Friday, June 10, 2022


From an article about a favorite type of suspense thriller: "Missed Targets: Seven Attempted Assassination Thrillers." For instance, ones I have read:
Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsythe (1971)

The first classic among modern assassination thrillers. Disgruntled French military hire an anonymous English assassin, code-named the Jackal, to kill de Gaulle. Soon the police begin to suspect that something is up. And the chase is on. Frederick Forsythe, a former journalist, writes in a semi-documentary style and does it so convincingly it reads like non-fiction. The prose is crisp and efficient, as cold as the killer at the heart of the novel. The structure is clean and unadorned. Forsythe puts his characters on the plot train, puts the train on a track that runs straight to the climax, and turns up the steam. And while it’s not a novel with a lot of twists or surprises, it’s rivetingly suspenseful. We know that de Gaulle survived several assassination attempts. But somehow Forsythe keeps us thinking that he may not survive this one.

The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins (1975)

Yes, I know, that crack team of German Fallschirmjagers who parachute into the fictional English village of Studley Constable are not going to kill Churchill at his secret country retreat. Their plan is to kidnap him and spirit him back to Germany. Of course, complications ensue, and in the end assassination seems the only course. This was a huge bestseller and spawned a movie version starring Michael Caine as Steiner, the “good German” who leads the raid and must make the critical decision at the climax. All fictional, but Jack Higgins claimed he based Steiner on SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny’s spectacular raid to rescue Mussolini from imprisonment. There was a long string of World War II “men on a mission” adventures during this period, beginning with Alistair MacLeans’s The Guns of Navarone. Eagle is one of the best.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon (1959)

We began this eclectic list with a classic. Let’s finish with one. The plot is well known. American POWs, captured in Korea, brainwashed in China, sent home with psychological triggers cocked. One of them, “war hero” Raymond Shaw, has a domineering mother who’s actually a KGB agent and an ambitious father who wants to be president. Another POW, named Marco, pieces together what’s been happening to himself and others. Can he stop Shaw from an assassination that will change the course of American history? Even today, there are plot elements that feel ‘ripped from the headlines.’ And Condon’s prose, so different from Forsythe’s, has a velocity that matches the momentum of the story.

...[T]he movie version of Day of the Jackal and the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate are classics, too. The ticking time-bomb thriller, especially when the bomb is a human being, is the kind of movie you simply can’t turn away from. .... (more)
William Martin, "Missed Targets: Seven Attempted Assassination Thrillers," CrimeReads, June 10, 2022.

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