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Ken Follett made sure that he got it right!!
am 29. August 1999
Once Ken Follett decided to write the book, On Wings of Eagles, he took two years to carefully research every date, place, person and other key fact in the story. This is exactly what you would expect an ex-newspaper man to do, especially one who is writing his first major non-fiction novel and wants to protect his reputation as a successful writer. Ken spent months researching the Iranian Revolution and the EDS rescue mission. He spent weeks individually interviewing everyone who participated in the rescue (except Colonel Bull Simons who unfortunately had died several months after the rescue ended). Follett crossed-checked his facts with the State Department, including staff stationed in the American embassy during the Revolution, with Iranians familiar with the events that had transpired in their country, and with many other people to make sure he got the story right.
To the extent that his literary goal was achievable, the book speaks for itself. Anyone who was in Iran during this period of time, and who was familar with the overthrow of the Shah's government, knows how accurate Ken's story is compared to the events that transpired.
It was indeed fortunate for the hostages that Ross Perot formed an employee-based rescue team that was successful in their mission. Follett describes this part of the story in great detail. He also relates the other strategies that were employed in an attempt to free the two executives, including the extensive use of lawyers in Iran, the lobbying for assistance at the State Department and the White House, and the exploration of several military-oriented solutions. Follett also documents EDS'attempts to pay the $12,750,000 bail (ransom?)for the two hostages. Unfortunately, none of these solutions worked.
If Follett has any problem with his story, it is the vast quantity of source material that he has to manage. Where does he start, where does he stop?? Which people and which incidents are worth including, which are not?? And, does he praise Ross Perot?? Of course he does. Ross is the person who led the rescue, who put his own life and personal reputation on the line. Ross actually went to the Gasr jail to see it for himself, to personally tell the two hostages to keep their faith and to gain first-hand knowledge of the Revolution taking place in Iran. How could Follett tell the story and not praise Perot. Actually, the facts do it for him.
In truth, the bottom line measurement of the success of an author's work lies in how many copies of his book are sold. In the case of On Wings of Eagles, the results are staggering. More than twenty years later, the paperback version of the story is still being sold in a dozen languages on bookshevles all over the world.
In case, you are wondering how I know all this to be true, I lived the story as one of the hostages who was rescued. I gave the book five stars for accuracy and excitement.