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Group Reads > April 2019 - The Day of the Jackal

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message 1: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new)

Melki | 820 comments Mod
The Day of the Jackal concerns a professional assassin who is contracted by the OAS, a French dissident paramilitary organisation, to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France.
The novel received admiring reviews and praise when first published in 1971, and it received a 1972 Best Novel Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. The novel remains popular, and in 2003 it was listed on the BBC's survey The Big Read.
The OAS, as described in the novel, did exist, and the book opens with an accurate depiction of the attempt to assassinate de Gaulle led by Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry, but the subsequent plot is completely fictional.


Frederick Forsyth is an English author, journalist for the Daily Express, spy, and occasional political commentator, though he is best known as the writer of thrillers. His works frequently appear on best-sellers lists, and more than a dozen of his titles have been adapted to film. He has sold more than 70 million books in total.

Now aged 80, Forsyth claims he has giving up writing thrillers because his wife told him he was too old to travel to dangerous places.*

*Source: Wikipedia (I suggest you read Forsyth's Wiki page - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederi... He's led a fascinating life.)


message 2: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new)

Melki | 820 comments Mod
This one will be a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is read for me. I'm always telling everyone to try reading outside their comfort zone, but the truth is - I've never read a spy novel; I've just had no interest in the genre. I've only ever even seen two Bond films: The Spy Who Loved Me, my disastrous first date, and Moonraker because I had a crush on Richard Kiel who played Jaws in both films.

But, I've gotten the book from the library, and it's next up . . . after I finish the very strange Mammoth-cloning/time travel book I'm reading right now.


message 3: by Evgeny (new)

Evgeny This is not exactly a spy novel; it actually reads like a mystery/thriller.


message 4: by Lawrence (new)

Lawrence | 185 comments I'm about a third of the way in. Crisp, calm and edgy. While I don't read as much as I want to (time constraints) it is a page turner.


message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 439 comments It was the most complex thriller I'd ever read back when it came out. I remember being enthralled by the detail. I guess others had done it, but I hadn't read any at that point.


message 6: by Franky (new)

Franky | 394 comments I'm so behind on reading and I read this one years ago and really liked it, so I'll try to get to it for a reread. It was an impressive thriller, one that was very memorable. I liked how the narrative shifted back and forth from the assassin to the man trying to track him down.


message 7: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 75 comments I read this a few years back and it's a favorite of mine. I would like to have read more about the inspector who tracked him, maybe in another novel.

That's funny about what his wife said. The detail here shows how well he knew the area. Forsythe could have easily have mined that data and experience for future novels.


message 8: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new)

Melki | 820 comments Mod
M.L. wrote: "That's funny about what his wife said. The detail here shows how well he knew the area. Forsythe could have easily have mined that data and experience for future novels."

He definitely seemed to have a hands-on approach when it came to researching his novels . . . one that M16 apparently took advantage of:

Take Frederick Forsyth, for example. In his 2016 memoir, The Outsider, the author of The Day of the Jackal revealed that he had worked as a support agent for MI6 for more than two decades. On one occasion during the Cold War, Forsyth agreed to have sensitive documents hidden in the panelling of his car, which he then drove across the border into Communist East Germany. At an agreed time, Forsyth met a contact in the men’s lavatory of a prestigious Dresden museum and passed the documents to him from one locked cubicle to another.

Later, in the 1980s, he flew to apartheid-era South Africa for what MI6 euphemistically described as “enhanced tourism”. Forsyth’s mission? To find out what FW de Klerk’s government intended to do with South Africa’s nuclear weapons once they had handed over power to the ANC. As luck would have it, foreign minister Pik Botha told Forsyth over dinner that they would be destroyed. Forsyth duly reported the good news to his case officer in London.


Read the full article here: https://crimereads.com/the-long-stran...


message 9: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 439 comments Forsyth might have been too accurate in some of his depictions. The Dogs of War was thought to be the blueprint for an actual invasion & take over a country. It's in the 'research' section of the Wikipedia article.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dog...


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 295 comments Evgeny wrote: "This is not exactly a spy novel; it actually reads like a mystery/thriller."

I agree. This one's a thriller, written back in the day when that meant it was going to be "thrilling," instead of "completely implausible" which is apparently what "thriller" means in today's world. I read it several years ago and was impressed with Forsyth's attention to detail and the way he slowly built the tension in a completely credible way. The historical details were so interesting that it made me actually go back and read up a little bit on De Gaulle's life and France in the post-WWII era. I hope everyone enjoys this one!


message 11: by Lawrence (new)

Lawrence | 185 comments Yes, the detail is incredible. I'm so into this book, on the commute in this morning, while reading, I opened up the map app on my phone and followed one of the characters travels. I wasn't checking for accuracy, but I assumed it. Spot on...


message 12: by Franky (last edited Apr 05, 2019 10:21PM) (new)

Franky | 394 comments Ditto about the intricate level of detail. Forsythe did his homework and research writing the book and everything from a historical perspective it seems. Great point about the level of build up, RJ. That is what sold me on the book, the tension mounted higher and higher as the chapters progressed.

BTW, the film is pretty impressive too. Readers might take a shot at viewing after reading the novel to see what they think.


message 13: by Algernon (Darth Anyan), Hard-Boiled (new)

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 539 comments Mod
I've decided to try to get back into the groove on monthly group reads with the Jackal, so I read the first couple of chapters this morning. I both like it and fear it. I like the richness of the details and the cold style narration, but I am not so keen on the lack of emotional involvement and on the extreme length of the novel. I can see myself easily putting the book down and reading something else that appeals to me more. Like the recently finished "Drive" by James Sallis which was tight, poetic, challenging, intense.


message 14: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 75 comments Melki wrote: "ake Frederick Forsyth, for example. In his 2016 memoir, The Outsider, the author of The Day of the Jackal revealed that he had worked as a support agent for MI6 for more than two decades.

Thanks for this, I bought "The Outsider," his memoir (he says it's not a biography; OK, he says so, but seems like it.) :) Good book, I love the way he writes, and this has the same detail, fast-pace. I'll have to read another of his novels, maybe the Odessa File. Like Le Carre he knows from the inside. Reminds me, I need to read "Smiley's People." Very different styles.


message 15: by Sara (new)

Sara (saraelizabeth11) | 45 comments After the first chapter I wasn’t sure I was up for this one. By the end of the second, I’m in. :)


message 16: by Algernon (Darth Anyan), Hard-Boiled (new)

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 539 comments Mod
I finished last night, so it was a reasonably quick read for its size. While I think it deserves the fame it gained on publication and still reads very tight and modern today, for me this level of detail in the plot also raises a significant number of questions left unanswered.
For example (view spoiler)
I hope others here will finish and we can discuss these spoilers. These are mostly academic, since I understand the need for luck and the weakness of the human element that is mentioned once by the author. It's fiction, after all, and quite a compelling case here.


message 17: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 75 comments Hi Algernon, I looked at the spoiler. :) When I read it nothing interfered with my enjoyment so if I noticed what you mentioned, I still was swept up in the story. One of the many details I found interesting was the weapon.

As an aside, Forsyth's memoir is amazing. It really puts a spin on the old axiom, write what you know. :) Incredible experiences.


message 18: by Algernon (Darth Anyan), Hard-Boiled (new)

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 539 comments Mod
M.L. wrote: "Hi Algernon, I looked at the spoiler. :) When I read it nothing interfered with my enjoyment so if I noticed what you mentioned, I still was swept up in the story. One of the many details I found i..."

Exactly: I believe this feels so accomplished as a first novel, because he wrote it like one of his investigative journalism articles, very professionally researched.


message 19: by Lawrence (new)

Lawrence | 185 comments Algernon (Darth Anyan) wrote: "I finished last night, so it was a reasonably quick read for its size. While I think it deserves the fame it gained on publication and still reads very tight and modern today, for me this level of ..."

I finished this a bit ago and had looked at your spoiler questions. I agree that initial contact of the OAS could have been explained a little more. As to your second question...i'd wager that the Jackal had everything planned nice and neatly, but had to improvise once it was obvious the police had picked up his scent.


message 20: by Algernon (Darth Anyan), Hard-Boiled (last edited Apr 18, 2019 06:26AM) (new)

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 539 comments Mod
Lawrence wrote: "Algernon (Darth Anyan) wrote: "I finished last night, so it was a reasonably quick read for its size. While I think it deserves the fame it gained on publication and still reads very tight and mode..."

it's true: the author makes him a master at improvisation and disguise, and of course of careful preparation for any contingencies. It can be argued that chance in the form of human element random behaviour cuts both ways: (view spoiler)


message 21: by Sara (last edited Apr 25, 2019 10:15PM) (new)

Sara (saraelizabeth11) | 45 comments Wow. I just finished and I totally can't remember the last time that I simply couldn't--was completely incapable of--putting a book down. I really enjoyed the whole thing, and took my time reading it, until tonight as I was nearing the end. I read the last quarter all tonight and it had me absolutely captivated. Great book! Once again group, thanks for listing something I probably wouldn't have picked up on my own. It was fun!!!


message 22: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 75 comments This is definitely a thriller but it's more. The 'thrillers' I've read are mostly over once the story ends, and not always satisfying. This book is satisfying. He has so much in every sentence, it just feels different.


message 23: by Sara (new)

Sara (saraelizabeth11) | 45 comments M.L. wrote: "This is definitely a thriller but it's more. The 'thrillers' I've read are mostly over once the story ends, and not always satisfying. This book is satisfying. He has so much in every sentence..."
I agree. At first the amount of detail was overwhelming, but once I got accustomed to it, it saturated the story in a very satisfying way. "Thriller Plus"


message 24: by Ellyn (new)

Ellyn Weiss | 1 comments Day if the Jackal is one of my all-time favorites. Forsyth does the near-impossible: he creates incredible suspense in a story where you already know the ending.


message 25: by Franky (new)

Franky | 394 comments M.L. wrote: "This is definitely a thriller but it's more. The 'thrillers' I've read are mostly over once the story ends, and not always satisfying. This book is satisfying. He has so much in every sentence, it ..."

I agree. I think it is a notch above the typical thriller. Very well written, and researched.


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