Frederick Forsyth, CBE (born 25 August 1938) is an English author and occasional political commentator.
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 on National Service from 1956 to 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.
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.
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 Eduard 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 US 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. Other real life characters are thinly disguised. For example, real life suspected Russian arms dealer Victor Bout is portrayed as “Vladimir Bout” in Avenger.
A selection of books by Frederick Forsyth
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An interview with Frederick Forsyth