Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Review: Frederick Forsyth's 'The Outsider" My Life In Intrique'

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of Frederick Forsyth's The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue for the Washington Times
Let us hope that certain passages in this memoir by British thriller writer Frederick Forsyth do not cause trouble — perhaps fatal trouble — for authors who follow his example and use their profession as a cover for work for intelligence agencies.
For those of you unfamiliar with the thriller genre, Mr. Forsyth is at the top of the pack. He has succeeded because his 15 novels, most of them best-sellers, have a definite ring of authenticity. Mr. Forsyth spent his early years as a journalist, beginning with a provincial British newspaper, then with the Reuters news agency and BBC, with assignments throughout Europe and Africa.
A shrewd reporter, Mr. Forsyth eschewed the egotism endemic among too many journalists. He developed what he termed his “Bertie Wooster mode, an adopted persona based on P.G. Wodehouse’s witless hero: helpless, well-meaning, affable, but as dim as a five-watt bulb.” The contrived bumbler pose enabled Mr. Forsyth to mingle with African war lords, mercenary soldiers, and drug dealers who took him as “the harmless fool with a British passport.” Despite his innocent guise, Mr. Forsyth never lacked bravery — at age 19, he had been the youngest pilot in the Royal Air Force, and his girlfriends included the mistress of the East German defense minister.
Drinking late-night beers in the 9th Arrondissment of Paris, a red-light district, the young reporter was an unnoticed presence who “stared vacantly at the wall” and listened to military dissidents rant about their idea of killing former President Charles de Gaulle, who had decided to end France’s domination of Algeria. Once he left the BBC, Mr. Forsyth holed up in a friend’s apartment and, in 35 days, wrote a novel on a plot to kill de Gaulle, “The Day of the Jackal.” A string of subsequent best-sellers brought him international fame.
Mr. Forsyth also had developed a reputation as a hard-nosed reporter with both a conscience and a zest for the truth. He recognized early-on the mass starvations in strife-torn Biafra, a human tragedy which the British foreign office chose to ignore.
But the government included a strong dissenting voice — the Secret Intelligence Service — he called it “the Firm” — which preferred to deal in hard facts rather than political opinion. Mr. Forsyth’s reporting from Biafra attracted the attention of an SIS officer who shared his disdain for what he called the “cowardice” of the government. The officer needed a trusted “source on the ground” whose eyes-on evidence could rebut charge of media exaggeration. Mr. Forsyth willingly became the SIS’s source, continuing his journalistic work all the while.
You can read the rest of the review via the below link:


  1. Thanks for highlighting the book, Paul. I'll add it to my TBR list. All the best from former Kitty Hawk sailor.