A Q&A with Frederick Forsyth, author of The Kill List

Frederick Forsyth

Describe your new book The Kill List?

At its simplest, The Kill List is the story of a manhunt.  It is about the search for a radical online jihadist who preaches anonymous hate-filled sermons which inspire his followers to murder high-profile Western targets in the name of God.  An ex-marine called the Tracker is tasked with finding him and the book tells of the search to find out where the Preacher is, what he looks like and how he can be brought down.

Your background is as a journalist, so how much of this new novel is based on fact?

Everything described in The Preacher has already happened – not all in the same case but there are precedents for everything I have written about.

In 2011 a Yemeni called Anwar Al Awlaki was killed by a drone as he was travelling in a land-cruiser.  Prior to his death, he had been involved in planning terrorist activities for Al-Qaeda and preaching hate messages on the internet.

In The Kill List, the Tracker is helped in his search for the Preacher by a computer genius who is a reclusive teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome, Roger Kendrick.  There is precedent in the kind of hacking he accomplishes in the case of Gary McKinnon, a British man who also had Asperger’s and who, in 2002, broke down the firewalls of the Pentagon’s systems.

And for the Somali piracy element of the story, this is something that has been done hundreds of times in those waters.

There is a lot of modern technology in the book.  Do you feel modern terrorism has become more sophisticated and can the West keep up?

On the question of technology in the book I did a huge amount of research into the subject and the main quandary was how much do I include – if you include too much, general readers may be put off but too little and those who really want technical details may be disappointed.

The level of technology in terrorism is very, very high.  It is aided by things such as coded online bank transfers to move funds easily and then goes to levels as sophisticated as being able to design explosives which can be hidden in the human body and are undetectable by scanners.

That said the US has also made a lot of technological breakthroughs too.  For instance they have cameras which can work from up to 90,000 feet in the air, capture the image of a single human face, scan it and then match it to its database.

As well as extensive research for your books you are well known for travelling to experience countries and the settings for them first-hand – and often finding yourself in dangerous situations whilst there.  Did you travel widely for The Kill List?

I had been to Pakistan for The Afghan so I didn’t return there.  However, I did go to Mogadishu as I felt that if I was going to write about it, I should go.  If I am asking someone to dig deep and buy one of my novels, then I feel I should give them the facts.  I went to the place where Black Hawk went down but didn’t stay long as safety was an issue.  Although, the problem probably wouldn’t have been with getting myself killed but kidnapped – they are gangsters, not terrorists there, and if they find out who you are they would want to make money.


Book Summary


Top secret catalog of names held at the highest level of the US government. On it, those men and women who would threaten the world security. And at the top of it, The Preacher, a radical Islamic cleric whose sermons inspire his followers to kill high profile Western targets in the name of God. As the bodies begin to pile up in America, Great Britain and across Europe, the message goes out discover this mans identity, locate him and take him out.

Tasked with what seems like an impossible job is an ex-US marine who has risen through the ranks to become one of America most effective intelligence chiefs. Now known only as The Tracker, he must gather what scant evidence there is, collate it and unmask The Preacher if he is to prevent the next spate of violent deaths. Aided only by a brilliant teen aged hacker, he must throw out the bait and see whether his deadly target can be drawn from his lair.

You can buy a copy of The Kill List here: http://bit.ly/17vIm8z


The Penguin India Blog

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