We’re featuring a timely guest post on The Velvet Rocket today by Frederick Forsyth…
Back in 1973 I was researching a new novel, which became The Dogs Of War. I was in Hamburg investigating the covert world of the international black market arms dealers, which was then headquartered there.
I became aware there were a few fellow Brits in those shabby corridors and on a buying expedition. It turned out they were planning an “op” known simply as the Tripoli Hilton Job. They were freelances all right but mostly ex-special forces. Libya is still a highly tribal society but back then it was infinitely more so. A young army colonel called Gaddafi had four years earlier toppled the pro‑British Senussi king, Idris, and word was out it was he who indirectly was funding the job.
Gaddafi was actually opposed by most of the tribes so he had invited all their chiefs to a conference, then arrested them and locked them up in Tripoli’s main jail, known as the Hilton. The job was to cross the Med from Genoa, where the hired ship Leonardo da Vinci was at anchor, storm the jail and set the chiefs free. They would then return to their tribes, raise them in revolt and topple the usurper Gaddafi. It was all penetrated by British intelligence, who told the Foreign Office.
They went bananas and it was cancelled, very much on an “or else” basis. Ten years later, with Gaddafi funding, arming and training the IRA and WPC Yvonne Fletcher murdered by one of the Libyan’s thugs, the mood in the merry clubs of St James’s was that it would have been better to let the horny handed lads go ahead and do it.
There is a great book on this topic entitled The Hilton Assignment by Patrick Seale and Maureen McConville. It was published in 1973 and so it is almost certainly out of print. However, I found a copy at my local library and there is always AbeBooks.com or even Amazon.com…