July 27, 2006

Forsyth linked to real-life “Dogs of War” plot

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - "The Dogs of War," Frederick Forsyth's
1974 bestseller about an attempt by mercenaries to topple the
government of a mineral-rich African republic, was closer to
fact than readers may realize.

The writer has admitted he disguised himself as a potential
buyer of illicit arms in the 1970s in order to infiltrate the
world of mercenaries for the purposes of researching a book,
and came across a real-life plan to stage a coup.

The plot of the resulting novel also bore similarities to a
foiled 2004 plan to overthrow the leader of the tiny oil-rich
West African state of Equatorial Guinea, in which former
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's son Mark admitted a

"It came about because I began to research fairly
intensively the world of mercenaries and arms traffickers,
black markets. That drew me to a very shady underworld,"
Forsyth told Reuters.

"I thought, if I'm ever going to talk to anyone ... they
would have to be duped into talking to me. So I presented
myself as a possible purchaser of black market arms on behalf
of a patron down in Africa. That got me into the conferences."

The author, now 67, said he met with mercenaries mainly in
Hamburg and Antwerp over several months and "several beers" in
the early 1970s, and during those meetings the idea of
overthrowing the government of Equatorial Guinea was raised.

"I began to develop the idea. And one question is whether I
was too loose-lipped and enabled the idea or they mentioned it
to me," he said.

"I was thinking of that -- would it be feasible ... to take
out an entire government. The answer was, if it's small enough,
fragile and chaotic enough and badly run enough, 40 armed men
should do it."

He said the plan was at an advanced stage by the time he
left the Continent for Britain, but eventually it was foiled by
an informant.

Forsyth recalled how he had been forced to flee Hamburg
when a "friendly contact" called him to warn that the
mercenaries had discovered his real identity.

He was subsequently told that the man who was after him had
seen his picture on the back cover of a German edition of his
1971 thriller "The Day of the Jackal."

"I didn't argue," Forsyth said. He jumped on a moving train
bound for Amsterdam.