- Writing period
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Frederick Forsyth, CBE (born August 25, 1938) is an English author and occasional political commentator. He is best known for thrillers such as The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, The Dogs of War, The Fist of God, Icon, The Veteran, Avenger and recently The Afghan.
The son of a furrier, Forsyth was born in Ashford, Kent. He was educated at Tonbridge School and later attended the University of Granada in Spain . He became one of the youngest pilots in the Royal Air Force, at the age of 19, where he served till 1958. Becoming a journalist, he joined Reuters in 1961 and later the BBC in 1965, where he served as an assistant diplomatic correspondent. From July to September 1967, he served as a correspondent covering the Nigerian Civil War between the region of Biafra and Nigeria. He left the BBC in 1968 after controversy arose over his alleged bias towards the Biafran cause and accusations that he falsified segments of his reports. Returning to Biafra as a freelance reporter, Forsyth wrote his first book, The Biafra Story in 1969 . Read Full Bio >>
Forsyth decided to write a novel using similar research techniques to those used in journalism. His first full length novel, The Day of the Jackal, was published in 1971 and became an international bestseller. It was later made into a film of the same name. It also earned him the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel. In this book, the Organisation armée secrète hires an assassin to kill Charles de Gaulle.
His second novel, The Odessa File, was published in 1972 and is about a reporter attempting to track down a certain ex-Nazi SS officer in modern Germany. The reporter discovers him via the diary of a Jewish Holocaust survivor who committed suicide earlier, but he is being shielded by an organization that protects ex-Nazis, called ODESSA. Later, the reporter discovers that this same SS officer murdered a German Army officer during World War II for striking him after refusing to let SS soldiers take the place of his own wounded men. This book was later made into a movie with the same name, starring Jon Voight, but there were substantial adaptations. For example, the black Jaguar auto with yellow streaks depicted in the story, itself a thrill designed to engross the reader, was replaced by a Mercedes-Benz.
In 1974, he wrote The Dogs of War, in which a British mining executive hires a group of mercenaries to overthrow the government of an African country so that he can install a puppet regime that will allow him cheap access to its substantial mineral wealth.
The Shepherd was an illustrated novella published in 1975. It tells of a nightmare journey by a RAF pilot while flying home for Christmas in the late 1950s. His attempts to find a rational explanation for his eventual rescue prove as troublesome as his experience. Following this came The Devil's Alternative in 1979, which was set in 1982. In this book, the Soviet Union faces a disastrous grain harvest and Ukrainian freedom fighters. A Politburo faction fight ensues. In the end, a Norwegian oil tanker built in Japan, a Russian airliner hijacked to West Berlin and various governments find themselves involved.
In 1982, No Comebacks, a collection of ten short stories, was published. Some of these stories had been written earlier. Many were set in the Irish Republic where Forsyth was living at the time. One of them, "There Are No Snakes In Ireland", won him a second Edgar Allan Poe Award, this time for best short story.
The Fourth Protocol was published in 1984 and involves renegade elements within the Soviet Union attempting to plant a nuclear bomb near an American airbase in the UK, intending to influence the upcoming British elections and lead to the election of an anti-NATO, anti-American, anti-nuclear, pro-soviet Labour government. The Fourth Protocol was later filmed, starring Pierce Brosnan and Michael Caine, in 1987. All the political content was removed from the film, which took a lot away from the original story.
Forsyth's tenth release came in 1989, when he wrote The Negotiator, in which the American President's son is kidnapped and one man's job is to negotiate his release.
Two years later, in 1991, The Deceiver was published. It includes four separate short stories reviewing the career of British secret agent Sam McCready. At the start of the book, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State (PUSS) of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office requires the Chief of the SIS to push Sam into early retirement. The four stories are presented to a grievance committee in an attempt to allow Sam to stay on active duty with the SIS.
In 1994, Forsyth published The Fist of God, about the first Gulf War. Next, in 1996, he published Icon, about the rise of fascists to power in post-Soviet Russia.
In 1999, Forsyth published The Phantom of Manhattan, a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. It was intended as a departure from his usual genre; Forsyth's explanation was that "I had done mercenaries, assassins, Nazis, murders, terrorists, special forces soldiers, fighter pilots, you name it, and I got to think, could I actually write about the human heart?" However, it did not achieve the same success as his other novels, and he subsequently returned to modern-day thrillers.
In 2001, The Veteran, another collection of short stories, was published, followed by Avenger, published in September 2003, about a Canadian billionaire who hires a Vietnam veteran to bring his grandson's killer to the US.
His latest book, The Afghan, published in August 2006, is an indirect sequel to The Fist of God. Set in the very near future, the threat of a catastrophic assault on the West, discovered on a senior al-Qaeda member's computer, compels the leaders of the U.S. and the UK to attempt a desperate gambit—to substitute a seasoned British operative, retired Col. Mike Martin (of The Fist of God), for an Afghan Taliban commander being held prisoner at Guantánamo Bay. The plot of the novel shows familiarity with terrorist methodology, counter-surveillance techniques and grandiose thinking as evidenced in The Bojinka Plot.
Forsyth eschews psychological complexity in favour of meticulous plotting, based on detailed factual research. His books are full of information about the technical details of such subjects as money laundering, gun running and identity theft. His novels read like investigative journalism in fictional guise. His moral vision is a harsh one: the world is made up of predators and prey, and only the strong survive.
Forsyth's novels typically show the ways in which spies, gangsters, assassins, mercenaries, diplomats, business leaders and politicians go about their business behind-the-scenes; the sort of things that the average reader would not suspect while reading a simple headline. The Jackal does not just go out and shoot at Charles de Gaulle: he does meticulous research on the man at the library of the British Museum; obtains papers for his false identities; travels around Paris to find a good location for a sniper's nest; and buys and tests his weapons.
Also a subtle twist at the end of the novel can reveal that a lot more was going on than the reader initially suspected: Cat Shannon, the central figure of The Dogs of War, turns out to have had his own agenda all the time; Adam Munro of The Devil's Alternative finds out that he was not a player but a pawn to people in high places; in The Odessa File, the reporter's true motivation is revealed at the end, and a number of events in Icon turn out to have been committed by people other than those who the reader had been led to suppose.
Forsyth's novels also feature famous personalities and political leaders as characters — the Day of the Jackal features the French president Charles de Gaulle and his interior minister, Roger Frey, who heads the government search for the assassin — the opening chapter is based on an actual attempt by the OAS to kill de Gaulle. The Odessa File features the real-life Nazi murderer Edward Roschmann and the Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal. The Fourth Protocol and Icon involve several chapters indirectly featuring former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. president George H. W. Bush. Although unnamed or of fictional identity, the leader of the Soviet Union is portrayed as the lead antagonist in several novels. The Negotiator involves a fictional U.S. president loosely based on the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis.
His research has caused headaches for governments. In The Day of the Jackal, he describes a technique used by a would-be assassin to obtain a new passport. The assassin visits a church, and looks for a tombstone of someone who was born nearly the same time he was, but died in infancy. He then obtains a birth certificate, which enables him to obtain a passport in that person's name - effectively stealing an identity. In the story, the government didn't cross check passport requests with the death registry. Unfortunately, this was actually government practice at the time, and Forsyth revealed this in his writings. In The Deceiver, he describes how a British agent bugs the coffin of a dead IRA member. The microphone records the conversation of senior IRA members, who are using the funeral as a chance for a conference about terrorist activities. Journalists pressed the British government to ask if this had ever been done, and the British government was forced to admit that indeed it had.
Intriguingly, Forsyth's novels have had echoes in reality in recent years. In 2004, a group of British-led alleged mercenaries were arrested in Zimbabwe allegedly en route to Equatorial Guinea, where it was believed they intended to assist the country's opposition in overthrowing the government. In exchange for this assistance, the leaders of the group were allegedly offered lucrative mineral concessions in Equatorial Guinea. Media commentators immediately drew comparisons with the plot of Forsyth's novel The Dogs of War, which had been written more than 30 years before, and also involved a coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. One of those convicted of involvement in the coup was an ex-SAS officer, Simon Mann. Mann is a former associate of Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, the chief executive of the British "private military company" Aegis, and for this reason the British government had sought advice from Spicer when they first received intelligence that a coup was being planned.
Spicer, in turn, has an interesting connection with Forsyth, in that the author is reportedly one of a small number of people who own shares in Spicer's company.
Furthermore, in The Fist of God, set during the First Gulf War, a memorandum to the then United States Secretary of State James Baker from The Pentagon strongly advises against any invasion of Iraq. The reasons for this are stated to be that without the strength of the police state under Saddam Hussein, fractures would begin to appear between 'three nations' of Iraq, leading to an undesirable and almost unmanagable situation for the American government.
Several recent assassins have been associated with Day of the Jackal, some with more reason than others. Terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, or "Carlos the Jackal", received his moniker because the novel was found in what was thought to be his bag. Yigal Amir used the novel while planning his assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, while Vladimir Arutinian, who attempted to kill US President George W. Bush during his 2005 visit to the country of Georgia, was also found to be an avid reader of the novel (although the actual methods employed were different from the novel's).
Yet another story Forsyth had written that has striking parallels with events that happened later is The Negotiator, written two years before the assassination of former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi. In that novel, Simon Cormack, the kidnapped son of the American President, is finally released halfway through the story. As he is released by his captors and makes his way towards his dear ones, he is blown into pieces in a remotely triggered blast. Upon investigation it is revealed that explosive material containing RDX was planted in his belt unbeknownst to him during his capture and the said materials were exploded via remote control. This was the first instance in thriller novel history in which a human being was killed by a bomb tied to his own body.
A couple of years later, in the year 1991, former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in a bomb blast. Investigations later revealed that a "suicide bomber" or a "human bomb" was used to assassinate him. A female suicide assassin had a belt-bomb tied around her waist which she herself triggered as soon as she came within an arm's length of her target, Gandhi. It was also revealed that RDX was the explosive material used in the belt-bomb. The similarities were highlighted by newspapers across India.
Years before the September 11 attacks, Forsyth had planned to write a novel about terrorist strikes. He later dropped the idea, fearing that real terrorists would try to mimic the same. After the attacks, the author revealed the plot of the novel he never wrote: terrorists hijack a civilian airliner and ram the plane into their intended targets.
Forsyth is a Eurosceptic Conservative. In 2003, he was awarded the One of Us Award from the Conservative Way Forward group for his services to the Conservative movement in Britain. He is also a patron of the Young Britons' Foundation. In 2005, he came out in opposition to Kenneth Clarke's candidacy for the leadership of The Conservative Party, calling Clarke's record in government "unrivaled; a record of failure which at every level has never been matched". Instead, he endorsed and donated money to David Davis's campaign.
He is also a strong supporter of the British monarchy. In his book Icon, he recommended a constitutional monarchy as a solution to Russia's political problems following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He is an occasional radio broadcaster on political issues, and has also written for newspapers throughout his career, including a weekly page in the Daily Express. He is Patron of Better Off Out, an organisation calling for Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.
In August 2006, Forsyth appeared on the ITV gameshow Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? to raise funds for charity.
On February 8, 2007, Forsyth appeared on BBC's political panel show Question Time. On it, he expressed scepticism on the subject of anthropogenic climate change. On March 26, 2008, he also appeared on BBC's The One Show.
On June 17, 2008, Forsyth was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live Midday News in relation to the restoration of the Military Covenant. During the interview he referred to Gordon Brown as a numpty. << Less Bio
Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2010 - Arrivals
Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2010 - Arrivals
Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2010 - Arrivals