The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue

ByFrederick Forsyth

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
normarys pl
I felt it meandered along, not necessarily the writers fault, but because I have been a loyal fan of his cracking good stories based on faction, the life Mr Forsyth has led was almost an anticlimax. I am certain he has one or two good stories left in him and I will definitely look forward to purchasing them but unfortunately for me this was not one of them.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lauren osborn
Judging from Frederick Forsyth's memoir, he has never turned down an opportunity for adventure, and has often gone out of his way to find it. He has also been extremely lucky on many occasions. These are ingredients for an exciting memoir and The Outsider is definitely that.

As a boy and a teen, Forsyth learned Spanish, French, and German the best way, by immersing himself in the culture and speaking it with natives. Then, only 17, he joined the RAF to learn to fly, left the service before he was twenty and became a foreign correspondent (fluent French was his passport to a plum assignment in Paris tailing Charles De Gaulle). A few years later he was went to cover East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. So far the guy is only in his twenties and has had enough adventure for a lifetime, but then he finds himself in war torn Africa reporting for the BBC, but this didn't go as well and he had to quit that job.

Out of work and money, he decided to try writing a novel. Well heck, why not? The Day of the Jackal led to a movie and a three book contract and a boatload of money, travel, celebrity, marriage to a model, etc. etc.

There's more, but I found the first half of the book the best, before fame and fortune arrived.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
irena vidulovic
In 1971 Frederick Forsyth published "The Day of the Jackal" and, quite literally, changed the thriller landscape forever.

Whether or not this was the first of its kind, I know not; but it's success ushered in the genre of, for want of a better phrase, the Docu-thriller, a combination of fictional adventure with real historical people and events so seamlessly joined that there is no real knowing where the facts end and the fiction begins.

He followe this up with "The Odessa File" and "The Dogs of War" and, had he never written another word, his place in 20th century letters would have been assured.

But he DID write more; another dozen novels, almost all in the same vein (I don't know WHERE to place the "Phantom of Manhattan", but Andrew Lloyd Webber placed it on-stage as a sequel to... well, you know)

ALL of Forsyth's works were solidly professional and immensely readable, and if the later works wren't quite the blockbusters of his earlier days, that can be traced to all the competition he engendered, some of which was (almost) as good as he was.

Now he has written a, what, less than autobiography/more than memoir that in an informal, chatty, anecdotal, way gives us the background of his life that allowed for so much realism in his novels.

And, taken all-in-all, it's the most fun you'll have with a book all year.

If you're a fan, it's a must read; if you're not... you're just bloody wrong!
Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success :: horror thriller with twists and turns you won't see coming :: The Outsider: A Memoir :: The Yogi Book :: The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley (2013-11-30)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
With 330 pages divided into sixty interlocked chapters Frederick Forsyth has given us more a series of after dinner stories than a full scale autobiography. Most chapters detail adventurers he has had and most of these occurred before he took up writing novels. For a while he worked as a reporter for the BBC and then for Reuters, His insights into the workings of the BBC and about the Biafra conflict take up more than a few chapters as do his recollections of his visit to Israel in 1968. These chapters, especially, are more than amusing. But the whole book is, indeed quite amusing. Putting it down, I feel like I've spent an enjoyable series of evenings with a very interesting man.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
laura baller
Frederick Forsyth is an author I have followed for many years. I have been a fan of spy/suspense thrillers, and Forsyth is a superb writer. Reading his autobiography and finding the settings for his books brings back the fun of reading his first few books, 'The Day of the Jackal', 'The Odessa File' and 'The Dogs Of War'.

'The Outsider' brings us the real stories of Forsyth's life. In short chapters he chronicles his life as an English lad in Kent. His summer holidays were spent in Germany, France and Spain, with families where he learned the language. His father had been involved in WWII, and he had no love of Germany, but he wanted his son to experience the land and the language. His years in a public school were glossed over, but he mentions how difficult and sometimes brutal those years could be. He joined the Royal Air Force, but never had a chance to pilot the Spitfire, of which he was enamoured. He became a foreign correspondent where the ideas for many of his future books were inspired.

After years as a correspondent he was enticed into the world of writing, and his new career blossomed. He has had an adventurous life that took him to most areas of the world. He worked for British Intelligence, which explains more of his insight into the world of the clandestine. Forsyth had several romantic adventures, several wives and two sons. In his dedication, he tells his sons he hopes he has been a good father. This book was well written as all of his books,but I felt some of the chapters in his life were too short. And, in the end he got to live out his dream. Are there more stories to come?

Recommended. prisrob 11-02-15
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andrew grimberg
I keep putting this book down ... as with other Forsyth books, a pleasurable and fast read, but I kept putting it down. Cause I wanted another chapter, another page. This personal recounting is pure enjoyment for the Forsyth fan and great reading for anyone with a passing interest in writing, adventure, and the journey through life, In typical, well written style of all Forsyth books - much of what one wondered about in his novels is so deeply explained. A fitting book to complete on Memorial Day for me. As many have written we all hope for one more book, deep thanks to the author who took the time to give a great view into his life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Freddy Forsyth’s memoir, The Outsider, was loaned to me by a friend who knows that I’ve read every every one of his books. Probably purchased on the store.

If you loved Forsyth’s crime-thrillers, then you’ll love the memoir. I kept smiling as I read it because I now realize, in retrospect, that the characters in his stories are really himself as imagined how his life could have been. For instance, Quinn, the character in the “The Negotiator” is natively multi-lingual and comfortable on both side of the pond. That was a big part of Forsyth’s true life. He was fortunate to live in French, German, and Spanish households. So he spoke the languages as a native…and throughout his life had to pass all kinds of language and cultural tests. He also learned Russian. Amazing.

Forsyth’s first book in 1971, ‘The Day of the Jackal,’ was written quickly to pay some bills. Movie rights were negotiated away for a song. Forsyth admits that he was never been good with money and later in life was scammed out of huge sums of money. So had to earn it all over again through writing.

His knowledge of Africa, displayed in ‘Dogs of War’ and ‘The Cobra’, are a result of his life as a reporter for the BBC and then for Reuters in war-torn Nigeria and Biafra.

You will also appreciate the serious side of Forsyth and his insistence on living in the areas he writes about. Authentic geography and cultural details are a Forsyth trademark.

Without giving away the ending…his life comes full circle when his dreams as a youth are eventually fulfilled sometime in his ‘70s. Fabulous.

On a personal note, my favorite Forsyth reads remain The Negotiator, The Day of the Jackal, and The Devil's Alternative.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
alex ioana
Some parts of the autobiography are engrossing. I learned a lot about the background of the Biafra crisis for instance. But globally I'm disappointed. The first half of the book is a slow description of the youth of the author, who is obviously very happy about himself. Then rythm and interest pick up. But they fall back at about 3/4. The writing is more efficient, journalistic, than literary. The format of every chapter is identical: some description, humour, and a surprising ending. Forsyth is no Maugham. And sometimes Forsyth sentences -- when he tries to be literary? -- are intricate and difficult to understand (long sentence elements that are subject or complement, and awkwardly placed). Books I love I'm sad to finish. This one I was happy to be over with.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marwa emad
Frederick Forsyth is not a great writer, not a great prose stylist, but he is a great storyteller and a most remarkable man who has led an astonishing life. As I read THE OUTSIDER I kept thinking of John Buchan, another great storyteller and remarkable man. Buchan knew so much, had experienced so much, that he thought his stories through and wrote them straight out. So does Forsyth, whose account of the writing JACKAL is absolutely believable because of everything he had told us up to that point. Forsyth's story goes on into the new century, but surely we can say already that his was one of the most remarkable lives of the 20th century and that in THE OUTSIDER he is indeed a very great storyteller. This is a book you have to stop to read parts aloud from to anyone around and it is a book you dread to get to the end of. Maybe, after all, there can be a sequel. Forsyth is still going strong.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
harpreet singh
Sometimes autobiographies are not worth reading because they filter out the "bad" and concentrate on the "good." This was not the case with Frederick Forsyth's autobiography. After reading his novels, I've always wondered how he came up with his plots. While they were well-researched, it also helps when you actually live the plots . He is an amazing writer who has led an amazing life. One can only wish he had not been victimized by an unethical financial adviser who basically bankrupted him. Some people might have considered suicide at this point but Forsyth, to his credit, just started over and rebuilt his wealth. Thanks for the lesson in perseverance.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amy law
I'll never forget Frederick Forsyth's first three books: The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File and The Dogs of War. More than anything else Forsyth has written, these books combine his skills as a novelist with those of an experienced journalist. I've read these books at least twice and enjoyed them again, each time.

Frederick Forsyth's The Outsider describes how these books came to be written (although some of the details regarding the Dogs of War may have been left out - I'll get to that later). The Outsider is an autobiographical sketch. Reading the Outsider I was reminded once again what a good writer Forsyth can be.

Autobiography is, by its nature, at least partially fictional. Only a rare person has real insight into their own life. We are always heroes of our own story. This makes autobiography a challenge to write. If we're lucky there are long stretches of our lives that would be boring to relate, although they are pleasant to live.

By Forsyth's account he is a restless soul and always has been. From a young age he wanted to see fly (for the Royal Air Force) and to see foreign countries. He succeeded in both of these. He managed to hustle his way into the RAF, without a university degree or any social connections.

From there, with equal hustle, he managed to secure a position at the Reuters News Bureau, first in Paris and then in East Germany. Forsyth's success at Reuters was aided by his language skills: He became fluent in French, German, Spanish and picked up some Russian.

After his tour in East Germany, Forsyth joined the BBC and got assigned to Africa, where he covered the civil war between Nigeria and Biafra (a breakaway region of Nigeria). As a war correspondent, Forsyth was in danger on a number of occasions. He also developed a deep respect of the Biafran leader Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu.

About a third of the book is on the Biafra war and this was probably the seminal event in Forsyth's life. At the time the BBC was following the official line of the British government, which was backing Nigeria. Forsyth refused to report the "party line" and this resulted in him being forced out of the BBC.

After leaving the BBC Forsyth became a freelance journalist, in Biafra and other places. He managed, at one point, to get an interview with the retired Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.

During the Israeli struggle for independence there were a number of factions. The most violent were known as the Stern Gang and the Irgun. Ben-Gurion despised the violent factions, since he believed that they hurt Israel's cause. Menachem Began, who was also Prime Minister of Israel, was part of the Irgun which blew up the King David hotel in Jerusalem. There were civilian casualties and this terrorist act gave the Israeli independence movement a black eye. The Irgun later claimed that they warned the British to evacuate the hotel.

According to Forsyth he was drinking in a bar in Israel with members of the Israel military. A man, outside the group he was with pulled him aside and asked him if he was British. The man allegedly then told Forsyth that he had something to confess: he drove the explosives into the parking garage under the hotel. It was he who called to warn the British to warn them. But the low ranking military person who answered the phone refused to believe him.

Autobiography is fiction and this event seems more fictional than real. Strange things to happen, but this event is outlandish in its improbability.

After being forced out of the BBC, Forsyth needed to make some money. While staying at a woman friend's apartment he decided to write a novel, which he says in retrospect was a crazy idea. The novel he wrote was The Day of the Jackal and it became a bestseller, launching Forsyth's career as a writer. The Day of the Jackal was followed by The Odessa File, which was also a great success.

According to some accounts, Forsyth's description of the genesis of his third novel, The Dogs of War, may leave out some details.

The Dogs of War is a wonderfully detailed account of a coup to overthrow a vicious African dictator. Forsyth carefully researched how arms can be purchased on the black market and how a small band of experienced, heavily armed mercenaries could overthrow a dictator who is kept in power only by a small, corrupt and poorly trained guards.

The question with The Dogs of War is whether the research was for a novel or something more. In The Outsider Forsyth writes that The Dogs of War was so carefully researched that it could serve as a manual for such a coup. And indeed it may have been exactly that. In his book The Wonga Coup, Adrian Roberts writes:

"Forsyth – who adopted the name ‘Mr. Van Cleef’ – hoped to replace Macias with his close friend, the regional Biafran leader, Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu. That made sense as Equatorial Guinea, in 1973, was still home to thousands of Nigerian Igbo people from Biafra, skilled laborers who worked in the coca plantations. They would have backed Ojkwu as the new President.”

“Interviewed in April 2006, Forsyth now admits there was a ‘stillborn attempt’ at a coup. Asked whether he helped plot it, he says his memory is vague: ‘I don’t know whether I thought of it, or someone else.’ As for the relationship between the coup attempt and his novel, he is not sure which came first: ‘It was a chicken and egg situation. I’m not sure if the authors of the plot listened to me, or I listened to them… We were sitting around in pubs discussing it …. people with a lot of beer in them.’"

"He also knew [Alexander Ramsay] Gay – ‘a level-headed Scot’ – from Biafra, and conceded that the two had co-operated. ‘Yes, we were talking, meeting in pubs, over Fernando Po’, he says. He admits, too, giving the police a character reference regarding Gay, after a bag with guns was traced to the Scot. And, finally, he admits passing money to the coup plotters: ‘Yes, payments where made, always cash.’ Though he suggests this was for ‘information’ only. Asked bluntly if he plotted a coup in Equatorial Guinea he laughed and suggested ‘you put in the book what you have found.’”

Alexander Gay, his colleagues and their ship loaded with arms was intercepted in Spain. The arms were confiscated and Gay and company were deported back to their home countries (in Gay's case, the UK). Adrian Roberts writes that the unfortunate result of the failed coup was that the vicious dictatorship in Equatorial Guinea continued for another seven years.

Writing is a quiet, solitary, pursuit and Forsyth's life settled down to that of a novelist, not a war correspondent. The last quarter of the book recounts this part of his life. Perhaps respecting the privacy of his wives (he has been married twice and is still married to his second wife), they are mentioned only briefly.

As the end of the book nears, Forsyth seems to struggle for material (after all, life is good). He is divorced (he doesn't go into any detail about this) and falls victim to a fraudulent investment fund. He goes sailing with his sons and recounts a scene with a bird that has flown from Africa only to die in Florida. He goes on a trip to Africa where his son shoots a gazelle (which, Forsyth notes, are overpopulating in the area they are hunting).

Forsyth recounts a few other adventures to relieve his restlessness. Forsyth writes that he was asked by the British secret service to exchange documents with a spy for the British in East Germany (during the Soviet period). If this account is true, then the British service is remarkably unprofessional. It would be surprising if the British would put an untrained civilian at risk in this way. In addition to the danger to Forsyth there would be the career ending embarrassment of a prominent writer being arrested for espionage.

Forsyth also goes sky diving and at one point travels to the African country Guinea-Bissau. While he is visiting, there is a coup (which he had nothing to do with). In The Outsider Forsyth writes:

"The tiny republic was sealed off."

"In London, my wife, Sandy, knowing nothing of this, e-mailed a girlfriend to set up a lunch date. Part of her text read: "I'm free this week 'cos Freddie is in Guinea-Bissau".

"Someone in Fort Meade, maryland, or maybe Langley, Virginia, intercepted this and her screen went berserk. Her message disappeared. Things flashed up with the insignia of the Great Seal of the United States warning her not to use her laptop under any circumstances."

This account is even more unlikely than the account of the Irgun member confessing to the bombing of the King David hotel in a bar in Israel. Autobiography may be fiction but in this case, the fiction is not even plausible.

Forsyth's final hurrah involves research for his novel The Kill List. He hires a security specialist who goes by the name of Dom and goes to Mogadishu, in Somalia (the scene of "Black Hawk Down" and the death of US Army Rangers.) Forsyth spends a few hair raising days there, risking death and, perhaps worse, kidnapping.

As with most people who are older, Forsyth can see his sun moving toward the horizon in the East. The Outsider provides some insight into the life of a wonderful novelist, who has written some classic works. Memory betrays us all as we get older. What is true and what is imagination can blur. But with Forsyth's writing, it is usually a pleasure to read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
No one will ever accuse Frederick Forsyth of not having lived life to its fullest. Forsyth, now in his eighth decade, seems to have been predisposed to live an extraordinarily adventurous life almost from the beginning and he, in fact, managed to become one of the youngest young men ever to earn his wings from the RAF. But that was just the beginning for the man who would ultimately gain great fame as author of international bestsellers such as The Day of the Jackal, The Dogs of War, and The Odessa File.

Surprisingly, Forsyth only turned to writing fiction in desperation when he could think of no other way to earn enough money to tide him over between jobs. He was then thirty-one years old, and although he had no idea how the publishing world worked, he hoped to earn enough money to pay off his debts before getting on with the rest of his life. Forsyth, though, was no ordinary thirty-one-year-old. Fresh off a journalism job that saw him posted to Paris and Berlin, and which included assignments to the troubled heart of deepest Africa, the author already had the makings in his head of the early books that would make his fame. Thus were born the well-researched and realistic novels previously mentioned. Forsyth would, of course, probably have been long remembered if he had quit right there, but he has an additional ten novels to his credit.

What makes Forsyth different is how closely he personally experienced so much of what he writes and used those experiences in fictionalized form to allow the rest of us understand and experience the world he knows so intimately. A recounting of those experiences comprises about the first third of The Outsider, and it is not until approximately page 250 of this 352-page memoir that Frederick Forsyth, novelist, makes his first appearance. But readers who are most interested in this phase of Forsyth's life will find it to have been well worth the wait because his stories about how the books were constructed and sold are at times almost as adventurous as some of Forsyth's earlier tales.

The Outsider, because it conforms to neither the common pattern for memoir nor for biography, can be a little jarring at times. It's sixty segments more like the kind of after dinner talk that a fellow diner might expect from someone with Forsyth's experiences. The segments are relatively short and are laid out in just that kind of straightforward way, with supporting characters seldom fleshed out in a manner that would make them especially real or memorable. The chapters do seem to follow each other in more or less chronological order, but the book does not refer to dates often enough to make the time-gaps between stories entirely clear to the reader. That, however, is a small criticism and a small price to pay for getting to know a man like Frederick Forsyth better. The timing of The Outsider is perfect, and Forsyth's fans are sure to appreciate it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Autobiographies are tricky. They can be full of facts and stretched truths in a sort of window peeping into the private lives of a notable, who may even hire someone to ghostwrite for them. Frederick Forsyth has never let us down in his wartime spy thrillers, several of which have been made into blockbuster movies: THE DAY OF THE JACKAL, THE ODESSA FILE, THE DOGS OF WAR and 13 other bestsellers that kept us up all night. Their authenticity rings with truth and action for one very simple reason: Forsyth’s own life was every bit as exciting and filled with danger as his characters.

Forsyth foregoes the route of college at Cambridge or Oxford, and, to his parents’ dismay, joins the Royal Air Force, a career he had dreamed of since he was five years old when he was lifted into the cockpit of a Spitfire warplane at the base in Kent where his father was serving during World War II. England was in the midst of the fighting, and little Frederick was in awe of the men in uniform and yearned to be a pilot. As an adolescent, he spent summers in France and Germany rapidly picking up idiomatic French and Deutsch. His penchant for languages would serve him well as he began writing for a local paper, leading to a position as a foreign correspondent with Reuters, where he met David Ben-Gurion and heard Moshe Dayan tell how he lost his eye.

Forsyth went on to the BBC to cover the Nigerian war with Biafra. When he witnessed the results of what the UK was really doing in that disastrous war and was only allowed to report the company line (which reflected the government point of view), he was eventually relegated to a desk in London. He quit to become a freelance journalist, where he quite literally dodged bullets and mortars and, in one case, an assassin.

With self-deprecating humor, wit and the charm of a born storyteller, Forsyth shares his adventures and misadventures with as much zest as his legendary thrillers. It was his facility with colloquial French that allowed him to eavesdrop in cafes in Algiers and France in the precarious years when France was on the verge of a coup d’état to overthrow President Charles de Gaulle. This harrowing experience framed his first novel, THE DAY OF THE JACKAL. He created a fictional inside assassin whom he called Jackal, and would later learn that he was closer to the truth of that made-up account than he knew.

Forsyth’s maverick behavior eventually lost him his job as a conventional journalist and led him to his typewriter to become a novelist. He believes that the detachment he developed as a journalist has carried over into his writing. His eventual success with his first three books and their adaptation into blockbuster movies led to fame, whirlwind worldwide signing tours, wealth, and then…disaster. He was wiped out by the collapse of the investment firm in which he had invested his trust and entire savings. Dispirited but not destroyed, it further strengthened his belief that the Establishment is not to be trusted and went back to write --- with that journalist’s detached eye --- several more novels.

“A journalist should never join the Establishment,” he writes, “no matter how tempting the blandishments. It is your job to hold power to account, not join it. In a world that increasingly obsesses over the gods of power, money and fame, a journalist and a writer must remain detached, like a bird on a rail, watching, noting, probing, commenting, but never joining. In short, an outsider.”

THE OUTSIDER will lead current and future fans of Frederick Forsyth to reread or pick up for the first time the works of a writer with that detached point of view.

Reviewed by Roz Shea
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is a quite enjoyable read as well as a journey around the world. A father born in 1906 and “after 5 years scraping a living from little more than odd jobs, he followed the popular advice of the age: Go east, young man. He applied for a secured a post as a rubber planter in Malaya. Today it would seem strange to appoint a young man with not a word of Malay or knowledge of the Orient to go to the other end of the world to manage many thousands of acres of plantation and a large labor force of Malays and Chinese. But those were the days of empire, when challenges were perfectly normal.”

After a through retelling of the war years came the post-war opportunity of spending time in France. For 4 consecutive years; “not just for a weekend, but for most of the eight-week summer school vacation. Frederick Forsyth “went to the home of a French doctor, active in the French resistance, who was twinned to his father as part of a post-war program to move on from the war. And of the children of this doctor, “not one of them spoke a word of English.” “Abroad seemed a very strange but fascinating place. Such was difficult, he says, but “children, in the manner of learning things, are like blotting paper. They can soak up information.”

Then, when 13, he was sent to live during the school holidays with a German family. When his mother asked his father for the reason behind this idea, his father said “Because it must never happen again.” The following year he returned to Germany. Little more than a decade later he was posted to East Berlin (after going to university in Spain). Parts of his life were also spent as a Royal Air Force pilot, a journalist and he worked for British MI6 for 20 years.

Frederick Forsyth had much international exposure as a boy and this continued into his adult life. This book is his story and even if you have never read any of his thrillers this is still an enjoyable read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sue harper
Frederick Forsyth is best known as the author of a string of bestselling thrillers, but he was in the RAF and worked as a foreign correspondant before becoming an author, and the first two thirds of this book are about this part of his life. I don't know how many of his stories are 100% true and how many are embellished, but they feel true and either way they are terrifically entertaining. Reading this book feels like being at a dinner party, with the host starting increasingly gobsmacking anecdotes with lines like: "did I ever tell you about the time I was almost murdered in Paris" or "did I ever tell you about the time that I narrowly missed getting killed when a bullet went through my legs".

Forsyth's pedigree as a writer is apparent, with chapters ending with teasers designed to keep you reading, or starting with lines like: "I recall the date when I almost started the Third World War with exact accuracy for reasons that will become plain".

Besides his many adventures, he has had access to a string of fascinating characters: gun runners, assassins, drug smugglers, spies, presidents. His first novel, The Day of the Jackal, was based in part on conversations he had with de Gaulle's bodyguards. The Odessa File was guided by none other than Simon Wiesenthal. While researching The Cobra, he ended up in the middle of a coup d'etat in Guinea-Bissau.

In the middle the pace slows slightly as he talks about his time in Nigeria and Biafra, an experience that strongly affected him and that he clearly feels anger about to this day. While interesting, this part of the book is less engaging than the earlier and subsequent chapters.

The overall impression is of a guy who has lived a fascinating and blessed life, and who is fully aware of it. This is a great read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
david bennett
It should surprise no one that an international journalist, novelist, and sometime-M16 agent would produce an interesting and well-written memoir.
Some parts are more interesting than others - especially his time in Israel and meeting with personalities like Moshe Dayan and David Ben Gurion, and some parts are horrifying -like his time in Biafra and the attempted sexual assault on the author by a French North Africa, but the entire work is an education spanning the post-war period and should be required reading for anyone hoping to better understand the 20th century.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“We all make mistakes, but starting the Third World War would have been a rather large one. To this day, I still maintain it was not entirely my fault. But I’m getting ahead of myself.”

I have never read any of Frederick Forsyth’s books but I think I have seen all the movies based on them. Having read this delightful biography I have started searching for his books to read.

Mr. Forsyth has lived a life that is exciting and intriguing. The adventures he admits to and the people he has met in his life make me wonder if being a journalist was a cover for some Intelligence work. I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

He came from a middle class family, but his parent’s wanted him to have a well rounded education so as a boy he was sent to France to stay with a friend. By the time he got back he was able to speak fluent French and not the French taught in schools. He knew the slang and this was able to help him when he joined the RAF as the youngest pilot at age 19.

He participated in wars, espionage and journalism. When he decided he really wanted to be his own man, he proposed writing a book, which became “The Day of the Jackal”. The publisher liked his manuscript and signed him for three more books. The rest is history.

I enjoyed his story very much and found him to be self-depreciating and full of humorous stories of his own foibles in this world. It’s refreshing to read a biography that isn’t written as a canonization attempt.

I highly recommend “The Outsider” by Frederick Forsyth to anyone who enjoys his books and to anyone who loves a good biography warts and all.

I received this book as part of the Penguin Books First to Read program.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amy finnegan
It's funny - I've never read any of Forsyth's suspense fiction, but I was intrigued by his biography as a war correspondent, etc, and wanted to give this book a try. Now that I have, I do think I will try one of his books for the first time - probably "Dogs of War" since I was most interested in his Africa stories.

Forsyth is obviously a famous/skilled writer of well-plotted thrillers - even if I've never read them, I know that - but he could probably write short stories equally well. Each chapter of "The Outsider" is short, but can often be read without any set-up at all, and still be interesting and compelling. He has a short chapter on running from being strafed by a Nigerian MiG and then later being personally targeted by a mortar - in just a few pages, he sums up the experience, the fear, the gallows-humor, and then it's finished - very powerful!

His stories educate the reader on long-forgotten chapters of the Cold War - the Nigerian/Biafran civil war and famine are brutal genocidal affairs, and he lacerates the British government for their complicity. Will it change anybody's mind today? Probably not, but it still makes for intense reading.

I bounced around from chapter to chapter, and then read long parts straight through. It was a very interesting and readable book told with fun British panache. Like I said, this makes me want to check out his "fictional" thrillers.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
A collection of honest, up-front and often blunt memoirs from the life of Fredrick Forsyth, good and not-so-good, from his time as a toddler to recent. One of the things that make Forsyth's novels so engaging is the sense of authenticity or reality that they have. This is because his life's experiences greatly influenced--and sometimes appear verbatim in--his work. Not every chapter will be interesting to every reader, but fans of Forsyth will definitely find this a good read. This will also be of interest for those that enjoy reading about real-life adventures.

There is too much in his memoirs to go into detail, but he has certainly lived a fascinating life full of adventure. The more fascinating bits are here, including his adventures in various European countries as a teenager, time behind the Iron Curtain as a correspondent in East Berlin, and in Africa. He has associated with spies, secret police, and assassins, been in a horrible auto wreck, been under fire, had a price on his head dead or alive, and (by his own account) nearly started World War III. My favorite memoirs are the ones detailing his work in East Berlin, and the ones describing his experiences that ended up in his novels, such as a flight out of Biafra in an old DC-4 with a load of nuns and suffering children.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ana lu sa
.While I have yet to read any of Frederick Forsyth's earlier publications, I have had my eye on "The Kill List," and so was delighted to receive a copy of "The Outsider." The majority of the books I read for pleasure are political thrillers, mysteries, and non-fiction spy memoirs. This book fit perfectly with my interests.

As I stated in my title, if you are into this sort of book, it will likely hook you in the preface and never let go. It really is that thrilling and gripping. Another plus for me is that each of the individual chapters are relatively short, which keeps the book both fast paced and easy to pick up and put down without interrupting a chapter midway through.

If you're looking for an exciting thriller that romanticizes an adventurous way of living life, this book is sure to please. Each chapter only brings more excitement and unexpected twists and turn. Even if you prefer to read in short bursts, each chapter brings with it another smaller story that connects with the whole of the book. Read a chapter a day, or the book in a day. I look forward to reading more of Forsyth's works.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book took me by surprise. I expected to work hard to get through the book and learn something during the read. Well, I ended up absolutely loving the book! I slowed down my reading just so that I didn't reach the end too fast. I'd never read anything by Forsyth before, but I now plan on reading his entire book collection!

Forsyth has lived an amazing life. And he has an amazing ability to recount it. He describes it better than most fiction writers set forth their story. But yet, his story is true! He tells his story with humility and wit--characteristics that few notable persons retain.

Forsyth became an elite RAF pilot and lived in East Berlin right after World War II. To think that he went back and forth across Checkpoint Charlie still manages to amaze me! Forsyth speaks multiple languages fluently and without an accent. Moreover, he keeps his wits about him--even when interrogated by the Communist police.

I highly recommend reading this book. In fact, I cannot recommend it enough!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Frederick Forsyth is a great author for thrilling novels. I have read a number of them and enjoyed the novels.

This book is a life story, and it is, as might be expected, very well-written. The story is not fiction, but the story of Forsyth's life - an autobiographical trace relating many interesting episodes. It is so compelling that I was hooked after reading the first few short chapters.

This is a easy read, but fascinating. Forsyth has done many things, but the fantastic (in the broadest sense of the word) is not necessarily what makes this a fun read. It is just the writing that is a great pleasure.

If you are a fan of Forsyth, like I am, there was some reluctance for me to pick up the book (although I was offered a ARC by the publisher) because I thought it couldn't be any good. I was wrong, this is a really fun, interesting read. Well worth picking up. Now, I want to get the few novels I have missed in recent years. Well done, sir.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
The first half of this book is fascinating, as he travels and works in several countries getting involved in numerous escapades and learning several languages. However, it seems as if Forsyth loses interest in discussing events after he wrote Day of the Jackal. There is no mention whatsoever of many of his later works, including The Deceiver and The Icon and only one sentence concerning Fist of God, one of his greatest books. There is a photo of him and Michael Caine during the filming of the Fourth Protocol, but no mention of the book. He skips over years at a time as he progresses farther into his life but dwells on minor stories such as a wounded bird he encountered on a fishing trip with his sons. Forsyth's recent books, The Avenger and The Kill List, have been lazy and formula-esque, and unfortunately, the second half of this book exhibits the same laziness. He is capable of much better, and it's a shame that his editors have let him get away with this. He says The Kill List is his last book, and if so, it will be a shame if he goes out with a whimper instead of a bang.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jennifer gray
This is a nicely paced and vibrant autobiography from espionage-thriller author, Frederick Forsyth. Told in 60 shortish chapters (each clocks in around 4-6 pages) Forsyth's life story unfolds in chronological order and each vignette is presented with clarity and filled with a sense of adventure and wonder. The focus of each episode typically revolves around Forsyth's various careers (pilot - journalist - novelist) and how they got him into an escapade worthy of note. With the globe as his stomping grounds Forsyth's story unfolds primarily across England, Western Europe and Africa and intersects against key periods of the past century such as Europe during its post war recovery and the constant shifting of borders and alliances throughout the Cold War. A fun and captivating read that effectively captures the flavors of the time and suitable for both fans of Forsyth and to those discovering him for the first time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carly huss
... from a gifted journalist. author.
A collection or samplings from Frederick Forsyth's professional life describing places he has been and what he has done in certain of his life's adventures. it must have been challenging for him to have written of these few geographical impressions from so many available in his rich life.
I like Forsyth's intimate writing style in this book. It takes me right into the setting or time period. The style could be due to his background as a journalist that explains the clarity of his storytelling.
Each book section or place visited is briefly/tightly written. They are short enough to read while waiting or commuting. A favorite of mine describes what it is like to stay in a Russian hotel room that hides cameras and audio recorders and what happens when he removes one. Forsyth's sense of humor in this one especially delighted me.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
allan john dizon garcia
Frederick Forsyth has long been my favourite thriller writer. For me he will always be the master storyteller and I have found his characters and creations as educational as they are inspirational. And now having read his autobiography, The Outsider, I can say the same about the man himself. I have always suspected there was more to Forsyth than simple authorship and this book confirms it in spades. They say that every author puts a little of himself into his characters but in Forsyth’s case that’s a gross understatement: he whacks a great dollop of himself into his best creations and has lived many of their adventures for real, in both his pre and post author days.

As a young boy he lusted for knowledge and culture, and found it in fresh-air adventures and schoolboy treks overseas, where he picked up four fluent languages and streetwise instincts that prepared him for the Cold War world better than any college ever could. As a young man he thirsted for adventure in the skies and found it in the RAF, where he joined a select few non-university airmen who made it through officer school all the way to pilot, becoming the youngest man ever to get his ‘jet-fighter wings’, after glossing over the fact that he was underage to fly. As a grown man he hankered after an action-packed career in front-line war correspondence, and that’s exactly what he got, brazenly bluffing his way into senior posts (despite being a junior) and then excelling and making them his own.

And then when it all came crashing down and he proved simply too decent and honest in his job, the BBC fired him for refusing to report propaganda and despatching the cold, hard truth once too often. He was frozen out by a cohort of corrupt and compromised senior British establishment figures who decided to rid themselves of this ‘troublesome priest’ and effectively banned him from the best Fleet Street jobs. Undeterred, and seething with the rage of a righteous man, Forsyth once again did what he has always done best: reinvented himself.

But not just any reinvention.

The reinvention into the world’s best-selling and most influential thriller writer.

I will not dwell on the prescience and unnerving accuracy of Forsyth’s body of work because there is no need; its excellence stands unchallenged. But I will say this: he spends a lot of time in The Outsider describing a series of lucky breaks that in reality were anything but. What he sometimes can’t see – but the reader can – is that every single one of these breaks was prepared for by his own hand, in being true to himself and his values. Each achievement fed into the other, building blocks large and small, destined to fulfil a greater whole, some day in the future.

A great Roman philosopher sums up the tale of Frederick Forsyth better than I or he ever could:

‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.’
- Seneca

As an author I am in awe of this man and I hope that one day we will meet.

Steven McLaughlin,
Author of Squaddie: A Soldier’s Story.
Former Royal Green Jacket
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kholoud essam
I have been a Frederick Forsyth fan for decades and can't believe I knew so little about him until reading The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue. If he needed inspiration for his books, he didn't need to look far. In a series of vignettes, Forsyth shares his journey from his childhood years to his time as a pilot with the British Air Force then a reporter with Reuters and the BBC. His decision to try his hand at writing a book was one of necessity - he was broke and needed to pay his bills.
I guess it's only fitting that the life of the man behind The Odessa File and The Day of the Jackal would be so filled with intrigue.
If you are a Forsyth fan, you will love this. And if you are unfamiliar with Forsyth's work, you will still be mesmerized by The Outsider.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Forsyth has always been an interesting author on a wide range of political subjects. In this book, Forsyth talks about his real experiences as an RAF pilot, foreign journalist and author as well as his experiences in "intrigue" (which covers lots of different things). The breadth of his different experiences is what makes it really interesting.

As with all things Forsyth, he tells a good story but the reader is always left wondering if they are getting the full story or the full truth. Especially in terms of events in Africa. But its a book full of good stories well told by a great writer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is a book about a writer's life, not a book about writing. For books about the craft of writing, I highly recommend Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, among others.

For a memoir of a life well-liked by a man forced into fiction writing by fire financial straits, here you go.

Frederick Forsyth reminds me of Erroll Flynn, a name familiar to those who watch old swashbuckling and adventure movies.

This should not be approached as if it were a great work of literature. It is not. It is the story of a man told in episodes that shaped his life such also formed the basis for a few of the greatest thrillers of the 20th century.

Just a relaxing, enjoyable read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
maria augustina recla
This memoir is a very entertaining read. We travel with Forsyth from his boyhood obsession with flying to his employment assignments with Reuters and the BBC. Returning from Africa and losing his job, he reinvents himself as a novelist, turning his life experiences into financial success. He suffers financial ruin at the hands of a crook investor and returns to writing to restore his coffers. At 76 now, he tells us wonderful stories of his days as a reporter, a spy, and a flyboy. My thanks to the author and the Penguin First to Read program for a complimentary copy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Fascinating. Forsyth documents himself as sort of a Forest Gump with a high IQ and excellent writing skills, frequently having tangential adventures in some of the more memorable hot-spots from the past sixty plus years. Life for him has been not a "box of chocolates", but rather a series of insider's looks at Eastern Europe, Western Africa, and Inner De Gaulle--among many others. If you like adventure, or intrigue, or 20th century history, or simply a good story or six, I strongly recommend this book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
dylan quarles
Forsyth has long been one of our favorite authors – indeed his “The Veteran” is one of our favorite books ever. We soon realized “Outsider” was an autobiography – but a life story told more through chronological anecdotes than the more common documentary style. Indeed the first third of the book was an absolutely delightful account of this Brit’s unusual childhood and teenaged years, most of which he spent well beyond the exploits of his peers. To us, the narrative bogged down a little mid-book as he sets out as a correspondent for Reuters, a good job in a bad location (Nigeria), where little reportable is happening – and then when it does, no one wants to hear about it. Later on, his exploits in Germany, particularly East Berlin, were quite entertaining, as were some late in life developments when he enjoys a certain notoriety of the rich and famous!

Few of us could possibly recreate such a tale, which perhaps suggests his life story was aptly entitled the “Outsider”. Mostly fun reading!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kristina davis
An enjoyable and engrossing read. of course, Forsyth's thrillers are over the top great, and this autobiography, while not The Day of the Jackal (, but then what book is ? ), will also hold your attention. I most enjoyed the parts about the civil war and the stories behind his successful thrillers.
I highly recommend the book. But, first if you are among the eight people who haven't yet head and enjoyed Day of the Jackal, you need to read it first.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jacqueline lampson
What I found most interesting was how he made the most of any opportunity afforded him, he took his strengths and built his life on them very successfully. I've been reading Mr. Forsyth's novels for 30 years, so ordering his memoir was a no brainer and it fulfilled my every need in a terrific reflection of a life well lived. He also fulfilled my interest in the genesis of many of his books - a terrific storyteller.

Fascinating man.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
joann rogers
Frederick Forsyth's "The Outsider" which is autobiographical of a writer's life that is as interesting as the fictional stories that he's created. Clear-eyed narrative with nice descriptions that didn't go overly long, it is the life and time that take center stage and what a life it is. It encompasses much of the 20th century and there are events that I had forgotten about (like the Nigerian Civil War). Definitely a reading pleasure.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
In 60 short chapters, noted writer Forsyth relates a number of exciting stories from his life. This is very good reading. It's like spending time after dinner listening to an extremely interesting and knowledgeable person relate some of his personal experiences. If you enjoy thye author's fiction, you'll enjoy reading his personal experiences. I certainly do recommend this for some truly enjoyable reading.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nicki h
Just a fantastic memoir. Forsyth writes very readably about incredible adventures and even sometimes makes nice points from which you can pull life and political lessons, usually somewhat indirectly, from the narrative. Which is best, as the storytelling is what drives the book, as it should. Good thing Forsyth didn't go to Cambridge, or they would have made his prose dry and academic and not so lively as this book is!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
rachmad hadjarati
Frederick Forsyth is simply one of my favorite writers. So, when this book was released I bought it on the spot.

Being such a master storyteller, of course his biography is fast paced and highly enjoyable to read. Not one oblivious to modern market trends, he seems to know that some kind of audience prefers short chapters. So that's what he offers here. There are close to sixty chapters, none of them more than eight pages long. A good part of the book is about his days in the Nigerian civil war (Biafra), where the consequences (for him) was to lose his job at BBC and begin to write to make a living.

The book is about about specif passages of his life (like being contacted by MI6 to do some jobs, jumping with a parachute, and ending flying a Spitfire with 74 years of age). Apart from his three first books (Jackal, Odessa, Dogs of War, which comprised his first publishing contract and were based upon his life experiences up till that point), there is absolutely nothing about why he writes the way he does, if he got technical writing tips from someone, who are his favorite writers, comments about the publishing business, the original sources of inspiration for his other books, absolutely nothing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
wafa khan
wow, readers can now know how the Jackal and other suspenseful stories came about. Forsyth has lived several decades of thrilling suspense himself. What an interesting view of history through the lens of a master of spy novels. Around the globe you will spin, seeing how these real settings become twists and turns and plots and characters of his finely tuned stories. A fun read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amy kearns
I like Forsyth's fiction, but his true life seems even more fantastic. Who takes flying lessons just to buzz his sadistic boarding school? Or pulls strings to get into the RAF to become a fighter pilot so he can quit to become a reporter? And, this sort of thing keeps happening all of his life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
eugenia vlasova
Frederick Forsyth lived a life that inspired his blockbuster fiction. A world traveler, he seemed destined to live a life of intrigue. The book shares the highs and lows of living on the edge. It is engaging and chatty. A master story teller, Forsyth presents his life as a series of anecdotes. It is an entertaining and enjoyable look at man whose life mirrors his fiction.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Frederick Forsyth has been my favourite author and I look forward to his latest writings.So, when i got a chance to read his autobiography, i couldn't have missed it. And, it has been an interesting read- in fact, knowing the amount of research he has done for each of his book makes his books all the more enigmatic. This is a must read book for all diehard fans of his thrillers and I hope that he has another briliant idea to infuse his readers with another fascinating novel in near future.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
al raines
This is quite an interesting memoir from someone who most certainly has led an interesting life. Well worth the read but not really in the same class as Forsyth's "Day of the Jackal" which has been re-issued on the 40th anniversary of the original debut.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ajay chugani
Growing up in India, he was one of my favorite authors. THE DAY OF THE JACKAL, THE ODESSA FILE, THE DOGS OF WAR.....
I knew little about the author Frederick Forsyth.
Found this autobiographical book very enlightening.
His life seems as interesting as one of the characters he writes about.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Great insights into the background of his novels, Day of The Jackal and others which are based on the authors own experiences and insights gained as a journalist. Also his early life experience and education, particularly his facility with multiple languages which opened doors and opportunities for him. Forsythe is obviously very bright, developed his gifts, researched his subjects and created great stories based on real events. A good read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jose blanco
It's not often one gets to really hear the inside story. Reading Frederick Forsythe for over 40 years, it's felt like a friendship. Each new book, catching up. I hope that you really have not finished. I still look forward to "catching up" again.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
miko o
I have read a few of the authors books and really enjoyed them. Now I know why the felt realistic. The author could have been the main character in those books. He has a very interesting life story that in itself makes a good read.
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