THE DAY OF THE JACKEL by Frederick Forsyth

Just goes to prove that old books don't die, they may go to the back of the shelf for years, as in 30 plus, but one day, the urge to re-read resurfaces, and it is just as a thrilling, gripping and page turning ride as it was when I read this as a teenager. And I know I was a teenager, because the date I bought it is in the front cover. A few months I ago I read Frederick Forsyth's memoir of his life, which is what made me pull the novel out of the shelf. Forsyth has lived an amazing life, and I loved his stories, probably embellished, his very engaging way of telling them, all highly entertaining. His three most successful novels, including this one, relied heavily on his post war experiences in Europe and Africa, with many of those stories and escapades told in his memoir.

And this, his first novel, is an absolute cracker. As fresh and relevant now as it was when first published in 1971 (before I was a teenager). I have since watched the movie made in 1973, also excellent and highly entertaining. It moves a little more slowly than action thrillers of today, but as a result you have time to closely observe the fashions, the cars, the much less crowded cities of Paris, Rome, London, the meticulous detail and care the Jackal takes in his work. The book is exactly the same - measured, well thought out, but not too slow, precise in its language, action and characters. It doesn't have all the whizz bang gadgetry and technology of today's movies, books and TV programmes. It has dial telephones, phone boxes, filing cabinets and boxes filled with millions of cards and papers that are manually sorted, huge ledgers and journals that again are methodically gone through page by page. Meetings take place around a table, not via video conferencing. Despite the lack of the latest whatever, this novel has not dated a scrap, and I loved reading it again.

The story is well known I am sure. Set in 1962, President De Gaulle of France has made many enemies over the years, including those who feel betrayed by De Gaulle's decision to give Algeria its independence. An assassin is hired, the Jackal, nameless, stateless, faceless, paid the laughable sum of USD$500,000. Half now, half on completion - he would never need to work again! Fancy that. Will he be able to retire in style, or will diligent detective work by the French get their man and save De Gaulle's life? Fantastic Stuff. 

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