Frederick Forsyth

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Frederick Forsyth’s novels may best be described as the weaving of recent historical fact and imaginative fiction into intricate tales of thrilling suspense. Highly professional yet unorthodox heroes often find themselves in conflict with large organizations or well-known individuals. Detailed descriptions provide an air of authority and authenticity to the story, while complex plots and subplots, initially unconnected, gradually and inexorably mesh. Suspense is a major aspect of the plots, for the reader does not know until the final pages how the story will be resolved. Even then, Forsyth always adds an ironic twist to the ending. The success of his writing is indicated by his international readership, with sales of more than 35 million copies of his books in more than two dozen languages.

Other literary forms

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Frederick Forsyth (FOHR-sith) has written and edited short fiction, including The Shepherd (1975), one of his most popular short stories. He wrote the screenplay for the 1987 film version of his novel The Fourth Protocol. His book sequel to the musical opera The Phantom of the Opera (1986), The Phantom of Manhattan, is the story of the phantom striking it rich on Wall Street and recruiting his beloved Christine de Chagney to sing at his own opera house. He also has written nonfiction, including The Biafra Story (1969), a work based on his experiences in Nigeria. The book was revised as The Making of an African Legend: The Biafra Story (1983). He also wrote the biographical Emeka (1982; a story of Biafrin president Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu) and I Remember: Reflections on Fishing in Childhood (1995).


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Frederick Forsyth created a new kind of fiction, the docudrama, combining journalistic immediacy, precise technical detail, and the fast-paced, suspenseful style of popular thrillers. More than thirty million copies of his books have been sold. Avenger, Icon, The Fourth Protocol, The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, and The Dogs of War have been made into films. The Day of the Jackal received the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America (1971).


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Bear, Andrew. “The Faction-Packed Thriller: The Novels of Frederick Forsyth.” Clues: A Journal of Detection 4 (Fall/Winter, 1983): 130-148.

Biema, D. Van. “A Profile in Intrigue, Novelist Frederick Forsyth Is Back Home as Readers Observe His Protocol.” People Weekly 22 (October 22, 1984): 87-88.

Bloom, Bernard H. “In ’94 Forsyth Novel, Hard-Hitting Truth of Today.” Times Union, June 2, 2007, p. A6. Notes an intelligence report in Forsyth’s 1994 The Fist of God that spells out what is likely to happen if Saddam Hussein’s regime is toppled and remarks on how closely it matches what occurred in real life. Provides evidence of Forsyth’s realistic, journalistic style.

Forsyth, Frederick. Frederick Forsyth. The official Web site for Forsyth. Offers a biography, publication history, and links to interviews with the author.

Hitz, Frederick P. The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Hitz, a former inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency, compares fictional accounts of espionage with actual cases. Contains some discussion of Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal.

Ibrahim, Youssef M. “At Lunch with Frederick Forsyth.” The New York Times, October 9, 1996, p. C1.

Jones, Dudley. “Professionalism and Popular Fiction: The Novels of Arthur Hailey and Frederick Forsyth.” In Spy Thrillers: From Buchan to le Carré, edited by Clive Bloom. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. Offers close critical scrutiny of Forsyth’s “faction”—the blending of fact and fiction, particularly in his early work. Forsyth’s use of footnotes and other gimmicks in Day of the Jackal create a novel that mimics the real world, while the narrative reflects an assassin’s sociopathic detachment.

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create a novel that mimics the real world, while the narrative reflects an assassin’s sociopathic detachment.

Levy, Paul. “Down on the Farm with Frederick Forsyth.” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 1989, p. 1

Macdonald, Andrew F. “Frederick Forsyth.” In British Mystery and Thriller Writers Since 1940, edited by Bernard Benstock. Vol. 87 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1989. A thorough overview of the author’s career to 1989.

Macdonald, Andrew F. “Frederick Forsyth.” In St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers. 4th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1996. A critical article.

Pitt, David. Review of The Afghan, by Frederick Forsyth. Booklist 102, no. 22 (August, 2006): 50. Reviewer notes Forsyth’s realistic style, which adds to the suspense of this novel about a terrorist plot.

Priestman, Martin. The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Contains an excellent discussion of the spy thriller, including Day of the Jackal and The Fourth Protocol, describing the conventions of detective fiction in the wider context of Cold War conspiracies.


Critical Essays