Rounded Rectangle: FACT BEHIND FICTION
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A section from

‘A Jedi shall not know hatred, nor fear… nor love.’ from Star Wars Episode II






Frederick Forsyth’s first novel - The Day of the Jackal was not just a literary and financial success, it also inspired and directed would-be assassins. Yitzak Rabin’s assassin referred to it, as did W’s would-be assassin. But the classic also exposed an actual loophole in the process for obtaining a British passport. Because the expose came via fiction rather than journalism the authorities got around to correcting the system after a good thirty years.


And while ministry after ministry debated about the best way to spend taxpayer money to plug the problem, they ignored Mr. Forsyth’s £2 solution. So for decades any common crook with balls and a bit of brains could establish a criminal venture of selling false identities at market price. Much more sinister is the open invitation to the actual user, the options are endless - from the novel’s theme of assassination, to innumerable criminal offenses, murders, theft, terrorism . . .


Who was the Jackal?


‘I do not have the kind of imagination to spin a character out of the air,’ Forsyth admitted. ‘I met the Jackal, although he did not have the smoothness and style of my Jackal. He was simply a professional killer.’


Only a few people really know. Not even the real hero of the thriller finds out. But we are provided with a few sketchy details about him. He was a mercenary in Katanga (the Congo), and his skills and contacts obtained in that war enable him to become an ice-cold assassin. The Jackal came to choose his profession because of the adrenaline junkie within and love for the good life that money can buy. He quits a mundane day-job and dives into a life of cloak-and-daggers and sniper rifles. He is physically fit and a deadly killer even with his bare hands, and attractive enough to seduce at will in a kind of dark James Bond way. A thorough professional and conscious-less killer, he doesn't digress from the unspoken rules he has established.


So what was the Way of the Jackal?


The assassin (we are never told his real name and he is and shall be referred to simply as the Jackal) is publicity shy. Very few people know his real name, fewer know his credentials and he obviously doesn't advertise his services. But his obsession with secrecy and anonymity is extreme. He gets work through a small number of discreet contacts and only accepts high-risk and high-paying jobs. Money is his motive and therefore the man has no ideology to adhere to.


The Jackal is also a bastard of a negotiator simply because he does not bargain. In a world with little of the instant communication we have today, and no brainwashed suicide bombers the professional assassin is on the better side of a demand-supply equation in that world. In 1963 the earth was not a small world.


So when the sinister but ridiculously inept OAS agrees to pay him half a million dollars the Jackal goes to town with his methods. The man has it down to an art.


By the way - the target was Charles De Gaulle. So? In Frederick Forsyth’s own words;


The Jackal was perfectly aware that in 1963 General De Gaulle was not only the President of France; he was also the most closely and skillfully guarded figure in the western world. To assassinate him, as was later proved, was considerably more difficult than to kill President John F. Kennedy of the United States. Although the English killer did not know it, French security experts who had through American courtesy been given an opportunity to study the precautions taken to guard the life of President Kennedy had returned somewhat disdainful of those precautions as exercised by the American Secret Service. The French experts’ rejection of the American methods was later justified when in November 1963 John Kennedy was killed in Dallas by a half-crazed and security-slack amateur while Charles De Gaulle lived on…


The pro read every available written word on the mad Gaulle (whose disdain for personal security was legendary). Then he did a quick SWOT analysis and figured it out - he would of course use his skill as a sharpshooter, but would bank on his anonymity to get close enough to go in for the kill. Leaks from within his employer’s organization was something he had to watch out for, as was the ubiquitous French Security. The opportunity would come when De Gaulle would expose himself on a defined day on public platform which he was certain to attend irrespective of any adversity or warning.


On the way the Jackal would kill a double-crossing crook, pull a seduce-use-kill on a beautiful countess, adapt a sports-car to carry his deadly custom-made weapon and scare the entire French Security to within inches of massive myocardial infarctions.


The Day of the Jackal Fraud


But to enter France the English assassin would need papers, and he was certainly not going to use his own. So what would he do? What any mercenary of the time did - obtain a passport under a false name in a scam that went on to be known as ‘the day of the jackal fraud’. First he would scout cemeteries for children’s graves who If alive would be as old as himself. Then politely request the caretaker to be allowed to view the boy’s records, but not before making a contribution to the donation box. In case the caretaker put forth a question, the Jackal would pose as an anthropologist, family friend, etc. anything not on the lines of gun-for-hire would work.


Then with the full name and some other basic details the Jackal would assume the vocation of a legal advisor and approach the Registry from where a few polite words and a fee would procure our anti-hero a copy of the birth and death certificates. Then the passport application form would be filled out - names and dates according to the certificates but physical description as per his good-self. A printing kit and a forged signature would provide an excellent reference for the application, and in a short while the brand new passport would be en route to the Jackal.


The fraud was that simple. Seriously.


The Impact of the Thriller


The following are a few of the lone-assassins who have been associated with The Day of the Jackal:


1. Illich Ramirez Sanchez - the South American terrorist who was inappropriately nicknamed ‘the jackal’

2. Yigal Amir - the assassin who killed the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

3. Vladimir Arutyunian - the would-be assassin of W. who tried to kill him with a grenade in 2005 while W. was on a state visit to Georgia.


The Great Survivor


Carl Sifakis referred to Charles De Gaulle as ‘the great survivor’. The recalcitrant Gaulle pissed of any and every politician he could get his hands on, so therefore thirty-one assassination attempts on the man would seem believable. The most serious attempts on his life were made by the OAS, who were a group of disgruntled French ex-militia who were livid at De Gaulle for granting independence to Algeria. The Petit Clamart attempt was the OAS’ most notorious, and it is also the opening scene of the thriller.


General De Gaulle went on to retire in peace and die in his own bed of natural causes.


Also at

THE DAY OF THE JACKAL: Frederick Forsyth

Reading Frederick Forsyth

THE DOGS OF WAR: Frederick Forsyth

AVENGER: Frederick Forsyth


References and Further Reading The Study of Assassination by the author of ‘How to Kill’

-The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

-Encyclopedia of Assassinations by Carl Sifakis

-How to Kill by Kris Hollington




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