BOOKS / In the lists

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Frederick Forsyth should be feeling pleased, not because his latest novel is nicely ensconced in the hardback list (so what's new?) but because of the source of the concomitant sniping. All novelists with a weakness for the verite style are used to tart rebukes about their careless lapses, usually received in the form of spidery notes from crusty old buffers no one has ever heard of. When the buffers are the boys at Private Eye you know you're really someone. The revealing gaffe (in FF's previous novel) concerned flights between London and Belfast and was surprising from an author said to have made the journey often for secret meetings with the IRA and RUC. That's what you get for shameless swanking: Forsyth's new book is dedicated to his chums in the SAS and is alleged to draw heavily on his 'privileged access' to the hunky likes of Mossad and Saddam Hussein. Churlish Eye notwithstanding, we could do with more of this sort of thing. Exposes about Peter Ackroyd spending his weekends with Air-Sea Rescue or Anita Brookner hobnobbing with the Paras could only enhance the deplorably limp status of writers.

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