The Feather Men

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The concept of revenge is common within most, if not all, human cultures. Indeed, more than a few cultures embrace wholeheartedly a ritualized system which requires that individuals extract personal retribution from those who inflict injury on themselves or specified family members. If an individual fails to respond in the appropriate fashion, the socioeconomic consequences are frequently quite severe. Therefore, in some cultures institutions created by nation states to ameliorate disputes between individuals are frequently bypassed by those who feel compelled to extract punishment on a personal basis.

Such was the dilemma faced by Amr bin Issa, the traditional ruler of the Bait Jarboat tribe in the Dhofar province of Oman. Many of those who lived in Dhofar sought independence from the rule of the Sultan of Oman, and three of Amr’s children died in course of the ensuing civil war. Amr’s failure to seek vengeance for the death of his children, however, provided his political opponents with the means to force him into political isolation and exile. In 1977, Amr sought to restore his family fortunes by fulfilling his cultural obligation to avenge the loss of his sons by engaging the services of three hired assassins.

THE FEATHER MEN is the tale of how four former British soldiers were murdered to enhance the economic fortunes of an Omani family. It is also the record of a private vigilante group known as the Feather Men, who sought to identify the assassins and bring them to justice. In point of fact, it was his salvation at the hands of the vigilantes which allowed Ranulph Fiennes to live to tell this story, in which truth is indeed stranger than fiction.