The Right Kind of Crazy: My Life as a Navy SEAL, Covert Operative, and Boy Scout from Hell

Image of The Right Kind of Crazy: My Life as a Navy SEAL, Covert Operative, and Boy Scout from Hell
Release Date: 
November 12, 2019
Atria Books
Reviewed by: 

A military memoir filled with dark humor, Clint Emerson’s The Right Kind of Crazy builds a portrait of what it takes to work in special ops for two decades.

Emerson’s story begins with his childhood in a western oil-worker enclave in Saudi Arabia. Bored and free of supervision, he and his friends run amok, causing chaos, mayhem, and not an insignificant amount of property damage.

They spend their days looking for trouble. “When we couldn’t find any, we manufactured our own.”—a  motto that seems to follow Emerson throughout his life. And it is here, in the desert, that he earns his Eagle Scout honors; a “boy scout from hell,” indeed.

As Emerson puts it, “whether you paint me as a highly functioning psychopath or a normal preteen boy with a devious streak and some energy to burn, we can probably all agree it’s a good thing I wound up playing for the home team.”

As they follow Emerson’s exploits in the Navy, readers will agree. While not divulging any operational details, Emerson paints a vivid portrait of the kind of man who is drawn to the world of covert operations. He reveals both the personal costs as well as the rewards that a life lived by the creed, “it’s only illegal if you get caught,” can bring.

Humor abounds, including the ongoing diatribe Emerson wages against his anonymous censors in footnotes attached to redacted sections. Despite the fact that he claims none of the material is classified, every chapter is littered with blacked out sections—including one chapter title. Some of the humor is distinctly juvenile and scatological, as evidenced by a chapter dedicated to genital injuries and venereal diseases.

Despite the lack of details about individual missions, Emerson still gives readers a captivating view of life as a covert operator, evoking a sense of human frailty along with the courage and heroism typically ascribed to Navy SEALS.