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Literature / The Day of the Jackal

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"It is cold at six-forty in the morning of a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad."

Frederick Forsyth's most famous novel, by some margin.

The year is 1963. Following a a deeply divisive and costly Civil War, French President Charles de Gaulle has granted independence to Algeria. His decision is seen as a betrayal by many of his former supporters. A disenchanted paramilitary group, the Organisation de L'Armée Secrète (OAS), has vowed to kill de Gaulle in revenge but each plot has failed. In desperation, the OAS turn to a mysterious foreign assassin, known only as "The Jackal", to carry out the job. The government learns of the plot, but know nothing of the would-be assassin besides his code name. So they call upon the best detective in France: Deputy Commissioner Claude Lebel, who is given unlimited authority to capture or kill The Jackal, with only two requirements: no publicity, and do not fail.

Forysth wrote the book in 35 days in 1970 (drawing heavily on his experiences as a journalist in France in the early 1960s); after several rejections, it was published the following year. It was adapted into a 1973 film directed by Fred Zinnemann, starring Edward Fox (of the Fox acting dynasty) as the Jackal and Michael Lonsdale as Lebel.

The Jackal is a far looser 1997 adaptation.

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The Day of the Jackal novel provides examples of:

    Tropes A-D 
  • Affably Evil: Lampshaded by Lebel when witnesses talk of what a perfect gentleman the Jackal is.
    They were the worse ones. No-one ever suspected them.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Kowalski is a terrorist and a killer, but he's caught, tortured, and eventually killed all because he thought his daughter was dying of leukemia and tried to help her.
  • Ambiguously Bi: When the Jackal is heading to Paris, he seduces a woman, which allows him to sleep at her place so he doesn't have to stay in hotels which would leave a paper trail. Having arrived in Paris, instead of looking for a suitable woman, he lets himself be picked up at a gay bar. He is not shown having any trouble finding the bar, and knows how to dress and act to get the right type of attention ... it's almost like he's familiar with the gay scene in Paris.
  • The Armorer: The man who provides The Jackal with his customized take-down sniper rifle.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Sir Jasper Quigley, the British Foreign Office's "Head of France", is considered qualified for his job by a lengthy career of diplomatic postings to several countries other than France (where he climbed the ranks by having a keen eye for what his superiors wanted to hear, and tailoring his reports to fit), coupled with a healthy disregard and dislike for the French people in general and De Gaulle in particular.
  • Asshole Victim: The colonel who is seduced into becoming a source of information for the OAS Honey Trap. He's an Obstructive Bureaucrat only concerned with his own ego and the sycophantic advancement of his career. No-one's sorry when he's exposed and has to resign in disgrace.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: The book often goes out of the way to describe just how well-dressed the Jackal is.
  • Bad Habits: One of the Jackal's disguises is as a Danish clergyman.
  • Bank Robbery: The Jackal suggests the OAS carry out some of these to fund his fees. A string of these eventually leads the Action Service to notice that something is up.
  • Berserk Button: The Jackal is well-mannered and professional most of the time, but the moment you threaten to blow his cover, you're dead.
  • Beware the Nice Ones / Beware the Quiet Ones:
    • Lebel is calm, soft-spoken, and keeps his mouth shut until asked. He has also taken down some of France's most powerful and dangerous criminals.
    • And the Jackal himself is soft-spoken, a Quintessential British Gentleman on the surface, and one of the most lethal killers around. The trope is lampshaded by Lebel when he notes that this is the most dangerous type of criminal, because no-one ever suspects them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Jackal misses his target and is thwarted, but he dies without revealing his true identity, and he's killed multiple civilians over the course of the novel.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The OAS are terrorists who tortured during the war in Algeria and are plotting to murder the President of France. The French security forces trying to thwart them employ brutal and illegal tactics, including kidnapping and torture.
  • Blackmail: A forger tries to blackmail the Jackal. It doesn't end well for him.
  • Blackmail Backfire: After providing the documentation the Jackal needs, the forger tries to swindle more money out of him, and follows up by not bowing to the Jackal's one request (that they don't meet at the forger's apartment for payment) when the Jackal accepts. The Jackal breaks his neck and stuffs his body in a trunk in response.
  • Bookends: The novel starts and ends with failed attempts to shoot DeGaulle. In both cases, a bullet missed his head by inches.
  • Boring, but Practical: Lebel eschews fancy espionage tradecraft in favour of simply looking at the case deeper than the other guys. The novel's introductory description of him basically states that the key to his successful career wasn't any sort of brilliance, but rather his meticulous and thorough approach to any investigation. In fact, this is exactly how he catches the Jackal: During the Liberation Day parade, he goes around the security cordon and asks the gendarmes one by one until he stumbles upon one guard who let in a guy who fits the Jackal's profile.
    • Similarly, he also doesn't rely on any fancy detective tricks to bust OAS's mole inside the French cabinet. He just bugs their phones. All of them.
    • The French police obtain the guest records of all the hotels in the country and search through every single one of them for the signature of the aliases they know the Jackal could be using; this is followed up by searches through the birth and death records in the countries they know the Jackal was in for said aliases. In a pre-computer era when all records are on paper, this is an incredibly slow process, but it still provides them with all of the information they need to keep track of the Jackal.
    • Need money to pay the Jackal? Just rob a bunch of banks and jewellery stores. Though as the Bank Robbery trope listing points out, they have to do it so much that they end up giving away that the OAS is up to something.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Meeting Charles de Gaulle in his private office, Roger Frey recalls one British journalist saying that de Gaulle is so full of elaborate old-fashioned courtesy that he resembles a "visitor" dropped in from the 18th century.
    Every time he had met his master since then Roger Frey had vainly tried to imagine a tall figure in silks and brocades making those same courteous gestures and greetings. He could see the connection, but the image escaped him. Nor could he forget the few occasions when the stately old man, really roused by something that had displeased him, had used barrack-room language of such forceful crudity as to leave his entourage or Cabinet members stunned and speechless.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Part of the reason the OAS hires an outsider to assassinate De Gaulle is because their own rank and file are littered with Action Service infiltrators, meaning their plots are quickly discovered and foiled.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: A British citizen called Charles Calthrop is suspected of being the Jackal because nobody can find the man, he's got connections to international arms dealers (of some dubious legality) and it's a name so close to the assassin's Nom de Guerre that the authorities assume that it must be a case of Steven Ulysses Per Hero. While following this apparent lead does actually bring the police closer to finding the Jackal, it's not until the epilogue that Mr. Calthrop comes back to his apartment after a holiday and is revealed to have been a Red Herring all along.
  • Chest of Medals: Zigzagged. The Jackal purchases a number of medals for his crippled veteran disguise. He then looks up what each of the medals is for and selects a subset of them that would make him look distinguished enough that anyone looking at them would accept that he is a wounded war veteran, but not so distinguished that anyone who recognizes the medals would want to know who he is or how he earned them. He ends up using just one bravery medal, and some campaign medals saying he served in North Africa and Normandy.
  • Cold Sniper: The Jackal himself, though occasionally he snaps.
  • Codename Title: The disgruntled OAS hires a professional assassin to subtract French President Charles de Gaulle. The assassin chooses the codename "Jackal" upon accepting the mission. The Day of the Jackal is the day he's chosen to commit the assassination.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: The Jackal plans to assassinate Charles DeGaulle at a public event, notably the award ceremony on Liberation Day. Justified as it is the one occasion he can be certain the President of France will turn up, no matter what threats have been made against his life (DeGaulle is refusing to alter his schedule or live his life differently, but the Jackal doesn't know this, and couldn't count on it anyway).
  • Consummate Professional:
    • The Jackal prepares multiple identities in case his cover ID is blown, makes meticulous preparations for the hit, uses only two outsiders of his own selection (one to create false papers and the other to provide his rifle), and ensures his only connection with the informer-riddled OAS is a phone number to The Handler for The Mole who's providing him with information.
    • The gunsmith is both skilled at his job, respectful of his deals with clients, and knowledgable enough to avert Have You Told Anyone Else?.
  • Clock Discrepancy: The 1962 assassination attempt on De Gaulle failed because Bastien-Thiery was consulting the almanac for the wrong year and so misjudged when sunset was. This made it too dark for the gunmen to see his signal and they opened fire too late.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The woman who is Spying on Saint-Clair lost both her brother and her fiancé in Algiers, miscarried her baby and made an unsuccessful suicide attempt in the past.
  • Dead Man's Chest: Done to a blackmailing photographer.
  • The Determinator: The Jackal carries out his plan despite his cover identities being blown and the massive manhunt for him. From this Lebel deduces that he not only has a foolproof plan of assassination, but that it must take place on a particular date (otherwise he'd simply lay low until the heat dies off).
  • Diplomatic Back Channel: When French intelligence learns that the sinister OAS has met with an Englishman who's an ace sniper, they contact British intelligence through back channels to inquire if any ex-military Brit sharpshooters are running around doing mercenary work. The British contact mentions one Charles Calthrop as an ace rifleman that's gone missing. A further connection is made when the suspect's code name, Chacal, is formed by combining the first three letters of his first and last names.

  • Driving Question: The Day of the Jackal—when is it?

    Tropes E-H 
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The first mention of Lebel is in a newspaper that the Jackal is casually flipping through, stating that a senior police official had just died and Lebel had been named as his replacement. This takes place well before the French government learns that there is a Jackal and assigns Lebel to find him.
  • Electric Torture: With crocodile clips to the testicles. The subject dies.
  • Enemy Mine: Colonel Rolland of Action Services asks the Unione Corse, the Corsican Mafia, for help locating the Jackal in exchange for reduced police pressure. The Unione does try to help Rolland, but aren't able to find any useful information.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Rolland pieces together Kowalski's garbled confession and deduces that the OAS have hired a foreign assassin to kill DeGaulle.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Viktor Kowalski, the OAS courier, spends much of the novel fretting over his daughter, supposedly dying of leukemia. Ultimately he's captured by Action Services while trying to visit her in hospital. It turns out that she's perfectly healthy and they were using that as bait for a trap.
  • Everybody Smokes: Unsurprisingly, for a novel set in 1960s France and Britain. The Jackal chain smokes, as do most of the people pursuing him. A notable exception is Lebel.
  • Evil Brit: The Jackal is British and a Professional Killer. Or is he? At the end of the novel, Her Majesty's Government point out there's no proof, given his multiple identities, that he was ever British in the first place. The Brit who originally came under suspicion, Charles Calthrop, turned out to be innocent.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Of a sort. The reason the Jackal ultimately misses his target is that he wasn't expecting DeGaulle to bend down and give a man a kiss on the cheek instead of shaking his hand. It's implied that the Jackal forgot to consider this because he, as a foreigner, is not used to this French custom, but it's also fitting that the ultra-cool, unflappable Determinator assassin is thwarted by an act of affection.
  • Fatal Flaw: Subverted: Charles DeGaulle's pride doesn't actually get him killed, but only by the narrowest of margins and a quirk of fate.
    • The Jackal's outsider status. For most of the novel, his lack of a fixed identity is a huge asset, as is the fact that he's not French and therefore unknown to the country's authorities. However, when he finally goes to take his shot he misses because he did not expect DeGaulle to bend down to kiss a man on the cheek. The novel further suggests that this custom is foreign to "Anglo-Saxons." In a sense, the fact that the Jackal wasn't French meant he overlooked a key detail, which led to him being caught and killed by the police moments later.
  • Fearless Fool: Charles DeGaulle is too ballsy for his own good. His Establishing Character Moment is being cool during the assassination attempt of the prologue, not ducking for cover as the car he's in is riddled with bullets, and even complaining that the men who tried to kill him had bad aim. As the investigation continues, the man pointedly refuses, against his advisors' insistence, to do some change, any change, to his lifestyle to try to confuse the assassin (and insists the investigation be kept secret to prevent embarrassment). The Jackal's plan almost gets executed to perfection because DeGaulle absolutely refuses to not do his duties on Liberation Day.
  • Faux Yay: The Jackal pretends to be gay to sneak past a French manhunt, counting on the homophobia of the policemen to make them not bother to look closely.
  • Foil: Lebel, to the Jackal. Both are methodical men that take their jobs seriously, but the latter is, crucially, a mercenary with no set identity or allegiance, while Lebel is a family man and tireless public servant. The Jackal's status as an outsider ultimately screws up his plan and leads to his downfall.
  • Food Porn: The Jackal dines in rural France:
    He chose speckled river trout grilled on a wood fire, and tournedos broiled over charcoal with fennel and thyme. The wine was a local Cotes du Rhône, full, rich and in a bottle with no label. It had evidently come from the barrel in the cellar, the proprietor's choice for his vin de la maison. Most of the diners were having it, and with reason.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The Jackal's mission will fail, as De Gaulle died peacefully of natural causes several years later; the reader is reminded of this early in the novel.
  • Game Changer: None of the OAS's efforts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle succeeded, either because of poor planning (not getting the time of sunset correct) or because their ranks have been riddled with Action Service infiltrators. The Game Changer comes when the OAS leaders contract the services of a foreign assassin, about whom the French Secret Service know almost nothing.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: The Jackal is characterized as similar to this type, albeit an evil version.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Viktor Kowalski's girlfriend (a prostitute) wanted to abort their baby and Viktor physically kept her from doing so (after the girl was born, he gave her to a pair of friends without children).
  • Great Detective: Lebel.
  • Groin Attack: A would-be blackmailer gets this before the Jackal finishes him off. Of course, the Electric Torture to the penis and testicles...
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?:
    • Very subtly done. When the forger attempts to blackmail the Jackal, through his negotiations it gradually becomes clear that the Jackal is scoping out the possibility of anyone noticing if the forger simply disappeared.
    • Defied by the gunsmith, however, who — while he doesn't actually tell anyone else — makes a point of informing the Jackal that he has a habit of storing incriminating evidence relating to his clients in a place which will be rather easy to find in the event that some strange and sudden misfortune should befall him. The Jackal gets the message and lets him go, although not without also making it clear that should anything about his dealings with the gunsmith become known, the Jackal will subsequently make it his life's work to hunt down and execute the gunsmith in as painful a method as possible. The gunsmith also gets the message.
  • Hero Antagonist: The French Action Services and Lebel.
  • Historical Domain Character: Charles de Gaulle obviously; he's a constant presence, and has a scene where he's briefed about the Jackal's plot against him. British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, DeGaulle's Interior Minister Roger Frey and Colonel Bastien-Thiery (leader of the Petit-Clamart assassination attempt) also appear.
  • Honey Trap: Denise, the girlfriend of a (now dead) OAS member, beds a high-ranking French official so the OAS can learn about developments in the investigation and aid the Jackal.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The whole plot becomes a Race Against the Clock once the French figure out that the Jackal will make his move on Liberation Day, with the climax taking place on that day. The fact that the hit is targeted for a major event is justified by the fact that unlike a random simple Tuesday, De Gaulle's schedule on a major holiday cannot be casually altered at the last minute for security reasons. In any case, DeGaulle is far too proud to not make a public appearance on Liberation Day.
  • How Did You Know? I Didn't: Lebel knows that a member of the French Cabinet is leaking information about the hunt for the Jackal to the OAS, perhaps unknowingly. Not knowing which of them is the source of the leak, he taps all of their phones, and only informs the rest of them that he did so after the mole has been identified (turns out, his mistress was an OAS spy).

    Tropes I-L 
  • Icy Gray Eyes: The Jackal has these. They become a Death Glare when he is angered.
  • The Infiltration: The OAS has an insider close to a Government minister, who passes on information to the Jackal.
  • I Reject Your Reality: When Bastien-Thiery's lawyer apologetically tells him that his appeal for clemency has been denied, Bastien-Thiery just smiles and reassures his lawyer that "no squad of Frenchman will raise their rifles against me." He continues to believe this right up until the moment that the firing squad's bullets slam into his chest.
  • It Began with a Twist of Fate: If the Action Service hadn't managed to lure away Kowalski and kidnap him after noticing the spike of OAS-related crime, they probably never would have learned about the Jackal (or at least not until it was too late).
  • It's Personal: Nearly every OAS member we meet has a personal reason to hate de Gaulle and want him dead.
  • I Work Alone: The second reason why the Jackal is so hard to catch. Not only is he not on their files, the French intelligence agencies can't use their network of informants in the OAS either. The Jackal supplies his own weapon, false identities, and safe houses, only phoning a single contact who can pass on information from The Mole.
  • Jerkass: Colonel Saint-Clair de Villauban from De Gaulle's staff, a disdainful, snobby and nakedly ambitious careerist whose primary contributions to the Jackal crisis are pompous recitations of things that everyone present already knows or condescending scepticism towards Lebel's many efforts, which he frequently attempts to pick apart and undermine partly out of snobbery towards the low-born mid-ranking police officer and partly so that he can make sure he's seen to be on the right side should Lebel's efforts fail. He is also The Mole, albeit unwittingly, but his unthinking willingness to blurt out everything that's going on to his mistress doesn't help the reader's opinion of him or his competence.
    • Sir Jasper Quigley, a British Foreign Office official who hates de Gaulle, chews out a subordinate for helping with Thomas's investigation and openly "jokes" that he hopes Scotland Yard won't "try too hard" to stop the assassination. Besides being the quintessential Obstructive Bureaucrat, the book also discusses his chequered diplomatic career, including his support for appeasing fascism in the '30s.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The Jackal points out that it would be far easier (and more practical) for the OAS to simply get a suicidal fanatic to jump de Gaulle than to spend a fortune on an assassin. The reason they don't go this way is the difficulty in actually finding someone who is enough of a suicidal fanatic to sacrifice their life, but also rational enough to do the job right. The Jackal goes on to point out that they obviously have not been able to produce such a man, given that they are trying to get him to do the job.
  • Last Stand: Kowalski, the huge Polish OAS member who is kidnapped by French security forces, goes down fighting and immobilizes three agents before the rest finally overpower him.
  • Lost in Translation: Kowalski's French interrogators struggle with his Polish-accented French (there is also the fact that he is being tortured). Rolland realizes they have incorrectly transcribed several important words: namely, instead of referring to the Jackal as bon (good) and fâcheur (an irritating person), Kowalski was saying blond and faucheur (killer). From there, Rolland easily works out what the OAS is up to.

    Tropes M-P 
  • Mandatory Unretirement: Lebel is abruptly dismissed by the cabinet in the belief that they can now find the Jackal without his help, but within days they are forced to recall him, as they have been unable to find the Jackal.
  • Master Forger: The Jackal acquires a set of false identity cards from a forger, who is not only able to make such papers but also advises the Jackal how to make himself look older (his plan is to disguise himself as an elderly wounded veteran so he can conceal a Scaramanga Special rifle in a set of crutches). He then makes the fatal mistake of trying to blackmail the Jackal for more money.
  • Master of Disguise: One of the Jackal's specialties, and why he's so hard to track. He prepares several identities he can switch between in case one gets found out, and is shown to be able to come up with new ones relatively quickly.
  • Meaningful Name (also Fun with Acronyms): The Jackal is suspected to be an Englishman named Charles Calthrop, ergo Chacal, French for "Jackal". He actually isn't.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The OAS's spree of bank robberies draws the attention of French authority, who quickly realize something bigger's going on.
  • Missed Him by That Much: The Jackal repeatedly eludes the French authorities in this manner. In particular, he exits the Paris train station minutes before the police arrive to apprehend him. It isn't just luck or intuition though, he's being tipped off by an informant inside the French cabinet
  • Modern Major General: Sir Jasper Quigley, the British Foreign Office's "Head of France", is a diplomatic equivalent; his primary qualification for the job is a long history of service in foreign postings everywhere except France, and an equally long history of betting on the wrong horse in every political race he's ever witnessed (if he hadn't married his boss's daughter while he was posted to Berlin in the early 1930's, his memorandum predicting that German rearmament would have "no real effect" on Europe's future might have put a bigger dent in his career).
  • The Mole:
    • The OAS is so full of Action Service infiltrators that Rodin trusts only Montclair and Casson, and has to rely on an outsider, namely the title assassin, for the task.
    • However, the OAS also has a mole inside the French cabinet, the mistress of one of the ministers, who coaxes information about the investigation from him via pillow talk and passes it on to the Jackal. She only gets found out after Lebel bugs all of the cabinet ministers' phones, culminating in a How Did You Know? I Didn't moment after the mole has been revealed and Lebel confesses to the cabinet that he bugged them all.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • The forger who decides that it would be a very good idea to blackmail the rather sinister Englishman clearly up to no good who has already spooked the crap out of him once before. He learns why this is a colossal mistake a bit too late.
    • Six Action Service agents attempt to apprehend Kowalski. In the ensuing fight, he incapacitates three of them before finally being overpowered.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: The Jackal takes this approach with anyone who compromises his mission, notably the forger who tries to blackmail him and his female lover, who finds his gun and realizes that he is planning to kill DeGaulle for the OAS.
  • Murder Simulators: Several assassins/attempted assassins are fans of the book or at least rumored to be. Carlos the Jackal got his nickname because he was mistakenly believed to own a copy. Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir was found to have a copy; while his assassination of Rabin was quite different than that the Jackal attempts on de Gaulle, it's easy to see parallels between Amir and Bastien-Thiery. Vladimir Arutyunian, who attempted to assassinate both George W. Bush and the President of Georgia, kept an annotated copy of the book as a how-to-guide.
  • Must Have Caffeine: One of the first things Lebel does upon getting his mandate to find the Jackal is to get his office its own coffee machine, on the logic that he and his second-in-command will be doing a lot of all-nighters.
  • Mysterious Past: Much of the Jackal's past is only hinted at. What country does he actually come from? How did he gain his deadly skills? Did he really take part in the assassination of President Trujillo, or was that also a Red Herring? We never find out. Before he took the codename of "Jackal", the OAS referred to him as "The Englishman" (because the other prospective assassins they considered hiring were German and South African), but all that proves is that he was living in England at the time he was hired, not that he necessarily was English.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The Jackal actually manages one shot at de Gaulle before he gets killed.
  • Neck Snap: The Jackal does this a few times.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Several instances where the Jackal's precautions actually help the police:
    • The Jackal gets a false passport to conceal his identity. The police detect this ploy, which (after a lot of trawling through the archives) gives them a name and a passport photo to use in the hunt. Had he gone by his real identity the police would never have left square one. He also steals two passports from men at airports to use as backup identities. Once the police realize this, they uncover his third disguise within hours. Though in total fairness on this one, under most circumstances any assassin who uses their real identity while carrying out a hit is simply begging to be uncovered and arrested.
    • When the Jackal commits a murder, ostensibly to cover his tracks, it gives the authorities an opportunity to drop DeGaulle's secrecy provision and hunt him openly, as it's now a straightforward murder hunt.
    • The Jackal steals the murder victim's car (having already abandoned his own car after finding out the police are looking for it). When they find the car abandoned near a provincial train station, this leads to them discovering the name and photo of his backup identity, and alerts them to the fact that the Jackal has made it safely to Paris. The movie tries to avert this by making it very clear that his (the Jackal's) own car is a total wreck by this point, hence why he nicked the car of the woman he murdered. However, it still leaves the very good question of why he didn't just hotwire the first 2CV he came across instead of stealing his victim's car, which is guaranteed to be the subject of an APB in hours at best.
    • The Jackal brings only three bullets to the assassination. Even with supreme confidence in his aim, this gives him little room for error and only two spares in the event that the police show up. So after the missed shot at DeGaulle and the shot that killed the gendarme, even if he had managed to kill Lebel before Lebel killed him, he would have had nothing left with which to shoot DeGaulle again.
    • The OAS go on a rampage of bank robberies and kidnappings to fund the Jackal's assassination attempt, and their leaders go into secluded lockdown in order to make sure that the people in the know aren't scooped up by the police... all of which serves to alert the police that something is up.
  • No Name Given: We never find out the real name of the Jackal. Lampshaded by the final line of dialogue: "If the Jackal wasn't Calthrop, then who the hell was he?!" The forger is also unnamed.
    • The Jackal's body would at least give investigators further clues to follow. Not just his fingerprints, but also — by the early 21st century — his DNA. DNA databases linking one person to another are becoming very extensive and this is known to investigators, even in cold cases. Anthropologists can study teeth and hair to not only know where the deceased was living (and eating) just before death, but even where they were born and raised. This is true even of the long dead, and we know that the Jackal is buried (not cremated) at the end; even though his grave is unmarked, the location is known and his remains could presumably be disinterred at a later date.
  • Obfuscating Disability: The war veteran identity, which justifies the crutches in which he hides his Scaramanga Special.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat:
    • Lebel has to report to a committee full of them. Every day.
    • On the British side is the Foreign Office bureaucrat who interferes with and hinders in the investigation simply because he doesn't like the French.
  • One Last Job: One reason why the Jackal's fee is so high is that he knows that he will never be able to work again after such a high-profile assassination, not to mention he will need to pay for a lot of precautions to keep himself hidden — every law-enforcement organization on the planet will be looking for him for the rest of his life, not to mention Gaullists seeking revenge.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted by Lebel, who is very effective at his job, but generally the French police force is (accurately) portrayed as being very good at catching criminals. Lebel is effective partly through personal talent but also through a very effective support structure at the national and city level. The police remain on the Jackal's tail throughout the plot. Played straight when they over-confidently think they will catch the Jackal soon and dismiss Lebel.
    • This is explicitly invoked in the novel; Lebel expresses frustration at one point that the government ministers think the Jackal is escaping detection because he's "lucky" and that Lebel is incompetent. The possibility that Lebel is competent, but the Jackal is also really good at his job, doesn't occur to them.
    • Also averted in that half the OAS's problems are because the Police are too good. Their operations and cells are penetrated and blown and in real life would be dismantled very soon after. Hiring the Jackal is an act of desperation because any other option would be detected and thwarted before they could try it.
      • There is also a mild Offscreen Moment of Awesome when Lebel reports the results of a records check. In the ten previous years they've had to contend with four contract killers. They got three of them, and found out that the other one was in prison in another country. That's a 75% catch rate (with the only failure being due to someone else arresting the guy first) and a 100% detection rate — offering an early indication of just how hard the Jackal must work to evade the authorities.
  • Pressure Point: Action Service men once demonstrate their knowledge of this.
  • Pride: President de Gaulle's legendary pride poses a problem for the investigators when the plot against him is uncovered; he refuses to cancel his personal appearances, take any increased action to ensure his safety or allow the security services to engage in a public manhunt for the Jackal out of concern of the embarrassment to both him and France.
  • Professional Killer: The Jackal is one. His wages are so high that the OAS has to rob several banks to gather the money needed, though it's entirely justified - see the One Last Job entry.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Jackal feels no animosity towards his victims, has no political or religious motivation - he's doing this for a paycheck. A large paycheck.

    Tropes Q-T 
  • Red Herring: A man on British Intelligence's list of suspected assassins-for-hire has a name which suggests a Steven Ulysses Per Hero for the Jackal: Charles Calthrop ("Chacal" is French for "jackal"). He turns out to be a completely different person.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: The police manage to track down the Jackal while following a false lead; in the final scene, after the Jackal is dead, they discover that the man they thought was the Jackal is still alive, and totally innocent.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The OAS, as was Truth in Television.
  • Say My Name: In the climax, both Lebel and the Jackal recognize each other, and say the other's name before trying to open fire. Averted in the movie, where they each go right to trying to kill the other.
  • Scaramanga Special: The Sniper Rifle is disguised as a crutch.
  • Sedgwick Speech: Bastien-Thiery gives one before his execution. He thinks that real French patriots would never kill him. He's wrong.
  • Shown Their Work
    • The opening assassination attempt really took place and is a very good re-creation. Not surprising, since Frederick Forsyth had covered the real-life events which inspired the film as a journalist for Reuters.
    • Perhaps most notably the method where the Jackal gets a fake passport, getting a birth certificate from a person who died as a child. Forsyth got some criticism for revealing that method. In his defense, Forsyth was trying to call attention to the loophole so it would be closed, and almost the entire criminal world was already aware of the trick and had been using it for years. See this article for more — amazingly, they only really started to close the loophole after almost 30 years (a year earlier, hippie author Abbie Hoffman had refused to publicize the method in Steal This Book!, out of fear of governments closing the loophole).
  • Shout-Out: A fairly subliminal one, but in one section of the book it's mentioned that the head of British Intelligence plays cards at a club called Blades. Blades is from the James Bond series.
  • Simple Solution Won't Work: At one point a member of the OAS suggests that instead of hiring the titular Jackal to assassinate President de Gaulle (which will cost them a fortune they don't have) why not simply find a crazed fanatic who they can set to kill him in a Suicide Attack. The suggestion is dismissed by the other members on the grounds of it being next to impossible to find anyone who is simultaneously insane enough to agree to do so, and rational enough to follow a coherent complex plan to bypass de Gaulle's defences.
  • Sniper Rifle: No surprise. The Jackal has one custom made in .22 Magnum and able to be disassembled and concealed in a crutch. He does need to sight-in the scope.
  • Spanner in the Works: Quite a few, but the most ironic one was Charles de Gaulle himself who's French, and therefore more likely to kiss a man on the cheeks instead of shaking his hand, thereby just dodging the Jackal's bullet.
    • The otherwise well-planned opening assassination failed because Bastien-Thiery looked at an almanac for the wrong year and so misjudged when the sun would go down. As a result it was too dark for the gunners to see his signal and they opened fire too late.
    • The leader of the OAS uses the Jackal's codename in front of his bodyguard, who is later captured by the Action Service. From this one mistake, the head of the Action Service deduces that the OAS have hired a Professional Killer and that De Gaulle must be the target.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: About halfway through the story, Lebel deduces that the Jackal, or "le chacal" in French, is a Brit by the name of Charles Calthrop. A subversion, as Calthrop is entirely innocent and unrelated.
  • Title Drop: The last line of the book.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The forger tries to blackmail a professional killer, mistaking him for an upperclass British dilettante dabbling in the drug trade. He gets a Neck Snap and stuffed in a trunk for his efforts.

    Tropes U-Z 
  • The Unsolved Mystery: The Jackal's true identity.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Just barely averted. For reasons of operational security, Jackal never tells anyone more about his plans than absolutely necessary (The OAS knows who the target is, but not when, where or how it is to be done. The gunsmith knows how the hit is to be done, but not who, when or where. Nobody else knows anything until Lebel starts deducing details) and comes within inches of succeeding. Had De Gaulle not bent over as Jackal was lining up his first shot and Lebel not intervened before he could fire a second, it would have worked.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Jackal is the titular character and appears quite a while before Lebel.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: The cop who is with Lebel when he goes after the Jackal at the end gets some characterization but is killed without much fanfare.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The British Prime Minister (unnamed, but heavily hinted to be Harold Macmillan) has a moment like this at one point; an inspector in his country's police has been approached by the French authorities to follow up on a seemingly minor but potentially crucial aspect on the case. However, the Prime Minister has every reason to block the matter; de Gaulle has sabotaged British entry into the European Common Market (and, by extension, the Prime Minister's career), his government is full of obstructionists opposed to the French on principle, he's going to be out of office soon and no one would know if he did anything. The Prime Minister's conscience ultimately wins the day and he instructs the inspector to give the French his full and complete help in the matter.
  • Worthy Opponent: Lebel and the Jackal (Chacal in French) develop a grudging respect for each other, without ever meeting — with the Jackal again and again evading Lebel's clever traps and Lebel again and again penetrating the Jackal's clever disguises. Lebel certainly appreciates the Jackal far higher than he does the government officials he has to work with. When they at last meet face to face they look for a split second into each other's eyes, Lebel saying "Chacal" and the Jackal saying "Lebel" before they scramble to kill each other. Lebel having been a split second quicker, he on the following day attends the Jackal's burial in a nameless grave, saying nothing to the handful of other people present.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Lebel remarks that the cabinet ministers he has to deal with think the Jackal is just some common criminal who keeps getting lucky. They have no idea how smart and dangerous he is. They learn this the hard way when they dismiss Lebel, thinking they can now catch the Jackal easily, only to find he has completely disappeared. They have to enlist Lebel's aid again.
  • Your Head A-Splode: Not 100%, but that's the Jackal's aim. Witness the watermelon scene.

"The day of the Jackal was over."