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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Bin Laden in Forsyth thriller
Frederick Forsyth
Frederick Forsyth discusses his new book, "The Avenger"

In a HardTalk interview on September 8, 2003 Gavin Esler talks to the author Frederick Forsyth

Mr Forsyth joined the RAF at 17 and at 19 and became one of the youngest ever RAF pilots. Later, as a journalist, he fell out with the BBC over his reporting about the Nigerian civil war. That spurred him to produce his first thriller - "The Day of the Jackal" - which became a worldwide hit. His first novel in seven years -- The Avenger -- looks at Osama bin Laden and America's murky war against terrorism.

In the book, Rickie Colenso, an American aid worker, is drowned in a Bosnian cesspit by evil Serb paramilitary leader Zoran Zilic. Colenso's grandfather, a Canadian mining billionaire, swears revenge.

One man mission

He contacts Cal Dexter, the Avenger of the title, and a Vietnam-war veteran American who is subsequently despatched on a one-man mission against Zilic, with orders to bring him back to the U.S.A. to face justice.

The story soon moves to governmental level, and before long the CIA and FBI know of the Avenger's mission and are desperate to prevent it.

The evil Zilic is a key player in a CIA plan to prevent Osama bin Laden from obtaining nuclear weapons at all costs - even if it means the U.S. making unseemly truces with the Balkans killer.

The book looks at the lead up to the terror attacks on the World Trade Centre. Frederick Forsyth says that the rest of the world still has not understood the change in American attitudes since those attacks:

"They took the view in Western Europe that it was jolly bad luck. America didn't take that view," he says.

A declaration of war

"They took the view that they had been declared war on and they were going to fight back. We hadn't really understood America. America is beyond a Superpower. She is now a hyperpower...the defeat of Saddam was pretty predictable...but that's not why they're unpopular. I think a lot of it is resentment and envy."

One of the key themes to come out of the book is what the author terms the "political correctness" of the Clinton regime which he believes was a contributing factor that led to the failure of the intelligence services to prevent the attacks of September 11th.

Forsyth says: "Clinton came to power in 1992 and left in 2000. He was there for eight years and there are those who felt America's guard was let down during those eight years, that the CIA was almost certainly emasculated and the FBI had several leadership crises."

"The funds weren't given to the American investigative agencies to tackle world terror. The traditionalists believe they were being blamed for the failure to intercept the terrorists," he says.

"Clinton personally instigated a new regime where they were forbidden to use as intelligence sources disreputable people. Well, try telling that to the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) at Scotland Yard that they're not allowed to talk to grasses because they're disreputable."


HARDtalk can be seen on BBC World at 03:30 GMT, 08:30 GMT, 11:30 GMT, 15:30 GMT, 18:30 GMT and 22:30 GMT.

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 03:30 and 23:30


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