Prepare for a suspense-full evening Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. when English author Frederick Forsyth, the bestselling and award-winning master of thrilling suspense novels, speaks at the Gaithersburg Library about his latest, hot-off-the press tome, “The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue.” A memoir, the book chronicles his adventures and personal experiences that read like the intriguing themes from the pages of his novels, many of which have been made into blockbuster movies, including “The Day of the Jackal” and “The Odessa File.”
As part of its Author Series, the Gaithersburg Book Festival (GBF) committee in partnership with Politics & Prose Bookstore arranged for Forsyth’s speaking engagement and book signing during his U.S. tour to promote his memoir that was just released on Oct. 6. “We’re absolutely thrilled that he can come. Frederick Forsyth has been writing so long, and his groundbreaking book ‘The Day of the Jackal’ is really the standard by which I think that thrillers are written. So to have him come and talk about what he does and what his life is like, I think will be fascinating and we’re thrilled to be able to host him,” said Becky Meloan, who is in charge of author recruitment for GBF.
Forsyth’s work spans the decades and is rich with clever and chilling plot twists and turns based on thorough research and years of frontline experiences with international governments and political regimes. At 19 he was a jet fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force, then worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent with Reuters and as a print and television reporter with the BBC, delving into the perilous zones of civil wars, conspiracies, assassinations, Nazis, and spies.
He wrote his first novel, “The Day of the Jackal,” at age 31 in 35 days. In a telephone interview, Forsyth said he was “borrowing” the couch in a friend’s apartment, and every morning when his friend went to work he spent the day typing. “I just got to the kitchen table and put my little portable typewriter, which had traveled with me around the world, and I wound some white paper into it, as one did in those days, and I just began to type.” Now, 77 years of age, he still uses a typewriter for his manuscripts. “I prefer to see black words on white paper rolling up rather than slithering on a screen.”
Forsyth shed light upon the risky world he inhabited 45 years ago as a tenacious journalist when communism ruled Russia and the Stasi, or secret police, existed in East Germany. “Basically, no, I wasn’t a spy. A spy, technically speaking, is the guy inside the secret infrastructure of your enemy who steals the secret information. He needs a guy to come in through the border, pick it up and bring it back over, and that’s what I used to do. I was a glorified errand boy.” He added, “I’ve had a lot of luck in life. I should have been face down in the dirt by sundown, but I managed to get away.”
Risk-taking comes front and center in Forsyth’s characters and his own life. He said that being a risk-taker was not deliberate. “Since I was a kid, I had this rather large, probably too large, bump of curiosity. So if I see a lid, I have to lift it and see what’s under it. If I see a closed box, I want to open it and find what’s inside. So this desire to find what’s going on, and what is happening there, and then wanting to go in and have a look at it, led me to a few sort of scrapes.”
He clarified the difference between a memoir and an autobiography. “A memoir, as the word implies, is what you remember so, from the French, a memoir, it’s a memory. So basically, I stopped to think, what in the hell happened in my life? Where did I go, what did I do, who did I meet?”
Forsyth revealed that his memoir is his final book. “I’m retired. I’ve got other things I want to do in life. There are compulsives out there. I know Ken Follett, a friend of mine, and he’s a compulsive, he can’t stop, and Lee Child, for example, of the Jack Reacher books, he will write the first page of his next book before he rises from the table after finishing a previous book. They can’t stop. I was never a compulsive. I only ever did it to make a living really.” He said others tell him he should be “inspired by the muse” to which he laughed and said, “I don’t have a muse, but I do have a bank account.”
Mayor Jud Ashman said having an author of Forsyth’s caliber speak in Gaithersburg is a big deal. “It’s an honor to have him, and it’s a spectacular thing to be able to offer a cultural opportunity like this to residents and neighbors. It’s a continuation of the evolution of the book festival and what our community is building here. It’s continuing to build the city’s brand that it’s an interesting place where things are happening with a stimulating cultural scene.”
Join Frederick Forsyth on Wednesday, Oct. 7 to gather a glimpse into his remarkable life that has spawned 15 novels, two short story collections and now a memoir. Politics & Prose will be on-site selling copies of Forsyth’s memoir and other select titles. The event is free. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Seating is limited and first come/first serve. The library has limited parking. Additional parking is available next door to the library at the Montvale Center. For more information, visit www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org.