Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Alex Blum, a bright young man from a good family, always wanted to be a U.S. Army Ranger, and after successfully completing a rigorous program he was well on his way. Hours before his final leave, however, Alex did the unthinkable. He, two fellow soldiers and a couple of strangers committed armed robbery at a local bank in Tacoma. After they were apprehended Alex claimed that he was under the impression that it was a final, staged army exercise before being deployed to Iraq. Cousin Ben Blum decided to write a book about the incident in an attempt to help exonerate Alex. What he did was unlock a family mystery whose drama and twists rival the best that any Netflix original television show has to offer. 

— From Javier's Picks

September 2017 Indie Next List

“Ranger Games is a fascinating examination of family, duty, psychology, and crime. Ben Blum's cousin Alex wanted one thing in life, to be a U.S. Army Ranger, but after completing the program and right before his first deployment, he seemingly inexplicably wound up driving the getaway car for an armed bank robbery with three other Rangers. Blum digs deep into his cousin's story and the culture of the Rangers to find out why and how, and the result is a riveting, thought-provoking book.”
— Cody Morrison (M), Square Books, Oxford, MS


Alex Blum was a good kid with one goal in life: become a U.S. Army Ranger. Then, on the day before deployment to Iraq, 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 the entire Blum family was, Why? Why would Alex ruin his life in such a spectacularly foolish way?
In the midst of his own personal crisis, and in the hopes of helping both Alex and his splintering family cope, Ben Blum, Alex’s first cousin, delved into these mysteries, growing closer to Alex in the process. But as he investigated further, Ben began to question not only Alex, but the influence of his superior, Luke Elliot Sommer, the man who planned the robbery. A charismatic combat veteran, Sommer’s manipulative tendencies and magnetic personality lure Ben into a relationship that puts his loyalties to the test.

About the Author

Ben Blum was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He holds a PhD in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and an MFA in fiction from New York University, where he was awarded the New York Times Foundation Fellowship. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and stepdaughter.

Praise For…


"A gloriously good writer...Ranger Games is both surprising and moving...A memorable, novelistic account."
—Jennifer Senior, The New York Times 

“Saga and social science both, a riveting exploration of the codes of conduct by which men are meant to comport themselves, the lengths to which we go to forge identity, and how far the stories we tell can be stretched before they become prisons of our own making… Blum is remarkably empathetic, offering heartbreaking portraits… If [he] begins as the odd piece in the family puzzle, his precise, exhaustive and sympathetic work proves both deeply salutary and in step with the logistician’s mind.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“Captivating… 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…Surprisingly poignant.”
—The Washington Post

“An uncompromising search for the truth and a stirring testament to the healing power of writing…. Surprising and cathartic.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Finely written and reported…. Surprising.”
—Chicago Tribune

“A triumph of subtle reportage…. 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.”
—Kirkus Reviews

"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 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

Product Details
ISBN: 9780804169691
ISBN-10: 0804169691
Publisher: Anchor
Publication Date: July 31st, 2018
Pages: 432
Language: English