The Dogs of War has a sharp bite

White type for title and author on red background suggest innocence.
Crossed guns on the badge are mercenaries’ insignia.

In The Dogs of War, as in his earlier bestsellers The Odessa File and The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth explores a subject ripped from the foreign wire services.

Dogs takes readers into the shadowy world in which high finance allies itself with political power, both using physical force to work their will.

A prospector notices unusual vegetation patterns on a mountain in West Africa, which indicate the presence of tin. When the report gets back to London, a scientist discovers the rock samples reveal a high presence of platinum.

To get the platinum, an unscrupulous British financier instigates a plan to overthrow an African country.  He hires Cat Shannon, a mercenary with experience in Africa, to handle the coup which must occur on Zagaro independence day, just 100 days away.

Shannon is a meticulous planner, carefully selecting his associates, taking advantage of differing national laws on currency transactions, buying goods to furnish a small army, covering his tracks, and always keeping a close eye on the calendar.

Forsyth’s typewriter knocks out flawed characters with redeeming qualities and model citizens who are total scumbags — and makes them both feel totally real.

Dogs has a surprise ending — and Forsyth makes even that feel inevitable.

The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth
Viking Press, © 1974, 408 p.
1974 bestseller #6. My grade: A

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

1962 political thriller is no seven days’ wonder

The White House in Washington D.C.
The White House

Seven Days in May is a thriller by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, a pair of newspaper reporters whose knowledge of the mid-twentieth century Washington political realities infuse every page.

One May Sunday, Marine Colonel Martin J. Casey uncovers what he thinks could be a plot by his boss, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Scott to overthrow the President. Putting his job on the line, Casey discloses his suspicions to the President.

President Lyman takes some convincing, but as evidence mounts, he decides to act. He will act secretly, with help from just a few trusted men and his long-time secretary.

The characters are drawn in broad outline, recognizable as types rather than individuals.

Knebel and Bailey’s strong point is plot. Fifty years after first publication, the story sounds even more plausible than it did against the landscape of the 1960s. If anything, the fictional President’s observation that a frustrated electorate, feeling unable to influence events has “seriously started looking for a superman” rings more true today than it did in 1962.

As to the rest of the setting—a President the people are not quite sure of, high unemployment, economic insecurity, apprehension over potential foreign attacks—sounds like the morning news to me.

Seven Days in May
Fletcher Knebel & Charles W. Bailey II
Harper & Row, 1962
341 pages
My grade: B+
1962 Bestseller #7
Photo of The White House by Edgar0587
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni