Ken Follett

Ken Follett most recent novel, The Key to Rebecca, was reviewed here by John Sutherland. His earlier novels include Eye of the Needle and Triple.

Typical CIA

Ken Follett, 18 December 1980

There are two ways of writing spy stories. One is to have the rival spies play out their contest in isolation, unconnected with the real world of armies and grain deals and elections. Real-life espionage is probably like this a lot of the time. Although the real function of spies is to find out about the other side’s army, nevertheless the most prestigious section of an intelligence department is normally the section that spies on the other side’s intelligence department. John le Carré writes novels about this kind of espionage: we know that whether or not Smiley defeats Karla, it will make no difference to the price of eggs. The alternative is to link the spies with some event or threat of world-shaking importance, like the assassination of De Gaulle or the kidnapping of Churchill.

Spies and Secret Agents

Ken Follett, 19 June 1980

Anthony Summers’s argument is remarkably simple. There is a tape-recording of the gunfire which killed President Kennedy. The third and fourth shots are too close together to have come from a single gun. Two guns means two gunmen, and two gunmen make a conspiracy.



8 November 1979

SIR: John Sutherland’s essay (LRB, 8 November) is foolish. The thrillers of Forsyth and Higgins are not ‘written,’ he says, as if that meant anything at all. What this complaint boils down to is that they are written fast. This is even less relevant than Forsyth’s shark-tooth pendant. Dickens wrote fast. Forsyth’s prose is not as good as Dickens’s, but this is not a question of writing...


John Sutherland, 19 August 1982

David Storey’s new novel begins with a brief prelude reminiscent of The Rainbow’s, tracing the historical mutations of a locality from its natural to its urban (here 1930s) condition....

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In Praise of Follett

John Sutherland, 16 October 1980

Of the novels under review here, Ken Follett’s will sell most. Over the last five years the author has assumed Forsyth’s fitfully-worn mantle and established himself as the world-wide...

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