Murky Merc


You’ve read the original;
Now read what Forsyth didn’t mention


The True Version




Part One: Anatomy of a plot

Part Two: Anatomy of a manhunt

Part Three: Anatomy of a kill




This book is a more comprehensive adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s first bestseller, The Day Of The Jackal. A fuller, truer, version.

How could this be, you ask, it’s a work of fiction.

No, it isn’t.

Forsyth’s meaty reputation was built up on rumours that his first three books were based on reality. They are not rumours: it is true, they were indeed based on actual people and events and Forsyth was very much part of it all: he and the Jackal were friends, Forsyth worked for him as an intelligence officer.
Street-talk says that the original Day Of The Jackal was based on a detailed account of the plot recounted to Forsyth by the Jackal himself during a long telephone conversation just prior to the Jackal’s capture, a highly publicised incident in which he came to be known nationwide as ‘The Lewisham Man’. This version of the De Gaulle assassination attempt however, is not penned by Forsyth but by a close friend of the Jackal’s and delves deeply into the personal background of the man, illuminating the personality and life of the man behind the name, something Forsyth dained not to do, choosing instead to make his character a mystery figure who sprang seemingly from nowhere, a fully fledged assassin.

But life is not like this, everybody is somebody and comes from somewhere.

Annoyed at the obvious lack of content the writer often thought of ‘doing something’ about Forsyth’s book, but life always seemed to get in the way. Woken from hibernation by a chance remark during Christmas 1982 the writer at last realised that it was now or never as memories were beginning to fade and began to mull over and jot down as much of them as possible before they faded forever.

Eventually it got to the stage that something had to be done about it.

After several abortive attempts to write a completely new book it was accepted that this wasn’t a going proposition, not without the Jackal’s ledgers anyway (yes, he kept ledgers) and that if the book was ever going to be finished, and in a readable form, it would be necessary to form these memories around Forsyth’s story-line. This would have been necessary in the second half of the book anyway as the writer wasn’t privy to that conversation between Forsyth and the Jackal and must assume that Forsyth was more or less following the actual events.

However, despite being briefed by the man himself and knowing the Jackal’s ‘modus opporendi’ far better than the writer as he was often actively involved in various activities, Forsyth hasn’t recounted the planning for the De Gaulle job in the exacting and careful manner that the Jackal would have employed, not the Jackal the writer recalls anyway. Like everybody else the writer has read and enjoyed the original book many times, but first during the in-depth studying and dissecting done during the preparation of this new version was it realised that Forsyth’s plot-line was decidedly wonky in parts. And the narration wasn’t much better, it was quiet badly written in places, to the degree that it is not surprising that it was rejected, was it twenty times? Surprising it ever got published really.

Written from memory many years after the fact means that this book will undoubtedly contain inaccuracies, misunderstandings, item’s used out of context, etc. Having said this, none of the additions and alterations in the book are figments of the writer’s imagination, would be a world-renowned and wealthy author if that was the case, not a ‘working-class hero’. Everything is based on something, i.e. personal observations, an in-depth knowledge of the Jackal, his way of thinking, his methodology, and information (here say) from other sources. Forsyth himself has been of assistance to the writer on occasion. Knowing what to look for some keys to the writer’s memory were found woven into in Forsyth’s various books. Forsyth weaves people, places, and events from his past into his books, unfortunately causing some confusion in doing so as he swaps these names, dates, and places around! Most authors do this probably, it’s just that you don’t see it not knowing the person concerned.

The writer did at first use everybody’s real name where applicable, but this ‘didn’t look right’ and a lot of rewriting was done until it did. Blinding science at its best! A few real names are used, and in these cases it either ‘looked right’ to use them or it is obvious that they are not guilty of anything and/or they are dead. The writer has toured the Corrèze region (highly recommended) and had used local place-names from the region for the Baroness’ new name. It has been noted that the Reader’s Digest stated in their 1972 edition of the book that the Jackal painted the Alpha red, not blue as suggested both in Forsyth’s book and the film. Not a mistake you would think The Digest would make so it must be assumed that the incident regarding the Baroness occurred and they were going on newspaper and police reports. It seems one must accept an uncomfortable fact but these things do happen in real life. The Jackal must have been devastated by the incident and it may have coloured his subsequent actions.

So, what do we have after all this; This new version is now twice as long as the original and even after trying to sort things out is still not strictly true. Doing it this ‘easy’ way, however, has meant that a reasonably clear account of the Jackal and his life is now on record after 15 years of research and five years in the writing. Though it has been fun recalling fond memories it has also been a hard slog for the writer who has a living to earn and a life to live and who nearly gave up several times because of the pressure, especially towards the end.

All this work should have been unnecessary. Forsyth was privy to most of what the writer has added as well as being well-informed of what the Jackal got up to professionally, so why didn’t he write this book instead?

An example of Forsyth’s changing things around; the De Gaulle job was in 1962, not 1963. There was a plot in ’63 but it never got to the action stage. Elements of the now defunct OAS and (would you believe it) the French Secret Service, the SDECE, joined forces, but somebody seems to have gotten cold feet during the planning and it was found out in time. Most of the assassination attempts were quietened down, we only hear of the ones that were so public that they couldn’t be hushed up. There were apparently 6-7 real attempts on De Gaulle’s life during June, July, and August of 1962, one of which was the Jackal. According to historian John Parker the last known attempt was just after Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965. De Gaulle announced a memorial service in the Notre Dame, so the French people could pay homage to the man who saved Europe. And that he would attend. A ‘Kennedy-style assassination feasibility study’ was carried out (make of that what you will!) but it was decided that the security was now so good that it wasn’t a viable proposition.

Not all of Forsyth’s books have been read as most of the last ones are commercial rubbish, but the writer will eventually have to; you know what they say about the cat. Commercial rubbish? Harsh words indeed! Yes. Since his first successful novels Forsyth’s gotten lazy and has been playing copy-cat like most other authors, quickly jumping on various band-wagons as they have arisen. This is a source of intense annoyment to the writer. The Day Of The Jackal, The Odessa file and The Dogs Of War were books so original in their content (as only the truth can be!) that they formed a completely new literary genre. These were the books that made him a household name and a millionaire. The writer knows that Forsyth is sitting on exclusive material that would enable him to write at least three more exclusive bestsellers on the Jackal/mercenary theme. A trilogy. Real rippers. The writer would love to read them please! He was there, he personally knew many of the people involved. It gives him a unique insight that no other writer has, so why is he now writing crap?

For some years after the assassination attempt the writer was aware of eyes watching. There was a disturbing incident early in ’63, it’s possible there was an incident in the summer of ’65 (less said about that one the better) and again in the spring of ’68, in Sydney, Australia, of all places, half a world away! Aware of the dangers involved, all the writer could do was to develop eyes in the back of the head and fade into the background, hoping it would blow over sometime.

The arrival of the book and film in 1971 and ’72 and the publishing of The Odessa File and The Dogs Of War caused a flurry of interest (and a flurry of nerves again) but knowing there was far more to it all has always been a source of irritation. The mercenaries that were later to be immortalised in The Dogs Of War were all friends of the Jackal’s, all were men under his command. The operation was planned by the Jackal and Rolf Steiner during the winter of 1961-’62. Steiner was specifically hired just for this job, but he also worked for Black Jack Schramme, the Belgian/Katangese mercenary leader. 

An ironic twist has arisen regarding this story of the Jackal. A rumour has cropped-up three times or so over the years that wouldn’t still be going the rounds if there wasn’t something in it. After a lot of thought it did seem to perhaps explain a few things, so the writer slotted it into place in this book. It seems to fit! The writer didn’t start this rumour. This aside, in the writer’s opinion it was most probably Bastien-Thiry who masterminded the plot together with Degueldres and a some of his army and mercenary buddies, though to be fussy, Bastien-Thiry wasn’t actually a member of the OAS, General Salan thought him a mad animal and refused to have anything to do with him! However, Susini and Degueldres appreciated his vision and talents and kept him under their wing in a separate unit referred to as ‘The Old General Guard’.

Though this new version of The Day Of The Jackal is twice as long and even much of what Forsyth wrote remodelled and cleaned up this version can probably never be published as it most likely infringes the copyright laws. Publishing has never been the intent either, not for personal profit anyway, this book has been written so that the truth be known sometime, that a written record be available to posterity. There are so many unanswered questions about all this business. This book hopefully gives some clues as to what those questions should be, should anybody be interested in asking them.

The Jackal himself would undoubtedly approve of this book. He would want the truth known sometime so people could make up their own minds about him. He was painfully aware of his faults and would often say, “Ignore what you’ve heard about me, although I admit it’s probably all true, to my shame, but I can’t turn the clock back and undo it all. Take me as you find me, that’s all I ask.”

Many people chose to do so, and never regretted it.

Murky Merc © Copyright 2011