The Dogs of War (novel)
|The Dogs of War|
1st edition (UK)
|Cover artist||Ian West / Michael Brett |
Viking Press (US)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
The Dogs of War (1974) is a war novel by Frederick Forsyth featuring a small group of European and African mercenary soldiers hired by a British industrialist to depose the government of the fictional African country of Zangaro.
The mercenary protagonists, like the protagonist in the author's earlier novel The Day of the Jackal (1971), are professional killers — ruthless, violent men, heroic only in the loosest sense of the word. Thus, they are anti-heroes. Initially introduced as simply killers, as the novel progresses they are gradually shown to adhere to a relatively moral mercenary code; however as the mercenary leader Shannon tries to explain at one point, it is difficult for civilians to understand this.
The story details a geologist's mineral discovery, and the preparations for the attack: soldier recruitment, training, reconnaissance, and the logistics of the coup d'état (buying weapons, transport, payment). Like most of Forsyth's work, the novel is more about the protagonists' occupational tradecraft than their characters. The source of the title, The Dogs of War, is Act III, scene 1, line 270 of Julius Caesar (1599), by William Shakespeare: Cry, 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war.
Novelist Forsyth draws upon his journalistic experiences in reporting the 1970 Biafran War between Biafra and Nigeria; though fictional, the African 'Republic of Zangaro', is based upon Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony. The novel's dedication to five men named Giorgio, Christian, Schlee, Big Marc and Black Johnny and "the others in the unmarked graves" concludes: "at least we tried" — and clearly alludes to Forsyth's time in Biafra; the dark tone and cynical plot of the story stem from the same source.
Plot summary 
Subsequently, a prospector named Mulrooney, employed by British-based company Manson Consolidated, sends mineral samples from the "Crystal Mountain" in the remote hinterland of the African republic of Zangaro. When they are analysed, ruthless British mining tycoon Sir James Manson realises that there is a huge platinum deposit in Zangaro. As the president of Zangaro, Jean Kimba, is Marxist, homicidal and insane, and under Soviet influence, any public announcement of the findings would benefit only the Russians. Confiding only in his top assistants, security chief Simon Endean and financial expert Martin Thorpe, Manson plans to replace Kimba with a puppet leader who, for a pittance, will sign over Zangaro's mining rights to a "shell company" secretly owned by Manson. When Manson Consolidated later acquires the shell company for a fair market price, Sir James Manson and his aides will pocket £60 million.
On recommendation from a freelance writer, Endean hires Anglo-Irish mercenary soldier "Cat" Shannon to reconnoitre Zangaro, and to investigate how Kimba might be deposed. After visiting the country posing as a tourist, Shannon reports that the army has little fighting value and that Kimba has concentrated the national armoury, treasury and radio station within the presidential palace in Clarence, the Zangaran capital city and principal port. If the palace is stormed and Kimba is killed, there will be no opposition to any new regime. Because there is no organised dissident faction in Zangaro, the attacking force will have to be organised outside the country and land near Clarence to launch the attack. Shannon prices the mission at £100,000, with £10,000 for himself. Although Shannon has dealt only with Endean who is using a false name, he has had Endean tailed by a private investigator and has discovered his true identity and his involvement with Sir James Manson.
Although Manson has taken steps to silence the few people aware of the Crystal Mountain platinum deposit, the left-wing chemist who analysed the samples has inadvertently revealed his findings to the Soviets, who assign a KGB bodyguard to Kimba while they prepare to send in their own geological survey team. Manson learns from a Foreign Office bureaucrat that the Soviets have got wind of the deposit. He commissions Shannon to organise and mount the coup, to take place on the eve of Zangaro's independence day, one hundred days hence, although he does not tell Shannon of the Soviet involvement.
Shannon assembles the team who will execute the attack on Kimba's palace: German ex-smuggler Kurt Semmler, South African mortar expert Jan Dupree, Belgian bazooka specialist "Tiny" Marc Vlaminck, and Corsican knife man Jean-Baptiste Langarotti. Semmler travels Europe looking for a suitable cargo ship to transport them and their equipment to Zangaro. Dupree stays in London and buys all their uniforms, boots and camping equipment. Langarotti travels to Marseilles to buy inflatable boats for the amphibious assault. Vlaminck accompanies Shannon to Belgium to buy one hundred MP 40 "Schmeisser" machine pistols from a former member of the SS. Shannon then travels to Luxembourg to establish a holding company to handle the purchase of the ship, to Spain to buy 400,000 rounds of 9mm ammunition for the Schmeissers with a forged end user certificate, and walkie talkies and flares, and to Yugoslavia to buy bazookas, mortars, and ammunition for them. He also finds time for a brief sexual liaison with Julie Manson, Sir James's daughter, from whom he learns the bare essentials of Manson's true plan.
Martin Thorpe has meanwhile secretly bought the controlling share in Bormac Trading, a mining and plantation-owning company which has long ceased trading, from Lady MacAllister, the ailing widow of the company's founder. His and Manson's involvement is concealed behind the names of several fictitious shareholders. Endean has obtained the agreement of Colonel Bobi, a former commander of the Zangaran Army who fell out with Kimba and is now in exile, to participate in Manson's scheme. Once installed as president, the venal and illiterate Bobi will sign over the mineral rights to the Crystal Mountain to Bormac Trading for a nominal price but a large bribe for himself.
Semmler has acquired a nondescript tramp cargo ship, the Toscana, for the operation. Hidden in oil drums, the Schmeisser sub-machine guns are smuggled across the Belgian border into France and loaded aboard the Toscana at Marseilles, along with the uniforms and Zodiac speedboats, which are supposedly for watersports in Morocco. They then sail to Ploče in Yugoslavia to load the mortars and rocket launchers bought legitimately from an arms dealer, without telling the Yugoslav authorities that they already have arms aboard. These weapons are then hidden below deck and the ship sails to Spain to collect the ammunition (supposedly sold to the Iraqi police force). The ship then sails to Sierra Leone to pick up six African mercenaries, disguised as casual stevedores, who will also participate in the attack, and Dr Okoye, an African academic.
The assault 
The assault on President Kimba's palace takes place as planned. In the early hours of the morning, foghorns and flares disorient the defenders while Dupree bombards the interior of the palace compound and a nearby army camp with mortars, eliminating the palace guard. Vlaminck destroys the compound gates with anti-tank rockets. As the attackers burst in, Kimba's KGB bodyguard escapes and shoots Vlaminck in the chest. Vlaminck kills him with his last rocket before he dies. Semmler shoots Kimba as he tries to escape through his bedroom window. Dupree and two African mercenaries attack the nearby army camp. A Zangaran solder throws a grenade at them as he flees and Johnny, one of the African mercenaries, throws it back but accidentally mortally wounds Dupree with it.
Around midday, Endean arrives in Clarence to install Colonel Bobi as the new Zangaran president. He has his own bodyguard, a former enforcer and London East End gangster. Shannon casually kills both Bobi and Endean's bodyguard, and introduces Dr Okoye as the new head of government. Dr Okoye permanently refuses the Soviet geology survey team's request to land in Zangaro.
The aftermath 
As Shannon drives Endean to the border, he explains that Endean's otherwise comprehensive research failed to note the 20,000 immigrant workers who did most of the work in Zangaro, but were politically disenfranchised by the Kimba government. A hundred of them, in new uniforms and armed with Schmeissers, have already been recruited as the nucleus of the new Zangaran Army. When Shannon tells Endean that the coup was really conducted in behalf of the General, Endean is furious, but Shannon points out that this government will be at least be fair, and if Manson wants the platinum, he will have to pay the proper market price. Endean threatens revenge if he ever sees Shannon in London but Shannon is not fazed by this.
In the novel's epilogue, it is revealed that Dupree, Vlaminck and Johnny, one of the African soldiers who also died in storming Kimba's palace, were buried in simple graves near the shore. Semmler, having sold the Toscana to its captain, died while on another mercenary operation in Africa and Langarotti's fate is ambiguous; the novel only tells that after he took his pay and share of the sale of the Toscana, he is last heard of going to train a new group of Hutu partisans in Burundi against Michel Micombero, telling Shannon "It's not about the money — it was never about the money."
The final scene of The Dogs of War reveals that before embarking on the Zangaro operation, Shannon was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer (skin cancer in some American editions). He posts most of his earnings to the surviving family members of his fallen teammates, and also sends a manuscript (presumably outlining the entire plan) to a journalist in London. Later, Cat Shannon walks into the African bush, humming a favourite tune ("Spanish Harlem"), to end his life on his own terms with "a bullet in his chest and blood in his mouth".
- Carlos Alfred Thomas Shannon
– nicknamed CAT, an Anglo-Irish former Royal Marine turned mercenary soldier
- "Tiny" Marc Vlaminck
– Huge Belgian mercenary and bazooka expert
- Kurt Semmler
– German World War II veteran turned mercenary soldier
- Janni Dupree
– a South African mercenary and mortar expert
- Jean-Baptiste Langarotti
– Corsican-born former French Paratrooper turned mercenary soldier
- Sir James Manson
– owner of Manson Consolidated
- Simon Endean
– Manson's chief of security and the man who enlists Shannon
- Martin Thorpe
– Manson's top financial expert
- Jean Kimba
– Zangaro's President turned dictator
In researching the story of The Dogs of War, Frederick Forsyth pretended to be preparing a coup d'état against Equatorial Guinea on behalf of the Igbo people whom he passionately supports; he was told it would cost 240,000 U.S. dollars.
Five years after the 1973 attempted coup d'état, Forsyth's research was subject of a feature story in the London Times, in 1978, that posited he had commissioned the operation in earnest; many people believed he was planning a real coup d'état in Equatorial Guinea. Later, Forsyth said that arms dealers were the most frightening people he had ever met; the mercenaries Mike Hoare, Bob Denard, and "Black Jack" Schramme are all name-checked in the novel.
Forsyth's African activities of that time are an extremely controversial subject, and it is difficult to separate fact and fiction; however, as UK National Archives documents released in 2005 disclose, in early 1973 several people in Gibraltar were planning a coup d'état against Equatorial Guinea, in the manner described in The Dogs of War. Spain arrested several mercenaries in the Canary Islands on 23 January 1973, foiling the plot (c.f. Roberts, The Wonga Coup ). Although it is difficult to separate what Forsyth pretended to do versus what he might have planned to do, it is now reasonably clear, in view of the released documents, that several people were planning a coup d'état as described by Forsyth, at the time he was researching his novel. In 1979 the left-wing dictator of Equatorial Guinea was overthrown and killed by his nephew-the present right-wing dictator of Equatorial Guinea. In 2004, in a copycat plan based on Forsyth's fictional book, an actual attempted coup d'état against Equatorial Guinea, intended to secure lucrative mining rights granted by a client puppet government, involved Mark Thatcher, who was intending to trade on his mother's (British prime minister Margaret Thatcher) connections and reputation to call favors, and the mercenary Simon Mann, who subsequently stood trial and was convicted.
In Ken Connor's book—How to Stage a Military Coup—the author praises The Dogs of War as a textbook for mercenaries; in much the same way that The Day of the Jackal is appreciated as a guide for assassins.
Film adaptation 
- Modern first editions - a set on Flickr
- "Mark Thatcher and the Dogs of War". BBC News. 2004-11-18. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
- Forsyth's first published book, The Biafra Story, was a history of the Nigerian civil war that politically disenfranchised the Igbo, and was bitterly critical of the British government's policy toward that war. In 1999 the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra was founded to promote a separate Biafra state.
- Chittenden, Maurice (2006-06-11). "Forsyth: my real life Dogs of War coup". The Times (London). Retrieved 2011-05-12.
- "The Dogs of War at Fact Behind Fiction". Factbehindfiction.com. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
- "The Day of the Jackal at Fact Behind Fiction". Factbehindfiction.com. Retrieved 2011-05-12.