Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal chronicles the events of the summer of 1963, in which there was an attempt to assassinate the then-president of France, Charles de Gaulle. Anyone reasonably familiar with the 20th century will know automatically that the attack failed, but this novel describes just how close to the mark the attack came. The novel is historical fiction, so it tells a story that actually happened, but in places where little is known, the author takes liberties to fill in details. The story is relevant because it shows the strong aptitude of the French Secret Service and police force, something America lacked at the time. The attempt on the French president's life came in August 1963, only months before the American president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was shot and killed much in the same fashion as the French attempt.
There are several important characters in the novel, but the primary protagonist/antagonist duo (or the other way around, depending on your attitude towards de Gaulle) is made up of the French Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, Claude Lebel, and the Jackal.
In addition, there are the OAS (Organisation de l'ArmÃÂ©e SecrÃÂ¨te, or Secret Army Organization) chieftains Rodin, Montclair, and Casson. Another somewhat important character is a Polish bodyguard for the OAS, Viktor Kowalsky. These characters all have their individual motives and methods, but all interweave into an excellent storyline.
Because of the Evian Accords which guaranteed Algerian independence in 1962, many former Foreign Legion officers, feeling they had been cheated out of winning a war, became angry at de Gaulle and formed the OAS to try to overthrow his government. After many unsuccessful assassination attempts, de Gaulle was the most closely-guarded man in the world. The OAS chiefs, Rodin, Montclair, and Casson, realize that their skills cannot penetrate...