Cut Out benefited considerably from the editing of Faith Evans at Andre Deutsch
who also handled Carlos and
would later become one of Londons 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
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.