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Creator / Frederick Forsyth

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"No one knew The Day of the Jackal would do what it did. It was launched with no pizzazz, perhaps a cocktail or two. But by book three, The Dogs of War, I realised I wouldn’t have to go back to the ranges of Africa or the jungles of Vietnam. I could sit at home and write novels."

Frederick McCarthy Forsyth CBE (born 25 August 1938) is a former RAF pilot and the author of several best-selling thrillers, most famously The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File and The Fourth Protocol. These three were adapted into reasonably good films. Others have been adapted with less successful results. In 1989-90 he fronted Frederick Forsyth Presents, a series of TV movies (some of which were later novelised in The Deceiver). He's very well-known for his use of Shown Their Work along with Twist Endings, usually regarding the identity or motivation of a particular character.

Works by Frederick Forsyth include:

Works by Frederick Forsyth that don't have their own trope pages (see above) provide examples of:

  • Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: The military's penchant for this is noted in The Fist of God when the Americans get confused about why the British Army refers to large parts of Saudi Arabia as "MMFD". They eventually figure out that it stands for "Miles and Miles of Fucking Desert".
  • Anonymous Ringer: In The Devil's Alternative, the female Prime Minister in power in 1979 is "Joan Carpenter". The trick is repeated in The Cobra, when the unnamed US President has a wife called Michelle and the (also unnamed) British Prime Minister has a wife called Samantha.
  • Arc Words: "Far away and long ago", for Avenger. Even the last line is that.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In Icon, a man is considered unsuitable to be in line for the Russian throne because he's too old, he has no children (which means no one can come after him), he screws around too much (including with his servants) and ... he cheats at backgammon.
  • As the Good Book Says...: In The Negotiator, the British Prime Minister tries to comfort the U.S. President with a relevant bible verse, after his kidnapped son has been killed: "2 Samuel 18:33" ("And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom! My son Absalom! Would God had I died for thee, O Absalom my son my son!").
  • Batman Gambit: There is one in Avenger. The eponymous Avenger fakes a shootout when infiltrating a warlord's compound, having deduced that the warlord would bail out his compound right away instead of concentrating on finding the intruder.
  • Bitter Almonds: Again in The Negotiator, the hero fashions a fake suicide vest, using marzipan in place of C4. The men he wants to intimidate are fooled by the characteristic almond-y smell - in reality, only Nobel's Explosive 808 had that sort of scent.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending of Avenger. Secretly aided by his best friend from The Vietnam War, the eponymous Avenger lives, and manages to deliver a murderous war criminal to justice. However, the CIA also loses their best shot at Osama bin Laden, and the next day the September eleventh attack takes place.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Forsyth's books try to show the brutal reality the people who operate in the realms of politics, espionage and the military have to face with very little idealism. Most of his main characters carry out ruthless actions and are aware of it, but justify them with going up against much worse people.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Avenger runs on this trope. Everyone Cal Dexter helped in the past will come back to help him in the present.
  • Consummate Professional: Forsyth loves this trope with his most iconic characters, The Jackal, Cat Shannon, Sam McCready and Cal Dexter fitting this archetype to a "T".
  • Dead All Along: In "The Shepherd", a young RAF jet pilot gets into trouble when his instruments fail, he gets lost in the English fog, and is low on fuel. When he thinks everything's lost, a Mosquito (World War II plane, already out of date in 1957 when the story is set) shepherds him to an old dispersal field, and he survives. There he finds hints that the man who saved him apparently was WW2 pilot Johnny Kavanagh (the other plane had "JK" written on it), who shepherded many planes during the war. But then he learns that Johnny actually died fourteen years ago.
  • Determinator: Forsyth favours protagonists with this trait: Claude Lebel (and to an extent the Jackal) in The Day of the Jackal, Peter Miller in The Odessa File, John Preston in The Fourth Protocol and Sam McCready in The Deceiver are all types who are tenacious and thorough, if rather slow, in their work.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In The Cobra, the US President wants to put an end to the cocaine trade, and gives ex-CIA Director Paul Devereaux (previously a character in Avenger) carte blanche to achieve this. A worldwide cocaine shortage is the result, but this in turn leads to out-and-out gang warfare and the deaths of many innocent bystanders when the drug cartels turn on each other.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: In The Fist of God, Mike Martin is being sent into Baghdad during the first Gulf War to gather intelligence from an asset there. Because of the danger to him if he is caught by the AMAM (the Iraqi version of the KGB), he requests that he be attached to a diplomatic household to help protect him if he is caught. Since all of the Western embassies are heavily monitored, he suggests a bold alternative: the Soviet embassy, to which Gorbachev agrees due to a shared interest in seeing Saddam Hussein beaten down.
  • Disaster Dominoes: In "There Are Some Days...", the appropriately-named Murphy tries to hijack a truckload of brandy. Unfortunately, the gang grab the wrong truck and when he drives it off to abandon it, he crashes it. The police arrive, and the wrongly-stolen truck turns out to be full of smuggled weapons.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: In-Universe in "Privilege". A journalist nearly bankrupts a businessman by publishing lies about him. The businessman, discouraged from legal recourse by the possibility of losing everything in a costly libel trial, assaults the journalist, gets himself arrested and — having learned that anything said by a defendant in his own defence does count as libel — uses his day in court to denounce the journalist. The judge sees through the ruse, but secretly sympathises — and hands down the lightest possible punishment.
  • The End... Or Is It?: A student secretly and illegally brings a deadly snake to Northern Ireland in order to kill his bullying boss in "There Are No Snakes In Ireland". It escapes and, at the story's conclusion...
    ...each as deadly at birth as its parent, she was bringing her dozen babies into the world.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Forsyth uses this trope repeatedly in his books. The thrill comes from exploring what really happens behind the scene.
  • Homage: The short story "The Emperor" is one to The Old Man and the Sea, though it also somewhat inverts the story. The Santiago stand-in, Murgatroyd, is a wimpy bank employee on holiday, rather than a capable, if aging, fisherman, and he chooses to let the marlin go, rather than killing it and losing its body to sharks. And while Santiago is left with no evidence of his epic struggle, Murgatroyd has people with him who witness his battle with the big fish, and the local fisherman hail him for letting the marlin, a local legend, go.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In The Fist Of God an analysts point out that if America is successful in killing Saddam Hussein in an air strike, only one of two outcomes are realistic: 1) Saddam will be replaced by an equally brutal and possibly cleverer despot, or 2) Iraq will fragment along ethnic lines in a much bigger and bloodier version of Yugoslavia's disintegration, refugees will number in the millions, and Iran will expand its influence into Iraq. The latter scenario isn't too far removed from what happened in real life after Saddam was toppled by the USA in 2003.
  • Honey Trap: In "Money With Menaces", a clerk at an insurance company is blackmailed by this scheme. Unfortunately - for the blackmailers - he's a retired Demolitions Expert.
  • Karmic Twist Ending: In "No Comebacks", a wealthy property developer hires a mercenary to kill the husband of the woman he loves. He's perhaps a little too professional...
    "There will be no comebacks. I shot her, too."
  • Laser-Guided Karma: As is the case with Chekhov's Armoury, every good thing Cal Dexter of Avenger did to other characters will come back handsomely in his favour later in the story.
  • Money, Dear Boy: The Day Of The Jackal was written because of this. Forsyth was broke and completed it in thirty-five days. And it all went uphill from there.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Several characters in Forsyth books use this when communicating from behind enemy lines. One trick is to always include a line of very slightly misquoted poetry; if a poem's quote is correct, it means he is operating under duress.
  • Rightful King Returns: In Icon, the British install a member of the British Royal Family (implied but not outright stated to be Prince Michael of Kent) as the new Tsar of Russia, due to them being distant cousins of the Romanovs.
  • Secret Test of Character: Described in Icon:
    "[General-of-Police Valentin] Petrovsky then ran a series of covert will-they-take-a-bribe tests on some of the senior investigators. Those who told the bribe offerers to get lost received promotions and big pay hikes."
  • Self-Plagiarism: Forsyth fell prey to this in The Afghan, stealing several word for word passages from The Fist of God, and plot elements (such as one man telling the government that his brother can pass for an Arab, and then reminding the same people about it ten years later). Although he did change the back story for the brothers in The Afghan.
  • Shown Their Work: Trope Maker. Forsyth's work is renowned for the research on the real world details he puts into the narratives of his book. As he noted, when writing The Day Of The Jackal, he wished to see if he could utilize the research skills he picked up as a journalist to help with the writing process.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Locked in on the cynical end. In a Forsyth novel, it's survival of the fittest, with those who don't have the necessary ruthlessness to outsmart their enemies usually ruined by the end of the book.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Played with in The Negotiator; Quinn, the title character, is an intelligent character capable of strategic thinking, but admits he doesn't play chess very well. However, a KGB general gives Quinn a book on chess, advising him to study it and that it will help him to catch the Big Bad. It does.
  • Walkie-Talkie Gag, Over: In The Fist of God SAS Major Mike Martin is covertly communicating from occupied Kuwait to his contact in Riyadh. The latter ends the conversation with "over and out", a phrase nobody trained in proper radio procedure would use.
  • War for Fun and Profit: In The Negotiator, the villains attempt to restart the Cold War because their weapons contracts are being cancelled, as the USA doesn't need them anymore.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: The Negotiator has some American arms manufacturers rather upset that the end of the Cold War means their weapon to destroy Soviet tanks isn't going to be a big seller. Time to stir the pot...
  • Xanatos Gambit: The terrorist plan in The Afghan. A seemingly straightforward attempt to use a fuel tanker to kill the G8 delegation is stopped — but the idea was to form a fuel-air mixture and detonate that when the ship bearing the G8 delegation passes by. Either way, the terrorists nearly manage to get their hit off.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Forsyth often has his characters doing this, and sometimes at the end (especially in The Devil's Alternative) they find out that they were being used in the Speed Chess of someone at a higher level than them.
  • You Don't Want to Catch This: In The Fist Of God, while SAS trooper Mike Martin is undercover as a Kuwaiti hospital employee in downtown Kuwait during its occupation by Iraq in the Gulf War, he is stopped at a checkpoint while transporting guns and explosives for the Kuwaiti resistance. After noticing smallpox scars on the Iraqi sergeant's face, Martin escapes detection by claiming that all of the cholera and smallpox samples in his trunk will escape into the air if opened.