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Venter, Al J. 1938- (Albertus Johannes Venter)

Venter, Al J. 1938- (Albertus Johannes Venter)

PERSONAL:

Surname is pronounced Fen-ter; born November 25, 1938, in Kroonstad, South Africa; son of Albertus Johannes (a railroad civil servant) and Jenny (a nurse) Venter; married Madelon Anne McGregor (a teacher and film producer), October 15, 1977; children: Johan, Albert, Luke, Leigh. Education: Attended City of London College. Politics: "Disjointed." Religion: Roman Catholic.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Noordhoek, South Africa. Office—V.H. Film Productions, P.O. Box 50686, Randburg 2125, South Africa.

CAREER:

Writer, journalist, and film producer. Freelance writer in Africa and the Middle East, 1963-84; V.H. Film Productions, Randburg, South Africa, owner, chair, and managing director, beginning 1980. Chair of V.H. Properties (Pty.) Ltd., president of Ashanti International Films Ltd., Gibraltar. Military service: South African Navy, 1956-60; became acting leading seaman. Angolan National Liberation Front, Chipa Esquadrao, 1975; served in Angola.

MEMBER:

Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (fellow), Institute of Arbitrators (associate member), Wig and Pen Club (England), Atlantic Underwater Club (Cape Town, South Africa), Hermanus Squash Club, Mukumbura Surf Club.

WRITINGS:

The Terror Fighters, Purnell (Cape Town, South Africa), 1967.

Underwater Africa, Purnell (Cape Town, South Africa), 1971.

Portugal's War in Guine-Bissau, Munger Africana Library, California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA), 1973.

Under the Indian Ocean, Purnell (Cape Town, South Africa), 1973.

Coloured: A Profile of Two Million South Africans, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1973.

Africa at War, Devin-Adair (Old Greenwich, CT), 1974.

The Zambezi Salient, Devin-Adair (Old Greenwich, CT), 1974.

Africa Today, Macmillan (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1975.

Black Leaders of Southern Africa, Siesta Publications (Pretoria, South Africa), 1976.

Vorster's Africa: Friendship and Frustration, Ernest Stanton Publications (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1977.

Soldier of Fortune (novel), W.H. Allen (London, England), 1980.

Burn Africa, Burn, W.H. Allen (London, England), 1985.

War in Angola, Concord Publications Co. (Hong Kong, China), 1992.

(In association with Neall Ellis and Richard Wood) The Chopper Boys: Helicopter Warfare in Africa, Southern Book Publishers (Halfway House, South Africa), 1994.

The Iraqi War Debrief: Why Saddam Hussein Was Toppled, Earthbound Publications (South Africa), 2004.

Iran's Nuclear Option: Tehran's Quest for the Atom Bomb, Casemate (Philadelphia, PA), 2005.

War Dog: Fighting Other People's Wars: The Modern Mercenary in Combat, foreword by Frederick Forsyth, Casemate (Philadelphia, PA), 2006.

Cops: Cheating Death; How One Man (So Far) Saved the Lives of Three Thousand Americans, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2007.

Allah's Bomb: The Islamic Quest for Nuclear Weapons, Lyons (Guilford, CT), 2007.

Also author of material in documentary films, including "The Last Domino," "Focus on Africa" (fifteen parts), "The Wreck Hunters," and "Afghanistan: The Fifth Year of the Soviet Invasion," released in December, 1984. Correspondent for International Defense Review and Intelligence Digest. Contributor to periodicals in England, the United States, and Europe, including Soldier of Fortune, Bulletin for Atomic Scientists, Middle East Policy, and Great Britain's Daily Express and Sunday Express. Africa editor of Soldier of Fortune (Boulder, CO); foreign editor of Eagle (New York, NY). Has produced reports for Jane's Defence Weekly, Jane's Intelligence Review, Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst, and Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor.

SIDELIGHTS:

Al J. Venter told CA: "My twenty years as a journalist and foreign correspondent, during which time I have written for such organizations as the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the London Daily Express, and the Sunday Express, have been hectic and always peripatetic. Some of the perks of the job have been three wives and no ulcer. I set out initially in journalism to inform; to teach, almost. Little was known then, in southern Africa or abroad, of the African insurgent movements, and I set out to ‘fill that gap.’ The same thing happened with underwater exploits. It is interesting that I have now dealt with both phases cinematographically through the medium of documentary television.

"As a resident of southern Africa it seemed natural to me during the sixties to become involved in a spate of brush-fire wars on the continent; there were several notable individuals following the same pattern in an extremely volatile region—Katanga, the Congo, southern Sudan, Rhodesia—all of whom were forerunners of the Vietnamese/Beirut press brigade. Books followed as a matter of course; television had not become as ingratiating a medium as it is now, and people still read avidly on both sides of the Atlantic at that time, much more so than today. So there was a demand for written material.

"Fiction followed. My two fiction books are based almost entirely on my own personal experiences in various theatres of conflict, and all the characters in the books are drawn (in modular form) from real individuals, both good and bad. Having been wounded twice in battle (from a landmine and a shock blast from a submachine gun—my own mistake) my attitude towards actual combat has changed. I'm a little more cynical than I was (if this is possible).

"I have always been an outspoken [opponent] of any form of terrorism; it is therefore axiomatic that I am anti-Marxist. The result is a price on my head in Angola—quite a considerable amount of the local currency, kuanzas, which, thankfully, is quite useless outside Angola's borders. I am also a persona non grata in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Libya, Syria, Iran, Ethiopia, and the Soviet bloc, particularly in Afghanistan now that I have made a one-hour documentary on the Soviet invasion commemorating the fifth anniversary of that odious event.

"I am known to be an extremely hard worker, often spending eighteen-hour days to achieve my objectives. Conversely, I am equally lazy back home between assignments. Industry has provided results, and, having built up a sizable following, especially in the United States, my career has been successful financially as well. I must be one of a handful of journalists to have achieved total financial independence during the course of an extremely varied career."

Venter is the author of numerous books, including nonfiction and fiction. He has written two books that specifically look at nuclear weapons and the Middle East. Iran's Nuclear Option: Tehran's Quest for the Atom Bomb assesses the state of Iran's nuclear weapons program and its implications for international security. Noting that "there are important insights here," the National Interest contributor Ilan Berman wrote that, because of the author's long career as a military correspondent, he "brings credibility to his analysis."

The author begins with a history of modern Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979 along with a look at the country's political situation in the twenty-first century. He then goes on to explore what is known about Iran's nuclear program, including the program's mechanics, acquisitions made through the black market, and technological problems that the country is overcoming. The author also writes of Iran's missile program and unconventional weapons development and its record of fostering terrorism. Patrick Clawson, writing in the Middle East Quarterly, commented that the author "offers the most systematic exposition to date about Iran's nuclear program and its role in world affairs."

In his 2007 book, Allah's Bomb: The Islamic Quest for Nuclear Weapons, the author examines the terrorist group al-Qaeda's growing interest in acquiring nuclear weapon capabilities and how South Africa built six atom bombs in secret. He discusses how Iran both gained South African nuclear technology and recruited its missile scientists. In addition, Venter writes of other countries within the Islamic sphere that are eager to acquire nuclear bomb capabilities, including Syria, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Other topics explored include the progress of Tehran's weapons-of-mass-destruction programs and the infamous A.Q. Khan, the disgraced Pakistani scientist who ran the world's largest international nuclear smuggling network. According to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Allah's Bomb is "a useful introduction to this unavoidably complex—and dire—issue."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Middle East, June, 2005, Fred Rhodes, review of Iran's Nuclear Option: Tehran's Quest for the Atom Bomb, p. 65.

Middle East Quarterly, winter, 2006, Patrick Clawson, review of Iran's Nuclear Option, p. 87.

National Interest, June 22, 2005, Ilan Berman, "Iran's Atomic Journey," review of Iran's Nuclear Option, p. 139.

Parameters, spring, 2006, George H. Quester, review of Iran's Nuclear Option, p. 125.

Perspectives on Political Science, fall, 2005, Kourosh Rahimkhani, review of Iran's Nuclear Option, p. 228.

Publishers Weekly, February 5, 2007, review of Allah's Bomb: The Islamic Quest for Nuclear Weapons, p. 53.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 2005, review of Iran's Nuclear Option; November, 2007, review of Allah's Bomb.

ONLINE

Politixxx.com,http://politixxx.com/ (May 8, 2008), "Interview with Al Venter, Author of ‘Allah's Bomb: The Islamic Quest for Nuclear Weapons.’"

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