A FORMER SAS sniper commander on a mission to encourage young people to read more books has unveiled a new series of action thrillers aimed at teenagers.

Chris Ryan, has drawn on his own experiences in both overt and covert operations and as sniper team commander of the anti-terrorist team for his Special Forces Cadets series.

Born in Rowlands Gill, Gateshead, Chris said he feld let down by the education system and wanted to be a champion of literacy, especially for those from disadvantaged areas.

He was part of the SAS eight-man team chosen for the famous Bravo Two Zero mission during the 1991 Gulf War.

He was the only member of the unit to escape from Iraq, where three of his colleagues were killed and four captured, for which he was awarded the Military Medal. Chris wrote about his experiences in his book The One That Got Away, which became an immediate bestseller.

Since then he has written over 50 books and presented a number of successful TV programmes. His ordeal as part of the mission and his time in the army resulted in PTSD and he has found that writing is a form of therapy for him.

He said: “My books for young people started with kids coming up to me at book signings years ago, asking if I could do actions books for them.

“I brushed it off at first, but was later talking with my publishers when a study came out that showed that reading was dropping off for boys of that age group. So we had a big campaign for reading books and I started doing school visits.

“That is where everything changed. It was interacting with 13 to 16 years olds and when I spoke to them and asked them what they read I was met with blank looks.

“I think children some of the schools I went to were from really poor areas. I was meeting guys that had never read a book.

“It was pivotal point and I thought I have got to do something here.”

In his latest series a top-secret government programme needs a crack team of undercover military operators for “challenging situations where adults would attract suspicion”. Their first mission is an armed siege at an inner-city school.

Chris said, the idea of teenagers being spies was based in reality. He said: “Last year the House of Lords revealed that British police and intelligence agencies are using children as spies in covert operations against terrorists, gangs and drug dealers.

“As these stories go, there is a selection course for children of a certain age. They are guided by ex-SAS guys and then infiltrate into different missions.

“That format follows a series of six books. The First is Siege, Missing will be out in May and Justice in September, followed by three more. It is targetted at 13 to 16 year olds.

"I asked myself what would I like to read.

“And as a child you want to ge the hero, to be part of something that is secret and exciting.

“I spent 10 years running SAS selection there are little things that I can put in, in terms of what we would look for in a potential student. It has to be a page-turner.

"More importantly there has to be a moral message."

Special Forces Cadets: Siege is out now in paperback, eBook and audio (Hot Key Books, £6.99)