that Sami and Kris will tell, though it’s outcome will prove devastating for them all.
Verdict: Sarah Sultoon’s The Shot is an extraordinary, stunning story told brilliantly well. It offers a realistic and shocking insight into the incredible impact on journalists of working in war zones . It’s a masterclass in storytelling and cinematic in scope. A must read.
Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if… Sarah lives in London with her family