The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue
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From the grand master of international suspense comes his most intriguing story ever—his own.
For more than forty years, Frederick Forsyth has been writing extraordinary real-world novels of intrigue, from The Day of the Jackal on. Whether writing about the murky world of arms dealers or the intricacies of worldwide drug cartels, every plot has been chillingly plausible because every detail has been minutely researched. But what most people don’t know is that some of his greatest stories of intrigue have been in his own life.
He was the RAF’s youngest pilot at the age of nineteen, barely escaped the wrath of an arms dealer in Hamburg, got strafed by a MiG during the Nigerian Civil War, landed during a bloody coup in Guinea-Bissau (and has himself been accused of helping fund a 1973 coup in Equatorial Guinea). The Stasi arrested him, the Israelis feted him, the IRA threatened him, and a certain attractive Czech secret police agent, well, her actions were a bit more . . . intimate. And that’s just for starters.
Nominated for the Edgar Award for best critical/biographical work of 2015.
what might become Armageddon as a watery sun rose over Pankow. Only later did they tell me what had been triggered by those yards of punched tape. It seemed the night staff at Reuters in London had awoken with quite a jolt. In the suburban homes of the top men in Reuters, telephones rang, and the dispatch from East Berlin was read out to them. The story was not sent on to the agency’s clients worldwide, and thank heavens for that. Night-duty officers in the British ministries were roused and
memoirs. We sat in opposing chairs and he looked expectant. I wondered how many interviews to journalists he had given; thousands, probably, many famous, and now to a complete unknown. I calculated that old men can often recall with total clarity what they did in their youth, while having completely forgotten whom they had dinner with last week. I know the feeling too well. It seemed to me he must have been badgered many times for details of the Six-Day War, even though it was Levi Eshkol who
veteran of the Luftwaffe, secured our admission into the admiring circle around the ace aviator. She was beaming and shook hands with my host and his wife and their teenage children. Then she turned to me and held out her hand. That was when my host made a mistake. “Our young house guest,” he said. “Er ist ein Engländer.” The smile froze, the hand was withdrawn. I recall a pair of blazing blue eyes and a voice rising in rage. “Ein Engländer???” she squawked, and stalked off. Like my father, it
home. In the eighties, with Rhodesia now Zimbabwe, the target was the South Africa of the National Party, the originator and enforcer of apartheid, which was both brutal and tinged with insanity. I once found myself closeted with General Hendrik van den Bergh, the head of the Bureau of State Security, the dreaded BOSS, and he insisted on telling me a story to prove not only his legitimacy but his sanctity as well. “Let me tell you this, Mr. Fosdick”—he always called me Fosdick, forefinger
attending the garden funeral of the Taylor family goldfish with complete Judaic rite presided over by a rabbi. As for me, after a few minutes, my old knees were on fire. I had no choice but to let my backside hit the floor and take the weight, and straighten the knees. But that posed another problem. It is very rude to point the soles of the feet at fellow worshippers, so I had to squirm until the soles were pointing at each other and I was squatting like a frog on a lily pad. At the end, it