Special forces

Good Psychopath Andy McNab And His Life-Changing Diagnosis

Suddenly the decisions he had made in his life made sense

Former SAS soldier Andy McNab has spoken of using his diagnosis as a 'good psychopath' to write novel turned film ‘SAS: Red Notice’ starring actors Sam Heughan and Ruby Rose as protagonists Tom Buckingham and Grace Lewis. 

The best-selling author of 'Bravo Two Zero' and 'The Good Psychopath's Guide To Success' described the light bulb moment after being told he was a good psychopath and how unsurprised his wife was, saying: 

“I went back [home] and told my wife and she went well yeah, what’s new? She’s known for years.” 

The couple laughed about how, looking back at Andy’s life in the British Army on covert and overt operations for the SAS, the diagnosis makes perfect sense. 

The Department Of Experimental Psychology at the University Of Oxford has been researching whether so-called 'good psychopaths' were, contrary to popular belief, actually a benefit to not only themselves but society. For many years they have been asking people they think might be within this spectrum of psychopathy to take part in a series of tests. Speaking to BFBS, the forces station broadcaster Richard Hatch on the Hatch and Geere breakfast show he said: 

“You’re all rigged up with machines that go ping and it was very, very clear that I was psychopath.” 

After his diagnosis Andy looked into what it meant for him and discovered that psychopaths are not always represented accurately in films like Hollywood blockbuster The Silence Of The Lambs or are the same as infamous serial killers like Ted Bundy. He said: 

“Psychopaths occupy about less than 1% of the world’s population and within those groups you’ve got different sub sects. 

“Basically, you’ve got the good psychopaths who understand that to work within the real world you’ve got to be able to adjust the gas on the peddle.” 

LISTEN: Andy McNab In Conversation With Hal Stewart

One of the defining features of a psychopath is their lack of empathy. This means they find it difficult to understand how someone else is feeling and, in turn, respond with kindness because “it’s a chemical reaction in the brain”. A good psychopath can look at a situation, like the death of a friend’s cat, and not have an emotional response. However, they are able to recognise that if their friend is crying there is a socially acceptable way to respond; like the offer of a hug. He said: 

“I look at it and I think well there’s something going on here, oh the cat’s dead. 

“You’re upset so I know that in the real world I need to do something so I’ll, I don’t know, buy you a fruit blender or something. 

“I know that I’ve got to do something.” 

Andy’s research also led him to discover that people considered to be good psychopaths are quite prevalent in areas of employment like finance, law, medical profession, politics and the armed forces.

This is where Andy’s inspiration for ‘SAS: Red Notice’ character Tom Buckingham came from. The main character is a Sergeant in the Special Air Service (SAS) played by ‘Outlander’ actor Sam Heughan who, speaking to Sky News in March 2021, describes the moment when Tom also discovers he is a good psychopath. He said: 

"Tom has never known that's what he really is ... but now he finally realises and has this epiphany of 'ah that makes sense' so for him, he's intrigued.” 

The novel turned film, which also stars English actors Noel Clarke as a major in the British Army and Lord Of The Ring’s Andy Serkis, is described by McNab as a love story but the trailer for the movie suggests otherwise. Protagonist Tom plans to travel with his girlfriend Sophie on the Eurostar and propose to her in Paris. However, in true action/thriller style, before he does that, he has to complete a hard arrest on a group of private military contractors who have been doing some “dirty work” for the British government. He said: 

“That’s all gone wrong which we see in the beginning of the film and that private military, they’ve got a plan and the plan is revenge.”

You can watch SAS: Red Notice on Sky Cinema Premiere from March 12, 2021. 

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