Frederick Forsyth

Forsyth in 2003
Forsyth in 2003
BornFrederick McCarthy Forsyth
(1938-08-25) 25 August 1938 (age 85)
Ashford, Kent, England
GenreCrime fiction,
Notable worksThe Day of the Jackal
The Odessa File
The Dogs of War
The Fourth Protocol
The Fist of God
The Black Aeroplane
Military career
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Years of service1956–1958
RankPilot officer
Service number5010968

Frederick McCarthy Forsyth CBE (born 25 August 1938) is an English novelist, journalist, former spy, and occasional political commentator. He is best known for thrillers such as The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, The Fourth Protocol, The Dogs of War, The Devil's Alternative, The Fist of God, Icon, The Veteran, Avenger, The Afghan, The Cobra and The Kill List.

Forsyth's works frequently appear on best-sellers lists and more than a dozen of his titles have been adapted to film. By 2006, he had sold more than 70 million books in more than 30 languages.[1]

Early life

The son of a furrier,[2] Forsyth was born in Ashford, Kent.[3] He was educated at Tonbridge School and later attended the University of Granada in Spain.[2]


Military and journalism

Before becoming a journalist, Forsyth completed his National Service in the Royal Air Force as a pilot where he flew the de Havilland Vampire.[4][5] He joined Reuters in 1961 and later the BBC in 1965, where he served as an assistant diplomatic correspondent.

Forsyth reported on his early activities as a journalist. His early career was spent covering French affairs and the attempted assassination of Charles de Gaulle. He had never been to what he termed "black Africa" until reporting on the Nigerian Civil War between Biafra and Nigeria as a BBC correspondent.[6] He was there for the first six months of 1967, but few expected the war to last very long considering the poor weaponry and preparation of the Biafrans when compared to the British-armed Nigerians. After his six months were over, however, Forsyth – eager to carry on reporting – approached the BBC to ask if he could have more time there. He noted their response:

I was told quite bluntly, then, 'it is not our policy to cover this war.' This was a period when the Vietnam War was front-page headlines almost every day, regarded broadly as an American cock-up, and this particularly British cock-up in Nigeria was not going to be covered. I smelt news management. I don't like news management. So I made a private vow to myself: 'you may, gentlemen, not be covering it, but I'm going to cover it.' So I quit and flew out there, and stayed there for most of the next two years.

He thus returned to Biafra as a freelance reporter, writing his first book, The Biafra Story, in 1969.[7]

In August 2015 Forsyth revealed that in Biafra he began work as a spy for MI6, a relationship that continued for 20 years. He claimed he was not paid.[8]

He is an occasional radio broadcaster on political issues, and has also written for newspapers throughout his career, including a weekly page in the Daily Express. In 2003, he criticised "gay-bashers in the churches" in The Guardian newspaper.[9] He has narrated several documentaries, including Jesus Christ Airlines, Soldiers: A History of Men in Battle and I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life & Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal.


Forsyth decided to write a novel using similar research techniques to those used in journalism. His first full-length novel, The Day of the Jackal, was published in 1971. It became an international bestseller and gained its author the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel. In this book, the Organisation Armée Secrète hires an assassin to kill then-French President Charles de Gaulle. It was made into a film of the same name.

In Forsyth's second full-length novel, The Odessa File (1972), a reporter attempts to track down an ex-Nazi SS officer in contemporary Germany. The reporter discovers him via the diary of a Jewish Holocaust survivor who committed suicide earlier, but he is being shielded by an organization that protects ex-Nazis, called ODESSA. This book was later made into a movie with the same name, starring Jon Voight, but there were substantial alterations. Many of the novel's readers assumed that ODESSA really existed, but historians disagree.[10]

In The Dogs of War (1974) a British mining executive hires a group of mercenaries to overthrow the government of an African country so that he can install a puppet regime that will allow him cheap access to a colossal platinum-ore reserve. This book was also adapted into the 1980 film starring Christopher Walken and Tom Berenger.

The Shepherd was an illustrated novella published in 1975. It tells of a nightmare journey by an RAF pilot while flying home for Christmas in the late 1950s. His attempts to find a rational explanation for his eventual rescue prove as troublesome as his experience.

Following this came The Devil's Alternative in 1979, which was set in 1982. In this book, the Soviet Union faces a disastrous grain harvest. The US is ready to help for some political and military concessions. A Politburo faction fight ensues. War is proposed as a solution. Ukrainian freedom fighters complicate the situation later. In the end, a Swedish oil tanker built in Japan, a Russian airliner hijacked to West Berlin and various governments find themselves involved.

In 1982, No Comebacks, a collection of ten short stories, was published. Some of these stories had been written earlier. Many were set in the Republic of Ireland where Forsyth was living at the time. One of them, There Are No Snakes in Ireland, won him a second Edgar Allan Poe Award, this time for best short story.

The Fourth Protocol was published in 1984 and involves renegade elements within the Soviet Union attempting to plant a nuclear bomb near an American airbase in the UK, intending to influence the upcoming British elections and lead to the election of an anti-NATO, anti-American, anti-nuclear, pro-soviet Labour government. The 1987 adaptation starred Pierce Brosnan and Michael Caine. Almost all of the political content was removed from the film.

Forsyth's tenth book came in 1989 with The Negotiator, in which the American President's son is kidnapped and one man's job is to negotiate his release.

Two years later, in 1991, The Deceiver was published. It includes four short stories reviewing the career of British secret agent Sam McCready. At the start of the novel, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State (PUSS) of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office requires the Chief of the SIS to push Sam into early retirement. The four stories are presented to a grievance committee in an attempt to allow Sam to stay on active duty with the SIS.

In 1994, Forsyth published The Fist of God, a novel which concerns the first Gulf War. Next, in 1996, he published Icon, about the rise of fascists to power in post-Soviet Russia.

In 1999, Forsyth published The Phantom of Manhattan, a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. It was intended as a departure from his usual genre; Forsyth's explanation was that "I had done mercenaries, assassins, Nazis, murderers, terrorists, special forces soldiers, fighter pilots, you name it, and I got to think, could I actually write about the human heart?"[11] However, it did not achieve the same success as his other novels, and he subsequently returned to modern-day thrillers.

In 2001, The Veteran, another collection of short stories, was published, followed by Avenger, published in September 2003, about a Canadian billionaire who hires a Vietnam veteran to bring his grandson's killer to the US. Avenger was released as a film starring Sam Elliott and Timothy Hutton.[12]

The Afghan, published in August 2006, is an indirect sequel to The Fist of God. Set in the very near future, the threat of a catastrophic assault on the West, discovered on a senior al-Qaeda member's computer, compels the leaders of the US and the UK to attempt a desperate gambit — to substitute a seasoned British operative, retired Col. Mike Martin (of The Fist of God), for an Afghan Taliban commander being held prisoner at Guantánamo Bay.

The Cobra, published in 2010, features some of the characters previously featured in Avenger, and has as its subject an attempt to destroy the world trade in cocaine.

On 20 August 2013, his novel, The Kill List was published. It was announced earlier in June that Rupert Sanders would be directing a film version of the story.[13]

On 10 September 2015, Forsyth's autobiography, The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, was published.

In January 2018 it was announced that Forsyth would publish his eighteenth novel, a thriller about computer hackers, inspired by the Lauri Love and Gary McKinnon stories.[14] In October 2018, The Fox, was published in electronic format and was released in hardcover in November. The Fox is an espionage thriller about an autistic but gifted hacker.


On 16 February 2012 the Crime Writers Association announced that Forsyth had won its Cartier Diamond Dagger award in recognition of his body of work.[15]

Forsyth was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1997 New Year Honours list for services to literature.[16]

Other appearances

In September 2005, Forsyth appeared on the ITV gameshow Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and raised £250,000 for charity. He offered the answer for the £500,000 question but, despite being correct, he decided to take £250,000. On 8 February 2007, Forsyth appeared on BBC's political panel show Question Time; on it, he expressed scepticism on the subject of anthropogenic climate change. On 26 March 2008, he also appeared on BBC's The One Show. On 17 June 2008, Forsyth was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live Midday News in relation to the restoration of the Military Covenant. On 2 February 2015, he appeared on Eggheads as a member of Rewarding Talent.

Political views

Forsyth is a Eurosceptic Conservative. He has been Patron of The People's Book Prize since 2010. He is Patron of Better Off Out, an organisation calling for Britain's withdrawal from the European Union and supports Brexit.[17] In 2003, he was awarded the One of Us Award from the Conservative Way Forward group for his services to the Conservative movement in Britain. He is also a patron of the Young Britons' Foundation.

In 2005, he came out in opposition to Kenneth Clarke's candidacy for the leadership of the Conservative Party, calling Clarke's record in government "unrivalled; a record of failure which at every level has never been matched". Instead, he endorsed and donated money to David Davis's campaign. In the run-up to the 2005 United Kingdom general election, Forsyth called for the impeachment of Tony Blair over the 2003 invasion of Iraq and lent his support to anti-war campaigner Reg Keys who stood in Blair's constituency of Sedgefield.[18]

Personal life

Forsyth has been married twice, first to former model Carole Cunningham between 1973 to 1988 with whom he had two sons Stuart and Shane, and then to Sandy Molloy since 1994.[19][20] He also had a relationship with actress Faye Dunaway.[21] Forsyth previously resided in a manor house in Hertfordshire with his family before moving to Buckinghamshire in 2010.[22][23][24]

In 2016, he said he was giving up writing thrillers because his wife had told him he was too old to travel to dangerous places.[25]


Works by Frederick Forsyth
Title Year Notes
The Biafra Story 1969 Non-fiction. 1977 edition titled The Biafra Story: The Making of an African Legend.
The Day of the Jackal 1971 Adapted into the 1973 film of the same name.
The Odessa File 1972 Adapted into the 1974 film of the same name.
The Dogs of War 1974 Adapted into the 1980 film of the same name.
The Shepherd 1975 Illustrated short story. Chris Foss illustrated the UK edition. American edition published in 1976: Lou Feck illustrated this edition.
The Devil's Alternative 1979 American edition published in 1980.
Emeka 1982 Biography of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Revised in 1991.
No Comebacks 1982 Collection consisting of ten short stories.
The Fourth Protocol 1984 Adapted into the 1987 film of the same name.
The Negotiator 1989
The Deceiver 1991
Great Flying Stories 1991 Compiled, edited and introduced by Forsyth. Also features his 1975 story "The Shepherd".
Sharp Practice 1992
The Fist of God 1994
Icon 1996 Adapted into 2005 television film.
The Phantom of Manhattan 1999 Partly adapted into the 2010 romantic musical Love Never Dies.
The Veteran 2001 Collection consisting of five short stories: "The Veteran", "The Art of the Matter", "The Miracle", "The Citizen", and "Whispering Wind".
Avenger 2003
The Afghan 2006
The Cobra 2010
The Kill List 2013
The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue 2015 Autobiography. Published in September 2015.
The Fox 2018

The following four works listed above are not fictional novels or novellas: The Biafra Story (1969), Emeka (1982), Great Flying Stories (1991) and The Outsider (2015).


As writer only (except for Soldiers, as presenter)


Year Title Notes
1973 The Day of the Jackal Adapted from The Day of the Jackal
1974 The Odessa File Adapted from The Odessa File
1980 The Dogs of War Adapted from The Dogs of War
1987 The Fourth Protocol Adapted from The Fourth Protocol
1997 The Jackal Based on the 1973 film


Year Title Notes
1973 Money with Menaces TV play; one of 10 short stories in No Comebacks
1980 Cry of the Innocent TV film
1984 Two by Forsyth 2 episodes: "Privilege" and "A Careful Man"
1985 Soldiers 13 episodes; as presenter
1989–90 Frederick Forsyth Presents 6 episodes; as writer and presenter
1996 Code Name: Wolverine TV film
2005 Icon TV film; adapted from Icon
2006 Avenger TV film; adapted from Avenger


Year Title Notes
2010 Love Never Dies West End; partially adapted from The Phantom of Manhattan


Year Title Notes
2012 Love Never Dies Direct-to-video

Video games

Year Title Notes
1985 The Fourth Protocol Adapted from The Fourth Protocol

Music videos

Year Title Artist
2016 "Fallen Soldier" Melissa Adler


Forsyth wrote lyrics to a lament titled "Fallen Soldier", with music by Gareth Ellis Williams, which was released as a single by Royal Opera House soprano Melissa Adler in 2016.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Leeman, Sue (3 September 2006). "Forsyth Looks at World of Al-Qaida". Associated Press. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b Forsyth, Frederick (10 September 2015). The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue. Bantam Press. p. 84. ISBN 9780593075401.
  3. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  4. ^ "No. 40902". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 October 1956. p. 5846.
  5. ^ "No. 41165". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 September 1957. p. 5169.
  6. ^ "Nigeria War Against Biafra, 1967–70, Part 3", BBC (documentary), United Kingdom: Google You Tube ((citation)): |format= requires |url= (help)
  7. ^ "Frederick Forsyth". Authors (biography). Biblio. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  8. ^ BBC article Frederick Forsyth reveals MI6 spying past
  9. ^ Norman, Matthew (30 June 2003). "Diary, 26 June 2003". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  10. ^ Guy Walters (2010). Hunting Evil: The Nazi War Criminals Who Escaped and the Quest to Bring Them to Justice. Crown Publishing Group. pp. 139, 156. ISBN 9780307592484.
  11. ^ King, Larry, Live Weekend (transcript) (Interview), CNN.
  12. ^ Avenger at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  13. ^ Han, Angie (20 June 2013), "Rupert Sanders to Direct Frederick Forsyth Adaptation 'The Kill List'", Slash film.
  14. ^ Katherine Cowdrey (9 January 2018), Forsyth to release hacking thriller this autumn, The URL accessed 19 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Frederick Forsyth wins the CWA Diamond Dagger". CWA Diamond Dagger Awards. Crime Writers Association (UK). Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  16. ^ "No. 54625". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1996. p. 8.
  17. ^ "Have Your Say - Frederick Forsyth The Author - His view on Brexit".
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Dunaway (1995), p. 360.
  22. ^
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  25. ^ "Frederick Forsyth to stop writing thrillers". Retrieved 16 September 2016.