The Cobra

( 192 )


For decades, the West has been fighting the cocaine cartels-and losing- until the president decides enough is enough and asks one man to take charge. His task: to destroy the cocaine industry. His name: Cobra. It is the ultimate secret war. But only one side can win...

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For decades, the West has been fighting the cocaine cartels-and losing- until the president decides enough is enough and asks one man to take charge. His task: to destroy the cocaine industry. His name: Cobra. It is the ultimate secret war. But only one side can win...

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Paul Devereaux isn't going to take it anymore. For years, he ran the CIA Special Operations, until he was rudely terminated for mistreating bad guys. Now retired, Devereaux has decided to become a one-man destruction team to the drug cartels that are plaguing America. Tossing away the criminal code, he is launching his own very personal war, no holds barred. An archetypal Frederick Forsyth.
Kirkus Reviews

The master of the political thriller strikes again.

Strike is a good operative word for the cops and crooks who populate the pages of Forsyth's latest (The Afghan, 2006, etc.), none of whom is afraid to unleash the dogs of war and hurt a lot of people in the bargain. This time the setting is South America, where an impatient U.S. president has decided to heat things up after it becomes ever clearer that the war on drugs isn't going so well for his team. Who's he gonna call? The Cobra, naturally, a spook bad enough to put the fear into anyone who hears the sobriquet. Said Cobra, aka Paul Deveraux, is a tough dude, to be sure, so tough that, says one of the president's aides, he was fired for being "too ruthless"—against the bad guys that is. Devereaux books on down to Colombia, where he's got to go up against the baddest guy of all—"educated, courteous, mannerly, drawn from pure Spanish stock, scion of a long line of hidalgos" Don Diego Esteban. In between Cobra and Don stands a small army of lesser players, from a right-hand man who's thorough but never timid to a Brazilian pilot bent on a kamikaze mission to miscellaneous cannon fodder on five continents. Forsyth's tale drags a little, particularly compared to his first and as yet unbested masterpiece, The Day of the Jackal(1971),at least in part because he takes time out to explain, at some length, the economics and chemistry (horse tranquilizer, anyone?) of the cocaine trade. All those minor players have to have something to do. Yet in the end this is a battle between titans, and it's fought to a bloody end amid heaps of bodies and at least a few unanticipated casualties, as far as the reader is concerned.

Forsyth still knows how to spring a surprise. Not his best work, but a taut, readable and swiftly moving tale well suited to the beach and airplane.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451233561
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/7/2011
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 442,301
  • Product dimensions: 4.60 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick Forsyth is the author of fourteen novels and short story collections, from 1971's The Day of the Jackal to 2003's Avenger. A former pilot and print and television reporter, he has had five movies made from his works, and a television miniseries.

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Interviews & Essays

Behind the Story
by Frederick Forsyth

"There are two ways of doing this job," a news agency bureau chief told me once. "You can not bother and get it wrong, or take the trouble and get it right. In my office, we get it right."

He was a good journalist and taught me a lot. Even when I switched from foreign correspondent to novelist, the training stuck. Even though it is fiction, I try to get it right.

Anyway, readers nowadays have been around, seen a lot, traveled a lot. And there is the Internet. If they want to check you out, they can. So if it is uncheckable, you can make it up, but if it can be checked, it had better be right. That is why I go all over, looking, probing, inquiring, conversing in low places, until I am damn certain that even the smallest detail really is the way it is.

That includes the weird places to be visited. For THE COBRA, a deep delve into the murky world of cocaine, smugglers, Coast Guards, cops, and gangsters, there were certain "must-go" targets. The HQ of the DEA in Washington, the backstreets of Bogotá, the dockside dives of Cartagena. But the more I researched, the more I came across a recurring name: Guinea-Bissau.

Once a Portuguese West African colony, G-B went through eighteen years of independence war and about the same of civil war. The two left it a shattered, burned-out hellhole. The ultimate failed state. It still is. And the cocaine cartels spotted a perfect shipment point for coke going from South America to Europe. They moved in, put almost every major official and politico on the payroll, and began to shift scores of tons of puro through from Colombia to Europe. This I had to see, so I went, posing as a bird-watcher (the swamps and marshes are a wintering ground for European wading birds).

It was not my fault I landed in the middle of yet another coup d'état. It started while I was airborne from Lisbon to Bissau city. When I arrived, my contact was in a hell of a state. Flashing his diplomatic pass, he whisked us both through the formalities. It was two a.m.: sweaty hot.

"What's the hurry?" I asked, as he raced his SUV down the pitted track to the city. "Look behind you," he said.

The horizon in the rearview mirror was aglow with headlights. A vengeful Army was also heading for the city. At eight-thirty the previous evening, someone had put a bucket of Semtex under the Army chief of staff. He was all over the ceiling. The Army reckoned it was the President—different tribes and eternal enemies. They were coming to settle accounts.

I was in my hotel by three a.m. but unable to sleep, so I put on the light. It was the only modern hotel and had a generator. There is no public lighting in Bissau. At four-thirty, trying to read, I heard the boom, about five hundred yards down the street. Not thunder, not a head-on crash. Ammo, big ammo. One remembers the sound. Actually, it was the Army putting an RPG through the President's bedroom window.

It seems the explosion did not kill the old boy, even at seventy-one. He crawled out of bed. Then the building collapsed on him. Still alive, he crawled from the rubble to the lawn, where the soldiers were waiting. They shot him three times in the chest. When he still wouldn't die, they realized he had a juju that made him immune to bullets.

But that juju cannot prevail against machetes. Everyone knows that. So they chopped him up. He died.

The next day was kind of quiet, apart from the patrolling Army jeeps bristling with the usual Kalashnikovs, looking for the murderers of their boss. My contact waved his diplomatic pass; I beamed and distributed signed photos of a smiling Queen Elizabeth, with assurances that she wished them well (the Third World reveres the queen, even with a facsimile signature). We were waved through.

The airport was closed; ditto the borders. I was trapped inside, but no one could get in either. In the trade, it's called an exclusive. So I borrowed my host's mobile and filed a thousand-word summing-up to London's Daily Express, for whom I do a weekly column. I had the Express call me back and dictated the story to a lady with earphones in London. No one has filed news like that since Dan Rather was in college. Old-fashioned, but secure from intercept, I thought.

But of course the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland, heard it all and told the CIA. In the matter of coups in West Africa, I have what London's Cockneys call "a bit of previous." I wrote The Dogs of War long ago about that very subject.

After the story, half the West's media was trying to get me, but I was out in the creeks checking out the sumptuous mansion of the Colombians, notable for their ponytails, chains of gold bling, and black-windowed SUVs. When I got back to Bissau, a very voluble wife, Sandy, was on the phone.

It seems she was fixing a lunch date with a girlfriend and explained in her e-mail: "I'm free for lunch 'cos Freddie is away in Guinea-Bissau." Mistake. The e-mail vanished off the screen unfinished. Her mailbox vaporized. Database wiped. Instructions appeared on her screen: "Do not open this file. Cease all sending or we will respond."

I had a zany mental image of the morning conference at Langley. Corner suite, seventh floor, Old Building.

"What's this going on in Africa, Chuck?"

"A coup in Guinea-Bissau, Director. Several assassinations. It could be that damn limey again."

"Can we take him out of there?"

"It seems not. He is somewhere in the jungle."

"Well, zap his wife's lunch dates. That'll teach him."

The same night, I dined with new friends, and my neighbor at the table was an elderly Dutchman. "You work here?" I asked.

"Ja. Three-year secondment. I am a forensic pathologist. I run the mortuary."

The only things that work in Bissau are the gift-aid projects donated by the developed world. The Dutch built the modern mortuary. Shrewdly, they put it next to the locally run general hospital. Smart, because no one leaves the hospital save feetfirst on a gurney heading for the morgue.

"Been busy?" I asked. He nodded solemnly.

"Ja, very busy all day. Stitching the President back together."

It seemed the government wanted the old boy in his coffin more or less in the right order. I tucked into my stewed goat.

It took three days for things to calm down and the airport to reopen. I was on the next flight to Lisbon and London. At Heathrow, a passport officer checked the stamps, raised an eyebrow, and passed the document to a colleague. He contemplated both the passport and its owner for a while, then gave it back.

"How was Guinea-Bissau, Mr. Forsyth?" he asked mildly.

"Cancel the vacation," I advised. "You won't like it." Both smiled thinly. Officials don't do that. Never jest with officialdom. I stepped out into the crisp morning air of March 1, 2009. Beautifully cool. Good to be home.

Of course, West Africa got its own back. It always does. Twenty days later, my left leg blew up like a vegetable marrow, a real prizewinner. Dark red and hurting like hell. The first medic thought deep vein thrombosis. Bull feathers. Even I know DVT cuts in much sooner after the jet flight and there is no swelling.

The second surgeon did an ultrasound scan and got it in one. A sting, a bite, a scratch, who knows? But leading to a pretty vicious staphylococcal infection, aka septicemia or blood poisoning.

So into ER went the old scribe, and then to ICU. They pumped enough amoxicillin into a catheter to sink the USS Saratoga and saved the leg, though they were close to scrubbing up to take it off.

I came out after three weeks and spent the rest of the summer finishing the research among our Special Forces. Then wrote the novel October through December. Now it is with the publisher, due out mid-August.

So if you are interested, dear reader, it's all in THE COBRA. The dives of Cartagena, the U.S. Navy SEALs, their British equivalents the SBS, the Global Predator UAVs, oh, and dear old Guinea-Bissau. And it's all true. Well, okay, it's not all true, it's a novel. But it's accurate.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 192 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 193 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    War on the Cocaine Cartel

    This work of fiction was easy to read and it may be because I already had a working knowledge of almost ninety percent of the acronyms used. There is no need to have knowledge of all the acronyms for they are listed in the front of the book and explained as they are used in the narrative. The concept for the novel is rather bold, the president of the United States has decided that cocaine is a clear and present danger to the country; though those exact words are not used. An old school Central Intelligence Agency operative, Paul Deveraux, who was retired from the agency because of his violent yet effective methods is summon to accomplish the task.

    From the formulation of the basic desire of the president and with an executive order in hand Mr. Deveraux begins his prep work of building the organization he will need to combat the world cocaine trade and try to stop it. The book does go into detail on this organization building and research performed on the cocaine trade. We the reader are also introduced to the inner workings of the cocaine trade from the inside and can watch the actions and reactions of both sides as the book progresses. The realistic action in the book spans the cocaine using world.

    All the above mentioned background is told in great detail and takes about half the book to get us where most readers of action want to be, the actual operation. The reader is privy to the operations as they take place and the cocaine organizations response as these operations to destroy the cocaine industry unfolds. A calculated plan of action with a plot that is easy to read. The background of the inner details we learned earlier about the formation of the anti-drug teams and the drug cartel bear fruits as the story unfolds. A rich yet violent work of fiction that is filled with accurate facts on existing governmental agencies and their capabilities.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    THE COBRA, by Frederick Forsyth,

    This emotionally charged, fast-paced story starts in 2010 with the current administration in the White House where the president, troubled by the death of a staff worker's grandson to cocaine, asks for a comprehensive briefing on the cocaine trade. Thus The Cobra plan.What a concept! What a brain to be able to think this plan through!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This Book was LAME!!!!!!

    ...and is an insult to Forsyth's earlier works. Why was this called "The Cobra?" We barely met that character while we primarily followed the exploits of Cal Dexter. The plot and dialogue are shallow, almost non-existent. The editor ought to be fired for allowing so many grammatical errors as well as a book full of acronyms. I felt as though I was reading through a documentary/report on the drug trade rather that a novel.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 15, 2010

    This one drug endlessly on

    I really didn't care for this book at all. I endured and read it to the end but I think the author spent way to much time in the boring build up phase before the "action" began. The "action" wasn't even exciting. One thing I did find a bit shocking - the president in this book is of Kenyan descent and married to Michelle. The Kenyan I'm familiar with doesn't have the moxie nor the ability to pull off a war on cocaine. That was kind of a laugher!

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    I Also Recommend:


    I was quite excited to receive this book, other Forsyth books had been quite engrossing and excellent "reads". Unfortunately this one does not meet the standards of his prior novels.

    If you are looking for a fictionalized report on the cocaine industry, you will love this book. I, however, was looking for an engaging novel with good character development and an interestingly complex plot. I received none of my expectations.

    The book has virtually no dialogue, endless descriptive paragraphs(not actions)(pretty bad when the most "readable" part of the book was a mock "report" from the DEA!), and little plot development until the last few pages when, finally, a small plot twist occurs. In other words, I found it BORING. If you just have to have it (why I don't know), at least save some money until it's in the bargain bin or out in paperback!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 6, 2010

    Very interesting, classic Forsyth

    Fast pace reading, once you start, you don't want to stop

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating Inside Look

    The inside look that author Forsyth gives us into the workings of the cocaine trade is like a primer in the drug business. It's fascinating. the plan to take the druglords down is interesting, but not as fascinating. The fact that the police never seem to catch the higher ups is often attributed to their desire for statistics, but The Cobra makes it clear that the guys higher up have insulated themselves pretty well from the law.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2010

    Poor! boring!

    Not good not much of a story line

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2013

    Keeps your attention ***

    If you like intrigue novels, this is a good read. I have read many of Forsyth's books and this certainly kept my attention throughout. It makes you think about the potential of what could happen in today's world. Not my favorite Forsyth book, but certainly worth reading. It keeps you guessing until the end.

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  • Posted September 20, 2013

    Good book

    Second time reading

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    The story was well thought out, and as in other Forsyth novels v

    The story was well thought out, and as in other Forsyth novels very detailed.  The only weakness was the story of the current president taking on evil people!  He'd rather take on law abiding citizens in his own country!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    Called The Cobra because "Clear and Present Danger" was already in is the storyline for this book.

    Seems to be a direct ripoff of Tom Clancy's book. The American President decides cocaine is a clear and present danger to the US...

    Same premise and Clancy did a MUCH better job telling the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2012


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  • Posted January 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Big Waste Of Time And Money!,

    Being a big fan of Frederick Forsyth since his debut book, The Day of the Jackel, I was looking forward to reading his latest, The Cobra. However, much to my surprise, The Cobra is a major disappointment and, in my opinion, Forsyth's worst book to-date by far. To Forsyth's credit, the premise of The Cobra is an interesting and timely one. The premise is that the President of the U.S has decided to destroy the cocaine industry once and for all, and paves the way for a man called The Cobra (who used to run Special Ops for the CIA) to develop and execute a plan to accomplish this assignment. The Cobra is given carte blanche for anything he needs to accomplish this assignment -- no boundaries, no rules, no questions asked. Unfortunately, Forsyth's book reads like a boring, overly detailed chronicle of the events taken to carry out the President's decision rather than a suspenseful story with good dialogue and well-developed characters. Forsyth wrote The Cobra in a style that is highly narrative, with dialogue kept to a minimum, making the book very slow-paced. And, The Cobra, unlike many of Forsyth's previous books, is virtually devoid of character development, which contributed to my feeling that I never got to know any of the characters well enough to like or dislike them. I imagine that many of you who read my review and are fans of Frederick Forsyth will be skeptical that this author can write a book as bad as I'm describing. All I can say to you is that I hope you heed my advice and not read The Cobra. I'm sure you have better ways to spend your time and money.

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  • Posted November 18, 2011

    I was disappointed in this book. I thought it would be exciting but it turned out to be a primer on the drug industry.

    Perhaps if I had read the book and not listened to it in the audio version, I would have liked it better. I found it hard to give it my full attention and often drifted away, lost in my own thoughts. With 11 CD's devoting a significant portion of the disc to explanation, it became overwhelming and difficult to remain engaged. I found it tedious, at times, since it had too much detail and explanation, as it attempted to describe every aspect of the drug cartel and its methods and every minute detail of the effort to destroy it. It lacked in action because it was steeped in detail.
    The book begins in Washington DC. The President and the First Lady are hosting a small dinner reception and one waitress is reduced to tears while working; Is is soon learned that her grandson has just died and his death is related to cocaine. When the President learns this he becomes disturbed and decides to begin an investigation into drug trafficking in an attempt to stop it, once and for all. Consequently, he requests a report on the cocaine industry and hires John Devereaux, the Cobra, to conduct a clandestine, top secret effort to destroy the industry.
    (The President is a man of color which leads one to believe it is based on Obama; also, one of the code names is Michelle and his adviser is a man closely resembling Rahm Emanuel, in personality)
    When riots erupt, as the effort nears a successful fruition and drugs disappear from the streets, the White House decides to end it despite its success, and the agent is highly disappointed. He believes his government, that he had devoted his life to, risked his lift to protect, had now betrayed him. There is somewhat of a surprise ending which may or may not disappoint the readers, depending on how involved they become with the novel. For me, the end could not come too soon.

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  • Posted March 13, 2011

    Not his best

    Pretty much the same as the review for The Afghan

    Forsyth became the permier action/adventure writer with "Day of the Jackel" and followed it up with the exciting "Odessa File." He's been coasting since then. This title shows his penchant for detail without bogging the story line down, but it lacks the tension of those two works. You never connect with the characters and the ending is a let down.

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  • Posted December 26, 2010

    too expensive for e book

    amazon kindle is less expensive

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 13, 2010

    Are you kidding?

    $12.99 for an ebook? Not gonna happen....

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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