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Cut Out



Cut Out benefited considerably from the editing of Faith Evans at Andre Deutsch who also handled Carlos and would later become one of London’s leading literary agents. It was my first published novel and was particularly well reviewed in America where it was hailed as “a stunning debut” and a “top rank thriller”. Of course, like most first novels it tries to be more than this. There is a good deal of debate in “Cut Out” about exactly what constitutes terrorism and, twenty-five years later, it seems to me that we are still rehearsing the same arguments.

The novel is set in London, Lebanon and Cyprus. In some scenes I draw heavily from my own reporting of the fighting in Lebanon. But it is also a logical progression from my biography of Carlos for one of its two main characters is Hans Koller, a German anarchist of the kind employed by certain Palestinian factions in the seventies and eighties. The other is Stephen Dove, a rugby playing - “shoulders that would stop a tank attack” - British school teacher whose hopelessly unfaithful wife Emma is t Koller's unintended victim.

In Paris Koller receives orders from his cut-out - the messenger between himself and his masters - to plant a bomb in a man's car. But although his target is a politically moderate Palestinian publisher, whose views are indeed anathema to the Front, he begins to suspect that something has gone wrong, almost that he is being manipulated by some clever puppeteers. Unfortunately there is no way to check back. That is the beauty of the cut-out system. It is also its deadly flaw.

Dove knows nothing about cut-outs or any of the apparatus of the long twilight war fought between the organs of state power and those who, for good or bad, challenge it. All he knows is that his wife was the random victim of a bomb and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. Steeled by his grief, he gets hold of a gun and goes after Koller . But the terrorist, whose own fanaticism is a reaction to an older one preached by his Nazi father, is also tracking the conspiracy behind his betrayal. They are both vulnerable.


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Buy this book from
Andre Deutsch,
London, 1979.

Published in the United States in 1980 by Viking, New York, as “The Cut-Out” and as a paperback by Ace Charter in New York in 1982. ISBN 0 233 97279 X
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