The San Francisco-based assistant U.S. attorney Philip Kearney's recent memoir about his work as the sole United Nations prosecutor of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia is called “Under the Blue Flag: My Mission in Kosovo.”
How long were you in the Balkans? I was there about nine months, and maybe it took two or three months to become more familiar with the place. But still, after years of recollection, I’m still figuring out what it all meant.
What made you decide to write a memoir? I didn’t have grand plans. At the time, I was living under guard on a NATO military base; my hobby choices were either drinking or writing. But I wanted to record what was going on for kids I was hoping to have some day. I wanted to talk about what it’s like to jump off a carousel, and about the stark realization of how the war criminals’ culture was so deeply ingrained.
Does your book serve as an introduction for those who don’t know much about the area? As a reader, you’re placed in the middle of events and can learn about their geopolitical significance.
What was it like writing the book? I was clueless at first, but found that the act of writing makes you a better writer. I tried to write like people talk. Go on Amazon.com and look at the comments. They’re all from strangers who say it’s a pretty readable book. To get it that way took me six years.