Clos­ing the book on thrillers

> Bri­tish leg­end Fred­er­ick Forsyth has given up chas­ing ad­ven­tures and writ­ing fic­tion at age 78, but not be­fore re­count­ing his ex­ploits work­ing for the M16 spy ser­vice in a mem­oir, The Out­sider

The Sun (Malaysia) - - THE RIGHT READ -

AF­TER a dozen nov­els and 70 mil­lion book sales un­der his belt, Bri­tish writer Fred­er­ick Forsyth ( be­low) told AFP he is giv­ing up on thrillers be­cause his wife told him he can no longer travel to ad­ven­tur­ous places.

“I’m tired of it, and I can’t just sit at home and do a nice lit­tle ro­mance from my study,” said the 78-year-old, who re­vealed in a mem­oir last year that he had worked ex­ten­sively for the MI6 spy ser­vice.

“I ran out of things to say,” said the soft-spo­ken Forsyth, who trained as a Royal Air Force pi­lot be­fore join­ing Reuters news agency in 1961, and be­gin­ning his ca­reer as a nov­el­ist in the 1970s.

Af­ter his last trip to So­ma­lia as re­search for The Kill List, Forsyth said his wife told him: “You’re far too old, these places are bloody dan­ger­ous, and you don’t run as avidly, as nim­bly as you used to.”

Forsyth, who has only ever writ­ten on a type­writer, said he had tried an on­line search for So­ma­lia but had been “very dis­sat­is­fied” with the re­sults.

“There was some sta­tis­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion on So­ma­lia but not what I wanted, which was at­mos­phere.”

He said his mem­oir The Out­sider was his “swan song”.

“How many bak­ers go on bak­ing af­ter 78?” he quipped.

In an in­ter­view on the side­lines of a speak­ing en­gage­ment or­gan­ised by the Lon­don Grill Club, Forsyth also spoke about his work for MI6 in Africa and the for­mer Soviet bloc dur­ing the Cold War.

The writer said he would sub­mit draft pages from his nov­els to MI6 to check that he was not di­vulging sen­si­tive de­tails, and they would some­times come back with an­no­ta­tions and para­graphs un­der­lined.

In The Fourth Pro­to­col, he said he avoided telling read­ers how ex­actly to trig­ger a nu­clear weapon, af­ter a bit of edit­ing of the draft from MI6. “You don’t want any­one ac­tu­ally to do it!” said Forsyth. Forsyth worked for Reuters and the BBC in the 1960s in France, Nige­ria and East Ger­many. While work­ing as a jour­nal­ist in 1968 in Nige­ria, he was ap­proached by an MI6 man called “Ron­nie” who wanted “an as­set deep in­side the Bi­afran en­clave” where there was a civil war be­tween 1967 and 1970. Then, in 1973, Forsyth said he was asked to con­duct a mis­sion for MI6 in com­mu­nist East Ger­many. “There was an as­set, a Rus­sian colonel, work­ing for us deep in­side East Ger­many, and he had a pack­age that we needed brought out,” he wrote in his mem­oir.

Forsyth said he drove his Tri­umph con­vert­ible to Dres­den, and re­ceived the pack­age from the Rus­sian colonel in the toi­lets of the Al­bert­inum mu­seum.

He calls the se­cret ser­vices “our pro­tec­tors” and said he was not paid for his work, adding that “I was only try­ing to help out the old coun­try”.

Talk­ing about his work with MI6 could be for­mally a breach of the life­long commitment to dis­cre­tion un­der­taken when he signed the Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act, but Forsyth said decades had passed and many se­crets from that time had al­ready been di­vulged.

His first novel in 1971, The Day of the Jackal, was about a fic­tional as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt on French pres­i­dent Charles de Gaulle by right-wing ex­trem­ists an­gry at his grant­ing in­de­pen­dence to Al­ge­ria.

Other best­sellers quickly fol­lowed, in­clud­ing The Odessa File (1972) and The Dogs of War (1974).

Af­ter the end of the Cold War, he wrote thrillers about al-Qaeda, drone war­fare and ren­di­tion.

Forsyth also has a weekly col­umn in the Daily Ex­press in which he of­ten writes about counter-ter­ror­ism is­sues, mil­i­tary af­fairs and for­eign pol­icy.

Fol­low­ing his re­tire­ment from fic­tion, he said he will fo­cus now on a cam­paign for Alexan­der Black­man, a Royal Ma­rine sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment for shoot­ing an in­jured Afghan fighter in 2011. – AFP

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