The Dagger of the Assassin
The assassin seems to have been edging his way into the suspense genre for some time now, wrapped in a dark mystique and lurking in the pages of political thrillers, epic and urban fantasy, and even young adult titles. Using what some may deem morally reprehensible processes or tactics they practice the grey areas of their profession, taking out enemies and assorted bad guys leaving minimal collateral damage. We quickly find ourselves drawn to the anti-hero or sympathetic villain, who must do what needs to be done, without the slightest concern for personal welfare – their duty to god and country, or the higher calling always comes first. Operating in the shadows, these are the characters that draw us in, capturing our imaginations.
“Assassin” has different meanings. Maybe it those who kill powerful people for political, religious, or even moral reasons, sometimes doing the world a service. However, in most fantasy literature, an assassin is a person who kills people for money, some practicing a distorted code of right and wrong – others totally free of such entanglements.
The origins of the assassin can be traced back to just before the First Crusade, around 1080, their history preserved within European sources such as the writings of Marco Polo, where they are depicted as trained killers, responsible for the systematic elimination of opposing figures. With origins with the Nizari branch of the Muslims, these “assassins” were renowned as militant fanatics, fully committed to carry out every request of their leaders.
As I explored this topic I was shocked how prevalent the assassin’s role seems to be in the books on our shelves. Nearly 50 books actually have the word assassin in the title – Ted Bell’s ASSASSIN, Larry Bond’s SOUL OF THE ASSASSIN, Stephen Coonts’ THE ASSASSIN, Barry Eisler’s THE LAST ASSASSIN and REQUIEM FOR AN ASSASSIN, Robert Ferrigno’s trilogy – HEART, PRAYERS, and SINS OF THE ASSASSIN, Brad Meltzer’s THE FIFTH ASSASSIN, THE ETHICAL ASSASSIN by David Liss, and of course Vince Flynn’s classic THE AMERICAN ASSASSIN, and many more.
However, many more assassin lay hidden inside the covers of such books as the GREY MAN novels by Mark Greaney (GREY MAN, BALLISTIC, and DEAD EYE), David Baldacci’s Will Robie Series (THE INNOCENT, THE HIT, and THE TARGET), THE BUTCHER’S BOY, SLEEPING DOGS and THE INFORMANT by Thomas Perry, and who can forget Jack Coughlin’s sniper Kyle Swanson – the latest and seventh in the series being ON SCOPE, but the consummate man behind the gun is none other than Stephen Hunter’s “Bob the Nailer” Bob Lee Swagger – POINT OF IMPACT, BLACK LIGHT, TIME TO HUNT, THE 47TH SAMURAI, NIGHT OF THUNDER, I SNIPER, DEAD ZERO, THE THIRD BULLET and SNIPER’S HONOR.
Ben Coes burst onto the scene IN 2010, introducing us to Dewey Andreas in POWER DOWN, followed by COUP D’ETAT, THE LAST REFUGE and EYE FOR AN EYE. Scot Harvath is the creation of Brad Thor. Harvath is a secret service agent, ex-navy seal, and big time ass kicker. It all started with THE LIONS OF LUCERNE back in 2002, followed PATH OF THE ASSASSIN, STATE OF THE UNION, BLOWBACK, TAKEDOWN, THE FIRST COMMANDMENT, THE LAST PATRIOT, THE APOSTLE, FOREIGN INFLUENCE, THE ATHENA PROJECT, FULL BLACK, BLACK LIST, HIDDEN ORDER and ACTS OF WAR. The Thor Scott Harvath series has recently been reproduced in three volume collector’s editions.
Assassination is one of the oldest tools of power struggles between nations or political opponents, as well as the expressed method of terror by certain psychopathic orders. During the Cold War, the U.S. attempted several times to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan supported an order that stated, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”
However, in 1986, Reagan ordered an attack on the barracks where Muammar al-Gaddafi was known to be sleeping. Since the rise of al-Qaeda, all US administrations have backed “targeted killings.” In May of 2011 an operation, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, was carried out in a Central Intelligence Agency-led operation resulting in the death of Osama bin Laden.
Does art imitate life or vice versa – you be the judge – there is plenty to read!