Forsyth, Frederick: The Odessa File
(researched by J.C. Sletten)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
New York : Viking Press, 1972. Viking Press 625 Madison Avenue New York, New York.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
An Advance Reading Copy Issue was released in limited supply in paperback only slightly ahead of the release of the first edition in hardcover.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
176 leaves. [14] pp. i-viii, pp. ix-xi, pp. xii-xiv, pp. 1-2, pp. 3-337, pp. 338. 23 cm pages.
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Introduced by Frederick Forsyth in a segment entitled, "Author's Note."
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
This book is not illustrated.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Easy to read 10 pt. font, one and a half line spacing. Well laid out with high quality printing and effective italics. Comfortably sized margins, stiff cover and pages. White cover, with only red lettering, no illustrations.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
While slightly yellowed, the thick, heavy-grade paper is still crisp and in very good shape. The paper cover is stiff and the corners are only very slightly frayed.
11 Description of binding(s)
"Perfect Binding" style paper back binding (Adhesive). Still in extremely good repair.
12 Transcription of title page
The Odessa File Frederick Forsyth The Viking Press / New York
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
No information is available as to the whereabouts of the original manuscript at this time.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Dedication: "To all press reporters." (p. v) "Foreword" by Mr. Forsyth (pp. ix-xi) "Publisher's Note" (statement that the character of Captain Eduard Roschmann is completely factual, p. xiv) First Release Issue was Advance Reading Copy (in ltd. quantity)
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
The book was republished by the original publisher, Viking Books, in a hardcover first edition and book club edition in 1972. It was also republished in a hardcover second edition in 1973. Cover art featuring a circle enclosing two letter 's's was added to make it distinct from the advance reading copy. Republished as a part of "Forsythe's Three" in 1980, including two of his other well known works.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
There were 3,000 impressions of the first edition, the advance reading copy edition.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Hutchinson : London, 1972. Book Club Associates : London, 1972. Large Print Edition -- G.K. Hall : Boston, 1973. Reader's Digest Condensed Books Vol. 1 -- Reader's Digest Association : Pleasantville, NY, 1973. Reader's Digest Condensed Books Edition -- Reader's Digest Association : Pleasantville, NY, 1974. Bantam Books : New York, 1974. Three book volume "The Novels of Frederick Forsyth" -- Hutchinson : London, 1978. Edito-Service : Geneva, 1981. Three book volume "Three Complete Novels" -- Avenel Books : New York, 1981. Corgi Books : New York, 1983. Corgi Books : New York, 1984. Arrow Books : London, 1994. Arrow Books : London, 1995.
6 Last date in print?
Last printing was in 1995 by Arrow Books in London.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
No total numbers were found. However, we do know that 245,000 copies had been sold between publication (Nov. 1, 1972) and August 20, 1973, the last week it was in Publisher's Weekly's bestseller list (8 months). Though it was a flash-in-the pan bestseller in the U.S., it continued to be printed through the 80's and into the mid 90's. It also was translated into at least 15 different languages and enjoyed particular success in Germany. These factors point toward a MUCH higher total sales figure.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
See Part 7.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
There was little or no advertising put into this book, possibly due to the fact that Mr. Forsyth already had a book on the best-seller list and his name would carry the sales of this book as well. However, these blurbs were on the dust jacket of the hardcover first edition: "A highly superior combination of real-life facts and suspense fiction." -- Publisher's weekly "A carefully thought-out, meticulously researched, documented, highly suspenseful work of fiction." -- Chicago Tribune
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
A21019990302220220.jpg
11 Other promotion
Movie Promotion (shown above) with caption: COLUMBIA PICTURES presents A JOHN WOOLF Production JON VOIGHT in THE ODESSA FILE Based on the novel by FREDERICK FORSYTH A RONALD NEAME film Music composed by ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Movie: "The Odessa File," in 1974 by Columbia Pictures. Starred Jon Voight, Maximilian Schell, Maria Schell, Mary Tamm, and others. Audio Book: "The Odessa File." Blackstone Audio Books : Ashland, OR, 1992. Audio Book: "the Odessa File." Chivers Audio Books : Boston, MA, 1988. Audio Book: "The Odessa File." Listen For Pleasure : Downsview, Ontario, 1981. Soundtrack: "Original Soundtrack from 'The Odessa File'." Andrew Lloyd Webber. MCA Recordings, 1974.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Listed by translated title (if known), publisher, and year. "Odessa." TSentpoligraf : Moskow, 1993. (Russian) "Ao-ti-sha wen chien." Taiwan Chung-hua shu chu : Taipei, 1973. (Chinese) "Odessa." Plaza & James : Barcelona, 1973, 1995. (Spanish) "Akta Odessy." Amber : Warsaw, 1990. (Polish) "Odessa P'ail," Chungum Munhwasa : Seoul, 1984 (Korean) "Die Akte Odessa." Knaur : Munich, 1973. (German) "Uidak'cha." On'kyo'mui ca Pe : Ran'kun, 1975. (Burmese) "Odessa Fairu." Kadokawa Shoten : Tokyo, 1980. (Japanese) "Odessa File (no translation)." Nha Xuat ban the Gioi : San Jose, CA, 1994. (Vietnamese) "Odessa." La Costa Press : Malibu, CA, 1992. (Spanish) "Odessan Miehet." Suuri Suomalainen Kirjakerho : Helsinki, 1973 (Finnish) "Tackhamn Odessa." Bonniers : Stockholm, 1984. (Swedish) "Slucaj Odessa." August Cesarec : Zagreb, 1979 (Serbo-Croatian) "Zadeva Odessa." Cankarjeva Zalozba : Ljuljana, 1972, 1975. (Slovenian) "The Odessa File." Shocken Publishing House : Tel Aviv, 1974. (Hebrew)
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
None, though it was the second book of two unrelated "historical fiction" novels by Forsyth, the second being, "The Day of the Jackal."
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Frederick Forsyth was born in 1983 to a shopkeeper in Ashford, Kent, England. He attended school in his hometown of Ashford, but, beginning at the age of eleven, he spent the summers abroad. He spent two summ
ers in France (after the conclusion of the Battle of Britan), and was fluent in French by age 12. He then spent his summers between 13 and 16 in Germany, becoming familiar with the culture and language there. These skills (to which he later added a mast
ery of Russian and Spanish) and the knowledge of Europe he gained early in his life became invaluable to his journalism and writing careers later in life.

He attended a year of college in Spain at the University of Grenada before dropping out to join the Royal Air Force. He served for only three years, decommissioning in 1958 to pursue a career in journalism. He worked as a beat reporter for the Easter
n Daily Press in London from 1958-1961, moving on to Reuters News Agency until 1965, a job that moved him from London to Paris, and eventually to recently divided East Berlin (Contemp. Authors). At that time he was the only British reporter allowed into
the real workings of East Berlin government (in large part due to his German looks)(forsyth page).

He accepted a position in London at the British Broadcasting Company in '65, where he stayed for two years. It was then that they made him a diplomatic correspondent to Nigeria, to report on the war between English leaders and the Biafra rebels. The
re he saw the injustices being committed by the corrupt British officials against the Biafra, and he sided with the rebels. He was forced to resign because of his allegiances, but continued working freelance in Nigeria until 1970. It was during this tim
e that he chronicled the events that transpired in Nigeria in his first work, The Story of Biafra (1969)(Contemp. Authors).

He followed this with his first fiction work, and his greatest hit to this day, The Day of the Jackal (1971), and another bestseller, The Odessa File (1972). A year later he married his wife, Carrie, a model. They since have had two boys, Frederick St
uart and Shane Richard. As research for his third consecutive bestseller, The Dogs of War (1974), he paid $200,000 to mercenaries to attempt a coup of Equatorial Guinea president Francisco Nguema.

His continued on to publish 11 more books, including The Devil's Alternative (1979) and Fourth Protocol (1984), two of his other bestsellers. He also wrote another book about Nigeria, a biography of the Biafra leader Chukweuemeka Ojukwu he got to kno
w while living in Nigeria (African Books). In all, he published 15 books, 11 novels, and eight bestsellers. His last novel, Icon, was published in 1996. He has since retired from writing to become active in politics. He has gone public with his critic
ism of the new Euro dollar as part of his political career. He still lives in St. John's Wood in London.


African Books Collective. www.africanbookscollective.com/biog/htm/e.html Jacksonville Daily News. Aug. 21, 1997. www.jacksonvilledailynews.com/stories/1997/10/21/xsju32.shtml Frederick Forsyth Page. http://members.tripod.com/M_v_Renselaar/formain.htm Contemporary Authors Database. www.galenet.com - search for frederick forsyth
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The Contemporary Reception of Frederick Forsyth's second novel, The Odessa File, can best be described as suffering from "Little Brother Syndrome." The tremendous success of his first novel, Day of the Jackal,
while it helped his campaign to market this book, put high expectations on him to better it in The Odessa File. So no matter if they liked it or not, it was invariably compared to Day of the Jackal, and it didn't quite match up in the minds of most crit
ics. The thing that made Day of the Jackal so interesting was the fact that this was the first time that the world had seen a novel that blurred the lines of fact and fiction so effortlessly and was still thrilling and suspenseful. And while The Odessa File w
as better researched, it used a lot of the same plot tools that Day of the Jackal did. While the coincidences and cliched characterization seemed to contributed to Day of the Jackal's mysteriousness, it's employment a second time in The Odessa File wor
e critics thin. No matter how good The Odessa File was, it was still the second one of this new genre, and could never hold the fresh viewpoint of the original. This was, however, the only thing that most critics agreed upon. In many cases, the things one critic would pick out to criticize would be the thing someone else found gripping. Forsyth was praised in Time magazine for his tremendous ability to describe a technical object (such as the makeshift car bomb used in The Od
essa File) so that his readers gain an intimate understanding of it. Yet Atlantic Monthly said the technical parts made the reader feel as if Forsyth is writing to such an audience that he needs to explain every little thing, saying "the novel reading co
mmunity is usually intelligent and of imagination enough to make these details unnecessary." The ending of the novel was another topic of dissention. Most people liked it (Publisher's weekly), while it ruined the book for others. Some critics found th
e novel "too long and slow" (Booklist), while others found the length complementary to the story (Library Journal). And lastly, the more controversial subject matter made it more entrancing for some, while Saturday Review said that was Forsyth's downfal
l, that he "became emotionally involved" in the narrative and lost the cold reality of Day of the Jackal. While reviews on the whole were very good, even sparkling in some cases (Horn Book Magazine, Library Journal), the points that each chose to criticize and praise differed from one to the next. The theme running throughout, however, is that, while a solid
contribution, for one reason or another, The Odessa File never outreached the shadow of it's big brother, Day of the Jackal, and therefore never achieved the status expected at its release.
Journal Title Date Page 1.) America. Nov. 18, 1972 P.422 * 2.) Atlantic Monthly Dec. 1972 P.144 * 3.) Books & Bookmen Jan. 1973 P.105 * 4.) Booklist Oct. 1, 1972 P.126 * 5.) Booklist Dec. 15, 1972 P.402 * 6.) Booklist July 15, 1972 P.1055 7.) Critic Jan. 1973 P.91 8.) Horn Book Mag. Feb. 1973 P.75 * 9.) Library Journal Oct. 1, 1972 P.3180 * 10.) Library Journal Aug. 15, 1973 P.1402 * 11.) Library Journal May 15, 1973 P.1657 * 12.) Life Nov. 3, 1972 P.22 13.) Listener Sep. 19, 1972 P.416 * 14.) N.Y. Times Book Rev. Nov. 5, 1972 P.5 15.) Observer Sep. 24, 1972 P.37 16.) Time Dec. 11, 1972 P.121 17.) Publisher's Weekly Aug. 28, 1972 P.262 * 18.) Publisher's Weekly Nov. 19, 1972 P.63 * 19.) Saturday Review Nov. 21, 1972 P.63 20.) Saturday Review Dec. 9, 1972 P.68 *
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The Contemporary Reception of Frederick Forsyth's second novel, The Odessa File, can best be described as suffering from "Little Brother Syndrome." The tremendous success of his first novel, Day of the Jackal,
while it helped his campaign to market this book, put high expectations on him to better it in The Odessa File. So no matter if they liked it or not, it was invariably compared to Day of the Jackal, and it didn't quite match up in the minds of most crit
ics. The thing that made Day of the Jackal so interesting was the fact that this was the first time that the world had seen a novel that blurred the lines of fact and fiction so effortlessly and was still thrilling and suspenseful. And while The Odessa File w
as better researched, it used a lot of the same plot tools that Day of the Jackal did. While the coincidences and cliched characterization seemed to contributed to Day of the Jackal's mysteriousness, it's employment a second time in The Odessa File wor
e critics thin. No matter how good The Odessa File was, it was still the second one of this new genre, and could never hold the fresh viewpoint of the original. This was, however, the only thing that most critics agreed upon. In many cases, the things one critic would pick out to criticize would be the thing someone else found gripping. Forsyth was praised in Time magazine for his tremendous ability to describe a technical object (such as the makeshift car bomb used in The Od
essa File) so that his readers gain an intimate understanding of it. Yet Atlantic Monthly said the technical parts made the reader feel as if Forsyth is writing to such an audience that he needs to explain every little thing, saying "the novel reading co
mmunity is usually intelligent and of imagination enough to make these details unnecessary." The ending of the novel was another topic of dissention. Most people liked it (Publisher's weekly), while it ruined the book for others. Some critics found th
e novel "too long and slow" (Booklist), while others found the length complementary to the story (Library Journal). And lastly, the more controversial subject matter made it more entrancing for some, while Saturday Review said that was Forsyth's downfal
l, that he "became emotionally involved" in the narrative and lost the cold reality of Day of the Jackal. While reviews on the whole were very good, even sparkling in some cases (Horn Book Magazine, Library Journal), the points that each chose to criticize and praise differed from one to the next. The theme running throughout, however, is that, while a solid
contribution, for one reason or another, The Odessa File never outreached the shadow of it's big brother, Day of the Jackal, and therefore never achieved the status expected at its release.
Journal Title Date Page 1.) America. Nov. 18, 1972 P.422 * 2.) Atlantic Monthly Dec. 1972 P.144 * 3.) Books & Bookmen Jan. 1973 P.105 * 4.) Booklist Oct. 1, 1972 P.126 * 5.) Booklist Dec. 15, 1972 P.402 * 6.) Booklist July 15, 1972 P.1055 7.) Critic Jan. 1973 P.91 8.) Horn Book Mag. Feb. 1973 P.75 * 9.) Library Journal Oct. 1, 1972 P.3180 * 10.) Library Journal Aug. 15, 1973 P.1402 * 11.) Library Journal May 15, 1973 P.1657 * 12.) Life Nov. 3, 1972 P.22 13.) Listener Sep. 19, 1972 P.416 * 14.) N.Y. Times Book Rev. Nov. 5, 1972 P.5 15.) Observer Sep. 24, 1972 P.37 16.) Time Dec. 11, 1972 P.121 17.) Publisher's Weekly Aug. 28, 1972 P.262 * 18.) Publisher's Weekly Nov. 19, 1972 P.63 * 19.) Saturday Review Nov. 21, 1972 P.63 20.) Saturday Review Dec. 9, 1972 P.68 *
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
English born author Frederick Forsyth burst on to the novel writing scene in the early seventies with his first two novels, "Day of The Jackal", and "The Odessa File." In this essay we are going to look specifica
lly at the latter of the two, "The Odessa File." We'll look back on its nearly year-long siege on the Publisher's Weekly and New York Times bestsellers lists, as well as exploring in depth some of the factors that may have caused this book's extreme p
opularity at the time. We will also take some time to look at other novels that bear remarkable similarities in many ways to Mr. Forsyth's "Odessa File." I believe that his unique and fresh style of novel writing, what many people have called the "documentary thriller," worked to endear him to the majority of the American reading public. But there were many things at work here. I also believe that the wo
rld at the time was prime for a story of government espionage and covert operations due to recent and continuing political events of the surrounding years. These two topics and several others we will discuss as we move along, and see how they all came to
gether to propel "The Odessa File" to its highest popularity.
First of all, let's look back at the book's run on the bestseller list. Originally released on November 1, 1972, the book did well enough in its first two months to land it in a spot on the bestseller list for that year. Not only did it make the list
in its first year, it made the third spot for the year of 1972 (80 Years).
This immediate jump to the bestseller list begs closer inspection. There seems to be no more logical explanation for this book's immediate popularity than some kind of considerable anticipation for this book's release. This seems clear. So where is t
his anticipation coming from? Two factors jump out at us. First, and most importantly, the release of "The Odessa File" follows close on the heels of Forsyth's first novel, "Day of the Jackal." "Day of the Jackal was the public's first look at Forsyt
h's distinctive style, a style that blends true to life facts seamlessly with enthralling fiction. Forsyth's practice of extensive research into real-life people and events and then weaving an interesting and suspenseful semi-fictional narrative was ne
w to the public, and very well received. "Day of the Jackal" achieved terrific success, finding a spot on the bestseller lists of 1971 and '72. Any follow up to a success like that was bound to be watched for by newly-born Forsyth fans. This phenomena
is echoed in 1974 when Forsyth's third book, "Dogs of War," is released to a waiting public and immediately finds itself in the sixth spot on the'74 bestseller list. Another interesting thing to look at is the rising popularity of thriller type books. Following 1970, a year in which the bestseller list was dominated by the more traditional novels, including romance and stories about life, 1971 was quite a change. 19
71 was the year of the suspense novel, finding four of the top ten bestsellers squarely in that category. William Blatty's "The Exorcist" was wildly popular that year and came in at #2. The book was later made into the very popular movie of the same na
me. Forsyth's "Day of the Jackal" came in fourth that year, with Thomas Tryon's "The Other" and Helen MacInnes' "Message From Malaga" thrill rides finding their way onto the yearly list as well (80 Years). The larger audience that this genre was begi
nning to have, added to the recent success of Forsyth's first novel made for the prime conditions that led to the immediate success of "The Odessa File."
"The Odessa File" debuted at #3 that year, one spot ahead of "Day of the Jackal," whose success carried over from the previous year. The success of every other book published was dwarfed that year (and for the next couple) by the unparalleled success of
Richard Bach's "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," an inspirational story of a seagull's search for enlightenment (Contemporary Authors). However, suspense continued to enjoy a surge in popularity through 1972 and 1973. "The Odessa File" reached it's peak
sales in March of 1973, during which time the book would sell around 6000 copies a week (PW, Apr. 9, 1973).
One other interesting thing to look at in "The Odessa File's" bestseller run is near the end of its fourty-eight week stay. In late June - early July, the book began to slide down the weekly bestseller list. It is right at this time that the movie vers
ion of "Day of the Jackal" is released. The movie does well and "The Odessa File" immediately hops up the list from # 9 to # 6, adding a couple more weeks to its presence on the list (PW, July 23, 1973).
So now we've seen how "The Odessa File" did on the bestseller lists. What factors contributed to its great success? We mentioned the "coat-tail" effect that this book benefited from with the success of its predecessor, "Day of the Jackal," and also the
popularity increase that the suspense genre was experiencing at the same time. Were there other factors that contributed as well? Why was the suspense thriller becoming popular? I believe that these questions are ones that can be answered by pulling b
ack and looking at some of the events that had shaped the world's mindset at that period.
The world as a whole, but especially the United States was in a state of rapid change in the late 60's and early 70's. People were finally beginning to recover from the cloud of mystery surrounding the assassination of one of the most popular president
s in U.S. history, John F. Kennedy. The influence that this event had on the whole country and the world can be seen in the very first paragraph of this book:
Everyone seems to remember with great clarity what they were doing on November 22nd, 1963, at the precise moment they heard that President Kennedy was dead. He was hit at 12:22 in the afternoon, Dallas time, and the announcement that he was dead came at
half past one? It was 2:30 in New York, 7:30 in the evening in London, and 8:30? in Hamburg (1).
Some of the worldwide events that were affected by his death make up an important part of the plot of this story as well. That leaves no doubt that the death of President Kennedy had a major impact on the lives and was still fresh in the minds of our cou
ntry and the world. By 1970, our government was once again reaching a level of stability (though short lived), while the youth of America were going through one of the most widespread cultural growing pains ever experienced in this country. There was wi
despread rebellion against the older generation of America and the younger generation began to get involved in American politics in unheard-of numbers. The widely renounced Vietnam War was going on, much to the dismay of American soldiers and the public.
And then came June 17th, 1972. That was the day that burglars were caught breaking into the Democratic Campaign Headquarters in the Watergate complex, setting off the sequence of events that would eventually lead to the implication and resignation of s
itting President Richard Nixon.
All of these forces acted together to make people search for ways to explain the chaos that was going on every day around them. It's no surprise then, that around this time in U.S. history, we see the beginnings of "conspiracy theory" thinking. The bas
ic premise of conspiracy theory was that if people could just find out the people behind these events and the reason they were doing it that all the problems and changes that were being experienced by all could be properly dealt with. The Kennedy assassi
nation served as the match to light the gases of public apprehension, and conspiracy theory became a widespread phenomenon, even reaching into literature. That's where our book comes in. "The Odessa File" and "Day of the Jackal" both served up rich, in
tricate tales of espionage and conspiracy, with "Odessa File" planting an all-american hero in the center of it all, and eventually following the plot back to it's source and setting everything right. It's interesting to note that although the main cha
racter is German, he seems to fit the all-american tag (speaking in easy american slang for most of the book and even have a decidedly non-native name, Peter Miller). This is the sort of hero that our country would be looking for at this point in our his
tory. Obviously, having a hero the public could relate to contributed greatly to the success of this book.
Comparisons to other novels can also yield some interesting insight. One glaringly similar book is Don DeLillo's 1988 offering, "Libra," which dealt with, what else, the Kennedy assassination. This book is similar in the way it uses real life people an
d events, and then is filled in with interesting fictional narrative, then twisted to relive the suspense and intrigue of the planning and carrying out of the plot. Another of these other similar novels was the # 6 book on the 1972 bestseller list, up on
e slot from 1971 (80 Years), "The Winds of War," by Herman Wouk. Like Forsyth, Wouk spent many years researching for "Winds of War," and its sequel "War and Rememberance," the story of Commander Victor "Pug" Henry and his family from the invasion of Pola
nd to the bombing of Hiroshima. While much the same in research and the way that the authors attacked the novel, "Winds of War" failed to create the suspense and excitement that made "The Odessa File" so popular. The obvious comparison with "Day of the
Jackal" reveals a little something as well. Forsyth's formula for success remains the same in both novels: intense effort focused on the suspense of the plot and in technical description, and heavy use of cliché and coincidence in plot and character dev
elopment. Incidentally, the comparison with "Winds of War" continues here. Wouk's novels on the war used a lot of the same novel creating tools that Forsyth put to use in his pieces, and came under the same criticism (Contemporary Authors).
We've seen now that "Odessa File" was quite popular in the novel reading public. Unfortunately, while gathering considerable public acclaim, critics were often a bit harsh on this book. While responses were mixed, most reviewers were critical of Forsyth
's lack of attention to characterization and hard-to believe coincidental plot. No where is this seen better that in the exchange between one of the books characters, Simon Wiesenthal, and the main character, Peter Miller:
"There is always a little doubt, Herr Miller," he said, "Yours is a very strange story. I still cannot follow your motive for wanting to track Roschmann [the Nazi villain] down." Miller shrugged. "I'm a reporter. It's a good story (143)."
We get no deeper understanding of Miller that would explain his motive for engaging in such a dangerous undertaking besides, "I'm a reporter. It's a good story." This shallowness of character detracts greatly from the novel's believability, as do the
coincidence sprinkled throughout that keep the narrative moving. In several cases, not the least of which is the opening scene in which Miller follows an ambulance "on a hunch" and stumbles across the material for the rest of the novel, the plot's coin
cidences are too much to explain away and the book's rich fabric is scraped away, revealing a contrived storyline. It is these instances that have been singled out by critics as the literary shortcomings of this otherwise popular novel (Atlantic Monthly
, Dec. 1972). It's interesting to see that "Day of the Jackal" used a lot of the same plot and character tools with much better critical success. It's easy to see how these things could become considerably less believable (and enjoyable) the second tim
e around. Not all the critical response was bad, however. One common point of critical acclaim was his uncanny gift of technical description. The description of a home-made car bomb on page 245-46 received repeated critical praise (Library Jounal, Oct.
1, 1972; PW, Aug. 28, 1972) In general, while most critics enjoyed the suspense and intrigue, they were critical of the use of "Day of the Jackal's" successful formula again in this book.
We've seen that Forsyth's characterization and plot sometimes left a little something to be desired, but there's still no ignoring the fact that "The Odessa File" was incredibly popular despite never really escaping the shadow of its predecessor. It w
as loved for it's suspense, thrill, technical description, and it's uncanny ability to blend fact and fiction into a living, breathing tale of espionage. And I agree. To the degree that reality can be suspended and coincidences accepted, "The Odessa F
ile" delivers.
Journal Title Date Page 1.) America. Nov. 18, 1972 P.422 * 2.) Atlantic Monthly Dec. 1972 P.144 * 3.) Books & Bookmen Jan. 1973 P.105 * 4.) Booklist Oct. 1, 1972 P.126 * 5.) Booklist Dec. 15, 1972 P.402 * 6.) Horn Book Mag. Feb. 1973 P.75 * 7.) Library Journal Oct. 1, 1972 P.3180 * 8.) Library Journal Aug. 15, 1973 P.1402 * 9.) Library Journal May 15, 1973 P.1657 * 10.) Listener Sep. 19, 1972 P.416 * 11.) Publisher's Weekly Aug. 28, 1972 P.262 * 12.) Publisher's Weekly Nov. 19, 1972 P.63 * 13.) Saturday Review Dec. 9, 1972 P.68 * 14.) Publisher's Weekly Nov. 6, 1972 - Sept. 3, 1973 < just for bestseller rankings 15.) New York Times Book Review Nov. 5, 1972 - Sept. 30, 1973 < " "
Non-Journal Sources 16.) 80 Years of Bestsellers. Z1033.B3H 342 * 17.) Bestseller Index. Z1033.B3 J87 18.) "Inquire, Learn, Reflect." www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/8203 * 19.) "Mystery Guide." www.mysteryguide.com. search for Frederick Forsyth. * 20.) Contemporary Authors search for Odessa File, Winds of War, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. * 21.) www.amazon.com search for Odessa File. Customer reviews. * 22.) www.barnesandnoble.com search for Odessa File 23.) "Reviews by Author." www.geocities.com/Area51/1974/books/reviewf.htm *
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