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~ ~ Ive grown up with veteran thriller writer Frederick Forsyth.
The first novel of his that I read was The Day of the Jackal back in the early 1970s, after first watching the excellent movie based on the book. It told the story of a dangerous British assassin, who tried to kill President De Gaul of France at the time of Algerian crisis. Ever since Ive awaited each new thriller he writes with anticipation, and have rarely been disappointed.
~ ~ Avenger, his last book but one, was published in Corgi paperback in September 2004.
Carl Dexter (the hero) is a lad from the wrong side of the tracks. His father works as a general labourer on building jobs, and after his mother runs off with another man and abandons them, his existence consists of moving from one construction site to the next. As a consequence, his formal education is practically non-existent, and everyone expects the lad to simply end up wearing a hard hat for a living like his father.
But its the era of the Vietnam War in the States, and instead Carl opts to volunteer for the army, where his education in the school of hard knocks stands him in good stead. He soon comes to the attention of his superiors, and is seconded to a Special Operations Unit whose job is to ferret out the Vietcong from the vast labyrinth of tunnels that they built under the jungles to hide from the American forces. Its the filthiest, most dangerous job in the Army, but Carl excels at it, and comes home with a chest full of medals. He then takes the G.I.Ticket, and the army pays for him to take a law degree in College, where he meets his Italian sweetheart and happily settles down to civilian life as a Public Defender.
~ ~ But life doesnt always deal us the hand we expect, and 16 years later Carls much loved teenage daughter is seduced by an evil pimp, who entices her away from her family, and introduces her to a life of drug addiction and prostitution.
She is found brutally murdered, but the pimp and his henchmen have fled the country, and cannot be brought to justice. Carl takes matters into his own hands, and goes after his daughters killers using the brutal methods he learned in the harsh jungles of Vietnam.
But life has not finished dealing Carl hard blows. His wife commits suicide, and he sells up and moves from the city to set up as an attorney in a small rural town. He regrets killing his daughters murderers, instead of ensuring they were brought to trial and imprisoned. So he dedicates himself to hunting down and capturing international criminals and terrorists who have escaped retribution for their crimes, and becomes a shadowy figure called the Avenger, while at the same time maintaining a respectable front as a lawyer. He is for hire to anyone who wishes justice to be served, but who cannot obtain it from conventional law enforcement agencies.
~ ~ Meanwhile a civil war is raging in the former Yugoslavia, and a young idealistic American has gone out to help the hapless refugees in that God forsaken territory. Ricky Colenso is twenty years old, and the grandson of a billionaire industrialist. Hes a young man with a golden future, and everything to live for. Instead, the naïve young American runs foul of a gang of Serbian militiamen in the mountains, and is brutally and callously slain.
His grandfather moves heaven and earth to find out what has happened to his beloved grandson, and when he discovers the horrific truth, resolves that his killer, a vicious and sadistic psychopath called Zoran Zilic, will be brought to justice whatever the cost. But Zilic has fled from the Balkans with his hundreds of millions of dollars of plundered wealth. He simply cannot be traced, not even using the combined resources of the FBI and CIA.
So the Avenger is employed to track him down and bring him to justice.
~ ~ You might be forgiven for thinking that Ive just told you the whole plot of the book. But all I have really done is to give you the very barest bones of the story.
As he does with all his novels, Forsyth weaves an intricate and fascinating tale, rich in detail and full of suspense, with various little sub-plots thrown in for good measure. Youre never entirely sure how the story is going to unfold, and indeed, even at the very end of the book he introduces yet another little surprise twist just when you least expect it.
His attention to detail is extraordinary, and the amount of research that he must put into each novel beggars belief. He would appear to be very well versed in the devious (and often underhand) tactics employed by Government agencies, and the equally devious and underhand machinations of politicians.
~ ~ Ive listened to him a quite a few times on various TV chat shows over the years, and he comes across as fairly right wing in his political philosophy, and with a pathological hatred of terrorism. He once appeared on Irish TV with the leader of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, and the sparks fairly flew.
His political leanings do show through a bit in his writing, but it doesnt really detract from his ability to spin an intriguing yarn. Despite the sometimes thinly disguised political agenda that is prevalent in a few of his novels, I have yet to read a book by him that I havent thoroughly enjoyed. Indeed, I often return to his novels for a second helping, even when I already know the plot and outcome.
The spellbinding narrative, allied with his scrupulous fixation with detail, ensure that you never become bored when reading one of his thrillers.
~ ~ For this reason all of his books are invariably best sellers, and many have been turned into successful films, including The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, The Dogs of War, and The Fourth Protocol.
I wouldnt be at all surprised if this book also ends up as a Hollywood blockbuster at some point, as it has all the ingredients required to make an absolute belter of a movie.
~ ~ I honestly cant remember what I paid for this book, but its currently listed on eBay at a starting price of £1, and is available new at Amazon for £5.59. You can also buy it used at Amazon for only 1 pence. (How do they make a profit at that price?)
A great read and highly recommended.
P.S. Im currently half way through Forsyths latest thriller, The Afghan (2006) which is also shaping up to be a great read.
Paperback: 469 pages
Published By: Corgi Adult
Cover Price: £6.99
Avenger is the latest international thriller by Frederick Forsyth, who needs no introduction: his past bestsellers in this vein include The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File. The avenger is Calvin Dexter, outwardly a small-town US lawyer, who was shaped into a formidable killing machine by Vietnam. There are horrific flashbacks to his war career as a Tunnel Rat, fighting the Vietcong at close quarters in their own deadly underground labyrinths. After taking the law into his own hands for a bitter personal revenge on a Central American mobster, Dexter hires out his expertise to grab untouchable criminals from safe havens and deliver them into the clutches of US justice. His latest assignment is the toughest of all. A young American aid worker in fractured Yugoslavia met a revolting death at the hands of an ethnic-cleansing squad led by a Serbian war criminal. The boy's billionaire grandfather can afford an expensive revenge, but the trail seems cold... until, step by step, face-to-face investigation, lucky breaks, unstinting bribery and advanced computer hacking techniques trace the links from Serbia to the United Arab Emirates, a private plane, and a corrupt banana republic where the now very rich villain has the president and secret police on his payroll. Assaulting his massively guarded fortress--whose layers of defence include piranha, attack dogs and sharks deliberately given a taste for blood--would be one hell of a job even if Dexter had surprise on his side. But there are complications in high places. The CIA wants to use that Serbian killer as a stalking-horse in an elaborate operation against Al Qaeda, and issues an urgent warning that the avenger is coming. Dexter plans an elegant, witty and almost bloodless coup, a sting in the style of Leslie Charteris's Saint rather than a Bond-type frontal assault. With the whole country mobilised against him, though, what chance does he have? Dexter, and Forsyth, may surprise you. The author has a knack for making background information vitally interesting: potted life histories of the characters (including big wheels in the FBI and CIA) are almost as compulsively readable as the major action scenes. Surprises and unmaskings continue until the final pages of this superior thriller.