“The Outsider” by Frederick Forsyth is a memoir and not an autobiography. It is series of recollections and not a chronological narration. Although this book reads more like a thriller, readers get a glimpse of those events and personalities Forsyth has come in contact with that he based some of the stories upon. Unfortunately, this will be his last book because he has decided to put his pen out to pasture.
Elise Cooper: Why did you decide to write a memoir at this time?
Frederick Forsyth: I had nothing to do so I decided to write a collection of anecdotes.
EC: You are proud of your journalistic career. What did you see as your style?
FF: I consider myself a journalistic writer, keeping to the facts and making sure they are accurate. I do not write much emotional stuff or fancy language. My books were all contemporary current affairs based on what I had seen. Hell, I made mistakes and have done so many things I chose to write about them, or maybe not.
EC: Why do you think a journalist needs the qualities of detachment, curiosity, and skepticism?
FF: A journalist should never join the Establishment, no matter how tempting the blandishments. It is our job to hold power to account, not join it. In a world that increasingly obsesses over the gods of power, money, and fame, a journalist and a writer must remain detached, like a bird on a rail, watching, noting, probing, commenting, but never joining. In short, an outsider. I believe a journalist’s job is to check out something and write about it, but not get at all involved. We live in an age where they want to be a part of the Establishment, running with the herd, and a member of the Brotherhood. Instead, they should hold those they are covering to the account. They should never interject their opinions.
EC: You covered the actual assassination attempts of France’s President Charles de Gaulle. Is the story the “Day of the Jackal” factual?
FF: Yes, except for the actual character, the Jackal. I included all the police methods and the French security service operations. It is a twin hunt story where the Jackal is hunting the President and the police are searching for him. But there is no similarity between my affair and the Jackal’s. I had an affair with the East German defense minister’s mistress. She was a cougar, about twenty years my senior. I remember her singing this song to me and one day I found out she was a Nazi singing one of their songs. I thought it amusing that she was doing it with me, a part of the race that conquered her.
EC: You also included humor in the book. What was one of the most humorous?
FF: I wanted to interview Ezer Weizman, the first commander of the Israeli Air Force. I thought he was going to take us in a limo to Tel Aviv, but he actually meant to fly us there. As he was describing to me the first dogfight he was in during the War for Independence he took his hands off the controls, which I grabbed. I got a history lesson and a flying lesson all at once.
EC: Who is one of the people you interviewed you most admired?
FF: David Ben-Gurion. I consider him the founding father of Israel and one of the greatest men I have ever met. I was allotted twenty minutes, but we actually spoke for three hours. He described the creation of Israel in a step-by-step manner. As we talked I thought how he was a walking history lesson. I could have filled ten notebooks, but I just sat and listened to someone who had seen it all.
EC: What will you do in retirement?
FF: This was the last book. I consider it a postscript. I hope I am going out on top. For now I will enjoy my life by walking the dog, playing with the grandkids, and having, in the evening, a glass of wine by the fireplace.