Iraq War Books Do A Quickstep Into Print

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In the past, it might have taken decades for a war memoir to be published. Today, half a dozen books address a conflict less than three years old.

Not every publisher was impressed when Chris Ayres pitched a book in 2004 about his adventures as an unprepared young reporter plopped into the middle of the Iraq war a year earlier.

"The biggest criticism was that it was old," recalls Mr. Ayres, a Los Angeles-based correspondent for the Times of London who eventually found a publisher. "The world moves a lot faster now, doesn't it?"

It certainly does, at least in American bookstores. Near-instant memoirs about the Iraq war are all the rage, and Ayres's acclaimed new book "War Reporting for Cowards," is actually a little behind the times. Some of the newer memoirs cover events that happened less than a year ago.

It's clear that instantaneous war reportage and battlefront Internet access are feeding the desire to publish war books quickly. During the initial phases of the war, Ayres says, "you almost had TV cameras mounted on top of the bullets. It was immediate coverage." But what's less clear is if the hurry-up trend indicates a major change in how authors report on their war experiences.

Now, there are at least half a dozen critically acclaimed new Iraq war books by soldiers and reporters. They tend to be wry and even funny, but often, like the most memorable war memoirs, tinged with moments of horror.

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