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Dr Jackal & Mr Hide?

“Pretty cool… but if this story was set in this day and age, there’d be no story!”

What was I thinking about? The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth.

A professional assassin is hired by the French revolutionary army to kill Charles de Gaulle. The story describes how The Jackal goes about building different identities and back-up plans to carry out his assignment, while the French police happen to catch wind of this plot and try to hunt him down. It’s a fascinating peek into the French-British politics of that time, too.

I read this book a long time ago. Like when I was like 12 or something.
I remember loving the twist at the end when the guy gets back from his fishing trip. Didn’t remember much else tho.

So when faced with the prospect of a 3-hr per direction drive to visit Kosh on weekends last month when he was in St Louis, I decided to refresh my memory with a Book-On-Tape.

Listening to it, I was struck by the following:
  • If there had been mobile phones at that time, the story would not have held water.
  • If there had been computers, with different departments sharing or at least able to access each others’ databases, again, the story would not have held water.
  • Maaan is this story dated! Good, but dated.
  • Maaan, how much could I have understood when I first read this book?
Then again… even with all the so-called technological advancements we have, and everything pretty much on a database somewhere,… that doesn’t guarantee inter-departmental cooperation (think CIA vs FBI vs whoever else wrt sharing of relevant terrorist information), does it?

Moving on.

An impressive part of the story dealt with how The Jackal was so easily able to secure a false British identity by trolling graveyards for dead kids who would be around his age, if they had not died in the first place. Then get a hold of a copy of their birth certificate, and use that to apply for a British passport.

You’d think that once the book came out, the British government would make sure that they plugged the loophole that enabled issuance of British passports so easily. In fact, around the time the book came out, Mr Forsyth provided the government with a practical simple solution to plug the loophole. That was back in 1971.

Yet recently, a modern-day Jackal was discovered.

That's right: someone had taken on the identity on a dead child, and with this new identity had lived a normal life: married, had a son and a daughter, obtained a British passport, national insurance number and driving licence, worked as an IT consultant...

The fraud started to unravel in January this year, when the guy was stopped at Calais for a routine passport check while driving a hired car from Switzerland to the U.K. The check revealed that his passport had been revoked in 2003, during a trawl, which showed that it exactly matched the details of a dead child in the register of births, marriages and deaths. (Great, if nothing else the system *is* working, kinda: better to catch him AFTER the fraud than not at all,,, but even better to PREVENT the fraud in the first place!)

So now the the authorities have him in custody. I think he's been tried and convicted for fraud already. But he refuses to divulge who he really is. And the authorities have no idea where to begin to try to find out.

And how did I find out about this Jackal? By chance. Saw the headline of a British paper that my neighbour was reading on the LHR -> ZRH leg of my recent trip.

Pretty cool, eh?

Read more about this modern-day Jackal here and a little bit more here and here. A comprehensive story was also in an Indian newspaper, LOL!

Also found out that two movies were made from this book:
  • The ‘original’ followed the book pretty closely. This 1973 Film stars noone we know. It seems that Michael Caine lobbied for the role of "The Jackal", but director Fred Zinnemann did not want a movie star in the role as he thought that using a recognizable face such as Caine's in the role of a man who essentially is and remains a cipher would reduce the suspense felt by the audience. Thus, Zinneman offered the role to the lesser known Edward Fox , a move he reportedly regretted when the movie did disappointing business at the box office
  • The more recent one (The Jackal, 1997) adapted the premise to that of an attempted assassination of the Director of the FBI, with the assassin hired by a Russian mobster. And an IRA sniper is released to hunt down the Jackal because he's the only one who's caught a glimpse of the Jackal. Cast includes Richard Gere & Bruce Willis.
If I’m bored, I may see if they are available from the library :-)


a little aside: woke up feeling like crap, for the second day in a row :p but this time I *did* get more than 6 hrs sleep! *sigh* and it's definitely colder outside, which makes me oh so reluctant to head for the gym. So I may vegetate indoors today. Yay.


  1. Hmmm..I also read the book way back God knows when.Ok,ok fine,it was in 74,hehe. I saw the first movie version starring Edward Fox a few years later,I had to cut class just to see it. ;D

    Your'e right,the first version was more faithful to the book than the last version with Gere and Willis.:D

  2. I hope you're feeling better... and if you're staying in - enjoy!


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