Biography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 567

Frederick McCarthy Forsyth was born in Ashford, Kent, England, on August 25, 1938, the son of Frederick William Forsyth and Phyllis Green Forsyth. While at the Tonbridge School in Kent, he was a voracious reader, reading “anything I could get my hands on that had to do with adventure.” He also developed a keen interest in foreign languages, learning French, German, and Spanish as well as some Russian and Italian. He frequently vacationed on the Continent, where he polished his language proficiency. He was also an avoid motorcyclist, bullfighter, and airplane pilot. His formal schooling ended when he was seventeen. Only a few days after his seventeenth birthday, Forsyth had qualified for a pilot’s license, and he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in May of 1956. He soon became the youngest fighter pilot in the RAF.

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Forsyth left the military in 1958 to become a journalist, claiming that “it was the only job I could think of that might enable me to write, travel and keep more or less my own hours.” He worked for the Eastern Daily Press in Norfolk, England, for three years. He then joined Reuters, the international news service, as a reporter and was posted to Paris, where he covered the Secret Army Organization (OAS) campaign against French president Charles de Gaulle.

At the age of twenty-five, Forsyth was appointed chief reporter of the Reuters East Berlin bureau, where he was Reuters’s sole representative covering events in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. In 1965, he became a radio reporter for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); in 1967, he became an assistant diplomatic correspondent for BBC television. He was assigned to cover the civil war in Nigeria for the BBC, but his concern for the Biafrans made it difficult for him to follow the official position toward the conflict. He resigned and remained in Biafra as a freelance journalist for Time magazine, the Evening Standard, and the Daily Express. His experiences resulted in his first book, The Biafra Story, in 1969.

With his mind a repository of experiences, Forsyth turned to writing fiction. Using his observations of the 1962-1963 political crisis in France, he wrote The Day of the Jackal (1971). The book was rejected by several publishers before being picked up by Hutchinson. Nevertheless, it became a best seller and earned the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award. This work was quickly followed by The Odessa File (1972), a novel about neo-Nazi Germans, and The Dogs of War (1974), a novel set in a postindependence African nation.

Although Forsyth had declared that he would write only three novels, in 1979 he published The Devil’s Alternative, a novel set in 1982 that offers insights into Soviet national and agricultural problems. The Fourth Protocol (1984) investigated the possibility of nuclear terrorism and international politics. In addition to his mystery novels, Forsyth has published No Comebacks: Collected Short Stories (1982), a collection of his mystery short stories, and The Shepherd (1975), a long short story for young adults about a ghostly plane helping a lost pilot.

The enormous success of Forsyth’s novels has allowed him to live comfortably. He left England in 1974 to escape heavy taxation on his earnings, spending one year in Spain and five years in a mansion outside Dublin, Ireland. On his return to England in 1980, he moved into a large house in a fashionable section of London. He married Carole Forsyth, a former model, and they had two sons.

Biography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 412

Frederick McCarthy Forsyth, the son of Frederick William Forsyth and Phyllis Green Forsyth, was born in Ashford, Kent, England, on August 25, 1938. His father taught him to love maps and to find the world’s trouble spots on those maps, and he told him exciting stories about Borneo headhunters and tiger shoots. Forsyth attended the Tonbridge School in Kent and loves language (he speaks French, German, Spanish, and some Russian and Italian). He quit school at the age of seventeen.

Having qualified for his pilot’s license in a Tiger Moth biplane, Forsyth joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1956 and learned to fly a Vampire jet, becoming at the age of nineteen the youngest fighter pilot in the RAF. Two years later, he left the military to work as a journalist for the Eastern Daily Press in Norfolk before joining the international news service Reuters and being posted to Paris. There he covered the campaign against French president Charles de Gaulle, the inspiration for his first novel, The Day of the Jackal. Forsyth became chief reporter of the Reuters East Berlin bureau, covering East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. In 1965, he joined the British Broadcasting Corporation as a radio reporter and then was assistant diplomatic correspondent for BBC television and assigned to cover the Nigerian civil war. The conflict between the official British stance on the war (motivated by Nigeria’s rich oil fields) and his personal sympathy with starving Biafrans in general and their leader, Colonel Ojukwu, in particular led to disillusionment. Having offended Sir David Hunt, British high commissioner in Lagos, Forsyth resigned his position, became a freelance journalist, and recorded his war observations, which became his first book The Biafra Story. He also helped illegally fly food to save half a million African children.

Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal, recounting French political intrigue, was published two years later, followed quickly by The Odessa File and The Dogs of War. These three novels made his reputation and allowed him to live well, though high English taxes drove him out of the country, first to Spain for one year, then to Ireland, near Dublin, for five years. Returning to England in 1980, he settled in a fashionable section of London with his wife, Carole Forsyth, and their two sons, Frederick and Shane. He later divorced and was remarried. His memoir, I Remember, discusses his favorite pastime, fishing, which provides the author with the calm he needs for thinking through his plots.

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