Ranger Games | Penguin Random House Canada
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Ranger Games

A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime

Publisher: Bond Street Books
In the tradition of Truman Capote and Jon Krakauer, a brilliant exploration of an inexplicable crime and its devastating consequences for the author's family.

As a child Ben Blum was a math prodigy adrift in a family of alpha males, foremost among them his first cousin Alex, an immensely popular high school hockey star who had one unshakeable goal in life: endure a brutally difficult training course, become a U.S. Army Ranger and fight terrorists for his country. He succeeded, but on the last day of his leave before deployment, Alex got into his car with two fellow soldiers and two strangers, drove to a local bank in Tacoma and committed armed robbery.
     The question that haunted Ben, the entire Blum family and even Alex was: Why? Alex didn't need money--his family was well off. He had never had the slightest trouble with the law. He believed passionately in the Ranger's creed, which emphasized honour above all.
     At first, Alex insisted he thought the robbery was just another exercise in the famously daunting Ranger training program. His attorney presented a case based on the theory that the Ranger indoctrination mirrored that of a cult. Or was it the influence of the soldier who planned the robbery, Alex's superior, Luke Elliott Sommer, a charismatic combat veteran full of swagger and grandiose schemes?
     Facing his own personal crisis, and in the hopes of helping both Alex and his splintering family cope, Ben delved into these mysteries, growing closer to Alex in the process. As he probed further, he also came to know Sommer, whose manipulative tendencies, combined with a magnetic personality, lured Ben into a relationship that put his loyalties to the test.
     Intricate, heartrending and morally urgent, Ranger Games is a true crime story like no other. Ben's enormous compassion for his cousin deepens and complicates his search for the answers to profound questions of guilt and innocence, conformity and free will, truth and lies, right and wrong, and how far crisis can stretch the bonds of family.


New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
Vancouver Sun Best Book of 2017

An Amazon Best Book of 2017
An Indigo Best Book of 2017

"Ben Blum [is] a gloriously good writer. . . . Ranger Games raises bedeviling questions about the nature of human agency, and reminds us that we send every day, messy people with every day, messy hearts to fight our wars. [This] is in part a family story, about the unlikely bond between two very different cousins. It is also a fascinating tutorial on the psychology of modern warfare and social coercion. . . . Suprising and moving. . . . A memorable, novelistic account is what Blum has written." —The New York Times

"On a simple level, Ranger Games is about Ben Blum's obsessive quest to understand why his 19-year-old cousin participated in an inexplicable, ham-handed bank robbery that landed him in prison and nearly destroyed the people he loved. But there is nothing simple about Blum's book. It turns out to be a labyrinthine, utterly engrossing meditation on matters as seemingly disparate as the perils of loyalty, the seductive force of mathematical certainty, the toxicity of "honor," the Stanford Prison Experiment, the weirdness of daytime television and the dangerous power of family mythology. It is an astonishing book, unlike anything else I have ever read." —Jon Krakauer, New York Times bestselling author of Missoula and Into Thin Air

"[Ranger Games] at once upends and expands the genre. . . . It is a riveting exploration of the malleability of memory and the stories we choose to tell—to others and to ourselves. . . . Blum is as gifted with language as he is with numbers, and Ranger Games is an extraordinary book, a thrilling, bumpy journey into the complexities of the mind, with its capacity to protect and betray—often within the very same moment." —The Washington Post

"Ben Blum's story of an Army Ranger's involvement in a bank robbery is an uncompromising search for the truth and a stirring testament to the healing power of writing. Ranger Games is a book that rewards a reader's patience. The book isn't straightforward reportage, but rather a chronicle of Ben Blum's search for the truth behind his cousin's baffling fall from grace. [It] is a rich and demanding exploration of the perils and rewards of truth seeking: It will repay successive readings with insight into the intricacies of the human psyche." —Star Tribune

"Ranger Games is a rare and totally original work of nonfiction. The odd characters and dangerous situations live vibrantly in these pages and the stakes are always high. Ben Blum's search for truth leads him down many paths into an inner turmoil and boil about family, fidelity, identity, good and evil, and military service. Once you start reading you won't put it down." —Anthony Swofford, New York Times bestselling author of Jarhead and Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails: A Memoir

"Ben Blum's achievement in this relentlessly gripping book is to make an incredible story entirely  credible. If many of the serial revelations and twists are subtle and nuanced rather than spectacular that only adds to the sense of his narrative command and assurance." —Geoff Dyer, National Book Critics Circle Award Winner and author of Otherwise Known as the Human Condition and White Sands

"Ranger Games is one of those rare books that illuminates its subject beyond what you thought possible—and then transcends its subject to become something more. In this case, the subject is engaging and disturbing all on its own; the "inexplicable crime" of the title is fascinating, the fall-out from it is heart-breaking and suspenseful. But the book is not only about the crime or the family its tears apart, it is about the strange pathologies of North American culture, a particularly masculine form of madness, and the mysterious, timeless relationship of charm and evil. It should be taught in "cultural studies" classes across the country." —Mary Gaitskill, author of The Mare and Somebody With a Little Hammer

"A sprawling American saga, Ranger Games will captivate, transport and madden readers all at once. Ben Blum uses the war on terror and clandestine Army Rangers as backdrop to explore something even more immense and arcane: a human heart in conflict with itself. This is a special story and a superb work of narrative nonfiction."Matt Gallagher, author of Youngblood

"This engrossing true-crime saga follows a twisting labyrinth of confused and suspect motivations. . . . The result is an unsettling dissection of the moral corruptions, small and great, that bedevil the culture of military honor." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A vigorous, empathetic chronicle of a crime foretold. . . . Blum's well-wrought account suggests that any crime is possible so long as it's made out to be a game." —Kirkus Reviews

"Chilling in its relatability." —Bustle

"[A] phenomenal and transcendentally personal true crime saga." —Medium