Exocet (Jack Higgins) pdf, epub, doc

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Rating: 3.2 /10

The Falklands War is an interesting case of war roulette. Britain vs. Argentina. Next up: Australia vs. Guatemala; then: Nigeria vs. Laos. Here, Jack Higgins has written a spy thriller surrounding the Falklands War a year after the war's conclusion. The novel surrounds not the war itself, but the Soviet-Argentine plot to buy black market exocet missiles which could be used to bring down a British aircraft carrier and potentially turn the tide of the war.

In the Foreword of the novel (I believe my edition is a newer release with an updated Foreword), Higgins explains how whilst the war was going on, he was at a cocktail party in Paris where someone in the know (CIA, MI6 or some such) happened to mention to him about this exocet plot and an arms embargo against France to prevent further sales. This later turned out to be true. This is perhaps the least plausible thing in this novel; that a spy – in wartime – would happen to mention to a spy thriller author about a classified plot.

Then again, I can think of one less plausible aspect of this novel. Also in the Foreword, Higgins mentions how this was his most successful novel yet, probably because he for once included a love affair. The love affair most certainly reads like it's his first. Furthermore, it reads like he's an asexual virgin who's never been in love before, and was quite possibly raised by wolves.

There's no real protagonist to the story. It begins with Tony Villiers, a major in the SAS on some absurd mission to intro the character. Then it digresses greatly towards his ex-wife, Gabrielle Legrand. The director of that particular branch of the SAS, Ferguson (for some reason) recruits Gabrielle to spy on an Argentinian despite the fact that she's not on SAS payroll. She's recruited merely to fuck this Argentinian in the hopes that he might blurb something about a Falklands invasion during pillow talk. Gabrielle is supposedly the most beautiful woman ever to have lived, so this should be no problem for her. The Argentinian is an Air Force pilot named Raoul Montero, twice her age and a mercenary for countless conflicts in Africa (because Argentina hasn't been to war in over a generation). The two of them fall head over heals madly in love with each other from first glance (she doesn't make the best spy, methinks) as though neither one has ever been in love before, despite the fact that they have both been previously married. She (a self-described feminist with money whom lives a posh somewhat artsy life in Europe) subsequently struggles between her loyalty to her country and her brother (serving in the Falklands) and the love of her life, an Argentinian mercenary fascist with a ten-year-old daughter (he openly admits he's a bad father) who's twice her age. This is the most preposterous love story I've ever read – and I've read Fifty Shades.

The next major character is one Felix Donner, a Ukrainian Soviet operative undercover as an Australian war hero from Korea who's become a business mogul in London. He's the arms dealer looking to supply the Argentinians with new exocets. I actually liked his character. He had that type of confident swagger needed for a long term deep cover sleeper in high society. He also disavowed his Soviet idealism in favour of of winning for winning's sake (though he was quick to plot a course for Mother Russia as soon as the shit started hitting the fan). The Soviets ultimately take the role as the bad guys in this story. Their goal is to ultimately incriminate the Argentinians in an attack on France for more exocets, embarrassing them on the world stage and causing not only the Galtieri junta to fall, but for it to fall with such ferocity that the people of the Argentine swing the whole other way into a Red Argentina.

Although this is a good angle to the story, and one I wouldn't have considered about the Falklands War prior to this novel, it sets the climate for a serious lapse of judgement concerning the war itself. Gabrielle's and Montero's absurd love remains undying throughout the story and Montero winds up becoming one of the protagonists along the way. He is flying Skyhawk attacks against the British to the very end of the book. In that instance, the tone of the novel is one of “Here's a truly objective, neutral view of the war.” Consider it like this: In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras went to war for a period of 4 days in what is called the Football War or the Soccer War. Tensions were high between the two countries mostly concerning immigration, and soccer overenthusiasm spawned a 100-hour long war which ultimately produced no results. Does anyone care about the outcome of this war? If El Salvador held onto the land it seized would it make much of a difference? Maybe on a localised level, but this is ultimately a war of no ardour. The Falklands War (pardon my defiantly pro-British outlook) is not like that.

The Falklands were discovered most likely by the Portuguese as early as the sixteenth century. It is unlikely the Spanish (Magellan or Estavao Gomes) ever discovered them. The British made landfall in 1592, and again in 1594, naming them Davis' Land and Hawkins' Maidenland, respectively. Next came the Dutch, naming them the Sebald Islands. The British sailed Falkland Sound in 1690. France established the first colony in 1764. In 1765, the British claimed sovereignty over the islands on grounds of discovery. Soon, they established a colony. This created the initial dispute between Spain and Britain. In 1770, the islands were seized by Spain from their colony in Argentina. Britain quickly re-established control. In 1780, the Spanish were at it again. Britain was forced to withdraw, but left a plaque proclaiming sovereignty for Britain. Spain ruled from Buenos Aires until 1811 when the Peninsular War in Spain forced withdrawal. They, too, left a plaque. Argentina declared independence from Spain in 1816, claiming (on the basis of a dubious discovery claim and a plaque whose presence seems to overrule the earlier British plaque) sovereignty of the islands. The British re-establish control over the islands in 1833, where they have ruled continuously until the present day with a brief interruption during the 1982 Argentinian invasion. Democratically, the government of the Falklands has initiated a referendum to determine sovereignty disputes, which they hope will act as a declaration to Buenos Aires of their proud British citizenship, to be voted on in 2013. Argentina has launched a campaign to preemptively undermine this referendum, because they know the forthcoming results as much as I do. I think I can safely write my own outlook on this issue prior to said referendum.

Argentina has no claim. Argentina has probably less of a claim on the Falklands than Denmark has on Canada via the Vikings. The only reason Argentina initiated their 1982 invasion was to unify the country to prevent insurrection. This was the glorious age of South American military dictatorships. Leopold Galtieri loosely held the government with his junta, and to distract the mutinous public, allied them behind them with the one thing they all agreed on. Argentina is also the most infamous example of an ex-Nazi safe haven. It's not leftwing melodrama to use the word 'fascist' to describe much of South America during the Cold War, and (bringing it back to the novel), Higgins goes to that word more than once himself.

My long and rambling point is that the Falklands, for as much of a comical war as it was, was not a soccer riot turned war that yielded no results. The Falklands was a dispute between Britain, who'd fairly and democratically governed the islands of an almost exclusive British demography for a century and a half and the first landfall claim (and the plaque), vs. a quasi-fascist military junta trying to distract a rightly disgruntled public by launching an illegal invasion of a peaceable territory.

In the novel, this is not presented as such. The Argentinians are not depicted in any way as the bad guys. For God's sake, Galtieri gets a viewpoint chapter in here, and not a negative turn of phrase is used against him. Meanwhile, the British (at least through Ferguson) are presented as conniving, ruthless, deceitful jackasses who are justified through the notion of “mite makes right”. Collectively, more than 900 people were killed in the fight for these islands and that blood lies entirely on Argentine hands. I apologise for the longwinded history lesson, but fuck, has there ever been a better example of one country in the wrong and one in the right? Do I need to mention Hitler and Poland?

I could ramble on about the coldness of omniscient third person narration, the poor anticlimactic in medias res structure or the pacing, but I've rambled enough. The one bit of praise I'll give this novel is that I was never bored with it, not once (although the denouement went on too long). If you're looking for a British vs. Soviet game of spies surrounding real events, it's not bad.

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Book info

  • Author:
  • Publisher:Signet Books
  • File: 4.5 Mb
  • Ganre: Thriller
  • Release: 02.07.1984
  • ISBN: 9780451130440
  • Pages 286
  • Rating: 4.09 (521 votes)


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