I have very few novels in hardback on my bookshelves, other than some of the classics (e.g. Les Miserables ).  Of the modern genre, fewer than a dozen.

But the very first novel I bought in hardback — after destroying two paperback copies thereof — was Frederick Forsyth’s The Day Of The Jackal, which is quite possibly the greatest thriller ever written.  (If you’ve never read it, get a copy now;  you’ll thank me later.  My copy is leather-bound, by the way, and I think I’ll read it yet again, because it’s been years.)

The story behind the novel, of which I knew nothing, is equally astonishing.  And no, I’m not jealous of Forsyth’s success;  I’m just in awe.


  1. I’m a big Tom Clancy fan and have a full set of hardback’s ( including an original Hunt For Red October ). The movies were good but the books have much more detail and more complete story lines. You must read them in the order they were published since there is a consistency to the history and story line of the characters throughout the series. And the most recent books, although ghost written, do a good job of maintaining the quality of the writing.

  2. Read it when I was about 14 — still remember so many details of the story. It is an excellent book, tight and well paced, with much left to the imagination for the reader to fill in. The Odessa File was IMHO just as good.

  3. “Point Of Impact,” by Stephen Hunter is in the same category.
    It’s a book that can be read several times without being predictable.

  4. I first read it in middle school back in the ’70’s and really enjoyed it. I reread it years ago, and with your kind reminder, I’m going to pull out my old paperback copy and read it again.

  5. I read The Day of the Jackal and Dogs Of War when I was a teenager.
    The only other book I remember enjoying as much was Something of Value.

  6. I read “Day of the Jackal” and “The Odessa File” in college. I still have those books and reread each twice, as I recall. Recently I bought and read Forsyth’s memoirs, The Outsider; My Life in Intrigue. He describes the desperation that led him to write Day of the Jackal exactly as related in your link. He described part of his life growing up in Germany in the mid fifties. He also wrote a series of short stories, collected in a book titled “No Comebacks.” As your link correctly describes, they are more of “Howdunnit” than “Whodunnit”. Not police procedurals, but criminal procedurals. Each story has its own surprise twist ending. I found them interesting and entertaining.

  7. Forsyth also reported on the Biafra-Nigeria war, which is likely what got him fired from the BBC and Discredited (De-credentialed?) by the Foreign Office.

  8. Thanks for the alert. I was just thinking the other day of the 1973(?) movie by the same name and how much I enjoyed it. And since the book is almost always better than the movie, Day of the Jackal must be one heck of a read.

  9. You would enjoy “Metzger’s Dog” about a machinist who builds a recoiless rifle from scratch using the blueprints. Adventures thereafter …

  10. Casting about for a decent summer read, I took you up on it and got a copy. An hour in, I have to say it’s nice to read something so well written. It’s also kinda quaint, what with all the pre technological shenanigans like scooter spies peeling off to find a cafe to make a hardline call, and signaling by waving newspapers to girls hanging doilies in windows and whatnot.

    Flipside, perhaps that why modern writers are so flacid. I can imagine that whole multi page scene rendered to modern sensibilities:

    As deGaulle’s limousine passed by, no one noticed the teenager waiting by the gate. She drew on her vape pen while pausing her eternal Instagram scan to send a coded message to a disposable email address. Miles away, the commander’s inbox dinged. Whispering into his encrypted comms channel, he simply said “route two”, and on the other side of the city, men settled themselves into vehicles and drove off to set the ambush.”


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