The publicity team at Frederick Forsyth’s publisher has done a good job of drumming up interest in his new memoir by focusing on the question of whether he was ever a member of the Secret Intelligence Service. The evidence suggests that, like many journalists working abroad, he enjoyed close relations with the ‘Firm’, as he rather ostentatiously likes to call it, but was never a fully fledged spook.
He is the kind of writer (and man) who looks up the local SIS chief when visiting a place to research a book. Why not? Men like ‘Johnny’ in Hong Kong have a finger on the local pulse. He showed Forsyth round the island and rather shocked him with his revelations about the Brits’ cooperation with the mainland Chinese – all good background material for a thriller writer, particularly one who prides himself on his attention to detail.
Forsyth’s main steppings-out with the SIS were in Germany and Biafra. In the former he was intrepid (a quality he exhibits throughout). Having visited Germany as a boy, learnt the language and