A novel that feels like non-fiction
In this first illustrated edition of The Day of the Jackal, Tatsuro Kiuchi’s superb images evoke the clock-ticking tension of Frederick Forsyth’s much-imitated thriller. A man stands blindfolded and tied to a stake in a courtyard; a car snakes through the angular landscape of the Alpes Maritimes; a melon resembles a human head as it hangs from a tree, fixed within the sights of a sniper’s rifle. Published in 1971 to rave reviews, The Day of the Jackal tells the story of an assassin hired by a French dissident paramilitary organisation to kill Charles de Gaulle.
'Forsyth’s construction is as sound as the architecture of a thousand-year-old church'
Forsyth’s exacting portrayal of an underworld filled with inscrutable faces and ingenious manoeuvres has inspired a generation of writers, from Jack Higgins to Ken Follett, who introduces this edition. From the opening scene in which the Jackal’s predecessor meets his demise, to the manhunt that pits the Jackal against Commissaire Claude Lebel – who Follett describes as a sure inspiration for television’s Columbo – Forsyth writes with such precision that the novel feels like non-fiction. In fact, aside from the initial, historical attempt on de Gaulle’s life, the plot is invented, its remarkable authenticity deriving from Forsyth’s experience as a reporter on the Biafran War. The (real) method of obtaining a false passport described in the book is even known, to this day, as ‘Day of the Jackal fraud’. As Follett says, ‘every page is believable’. This, and the author’s masterful control of tempo, makes for a riveting novel in which the suspense ‘ratchets up, chapter by chapter and page by page, right to the end’. Alongside his integrated illustrations, Kiuchi has produced a striking binding and pictorial slipcase.