The Feather Men

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The Feather Men is the riveting story of the efforts by a private British vigilance committee to eliminate a band of coldblooded contract killers. From 1977 to 1990, three hired assassins known as the Clinic tracked down and murdered four former British soldiers, one at a time. Each of the assassinations was carried out in such an ingenious fashion that there would be no hint of foul play, but one clue these killings had in common was that all four victims had fought in the Arabian desert. Throughout those ...
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Overview

The Feather Men is the riveting story of the efforts by a private British vigilance committee to eliminate a band of coldblooded contract killers. From 1977 to 1990, three hired assassins known as the Clinic tracked down and murdered four former British soldiers, one at a time. Each of the assassinations was carried out in such an ingenious fashion that there would be no hint of foul play, but one clue these killings had in common was that all four victims had fought in the Arabian desert. Throughout those fourteen years the Feather Men - so known because "our touch is light" - were never far behind the hit team. Finally, in the autumn of 1990, on a quiet English country lane, the Feather Men achieved a form of justice. Then - for reasons disclosed in these pages - they asked Ranulph Fiennes to reveal their spellbinding story. For many months, The Feather Men has been a number-one best-seller in England. It is a fascinating account of a tenacious double manhunt: the assassins stalking their victims and the Feather Men pursuing the assassins. It is perhaps the ultimate vigilante story, a tale that combines the white-knuckled tension of The Day of the Jackal and the revelatory drama of Spycatcher. And, at its heart, this shocking and intriguing real-life adventure raises the moral question of whether private citizens should take the law into their own hands. "However, I for one," says the author, "am truly glad that the Feather Men exist, or existed. As to my reasons...the reader will learn in what follows."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Founded in England in the late 1960s, the so-called Committee, otherwise known as the Feather Men, was a vigilante group dedicated to solving crimes that the police could not. This absorbing book details their 14-year struggle to capture the Clinic, a band of contract killers who murdered four former British soldiers. The background was this: Amr bin Issa, sheikh of a tribe in Oman, had lost four sons in his country's civil wars. Although tradition demanded that he avenge their deaths, he did nothing and was deposed as sheikh. Then he arranged with the Clinic to kill the servicemen believed responsible for the deaths of his sons. How the hired killers went about their task (making each murder look like an accident), how they were finally apprehended and how this case in 1990 also put an end to the Committee--or so Fiennes ( Hell on Ice ) contends its members have assured him--makes for a highly suspenseful tale. Readers will be given pause, however, by Fiennes's wont to romanticize vigilante justice and his assertion that for 20 years the British ``have had good reason to be grateful for the Feather Men's protective presence.'' Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This is the extraordinary story of a group of Englishmen who provide protection and rough justice for former members and their families of the SAS (Special Air Service). The group, known as the Feather Men because of their light touch, learned of a pattern of assassination of former SAS soldiers and attempted to avert further murders. The story is told from the point of view of both the Feather Men and the Clinic, an independent organization of contract killers. The narrative relates the chilling details of each execution, as well as the secret meetings, bloody guerrilla battles, and gradual discovery of the identity and purpose of the Clinic. The action ranges over half the globe, with such diverse landscapes as the mountains of Oman and the Welsh countryside richly evoked. The denouement reveals explorer Fiennes's very personal reasons for agreeing to tell the story and provides a justification for the vigilante activities of the Feather Men. Although at times stretching credulity, this enthralling page-turner will be a good addition to war and true crime collections.-- Ben Harrison, East Orange P.L., N.J.
Mary Ellen Quinn
This tale of assassination and revenge, originally published in England, reads more like a novel than it does like a work of nonfiction, which is both good and bad. It pits a band of international contract killers against a private London-based group of vigilantes. On the one side is the "Clinic," three methodical assassins-for-hire headed by Canadian Daniel de Villiers. On the other side is the "Committee," a secret branch of the British SAS. Called the "Feather Men" because of their "light touch," the Committee's members, working without weapons, act where the police are powerless. According to the author, the Clinic was hired in 1977 by a Dhofari sheik to fulfill his obligation to avenge the deaths of his four sons, all of whom died in desert skirmishes with British soldiers. Over the next 14 years, de Villiers and his colleagues tracked and killed their targets, while members of the Committee tracked the Clinic. The Clinic's final target (and the only one the Feather Men managed to save) was the author himself, who was then asked to tell this story. The reader should be aware that Fiennes provides no shred of documentation for what he claims are facts, and that the book is full of events, conversations, and even private feelings about which he cannot possibly have known. Those willing to suspend disbelief, however, will find a decent real-life thriller.
Kirkus Reviews
A rousing tale of true adventure in which a homespun band of British vigilantes takes on and destroys a cabal of assassins-for- hire. World-class explorer Fiennes (Living Dangerously, 1988) plays a supporting role in the desperate events he was chosen to recount. At the heart of his stranger-than-fiction story are the Feather Men (so-called for their "light touch"), a covert organization created to protect veterans of the SAS and other elite military units from reprisals by erstwhile foes. Among other adversaries, the vigilantes took on a band of contract killers known as "the Clinic." In the pay of a Dhofari sheik bent on avenging five sons who had fallen in battle, the hit men stalked and liquidated four former British soldiers, all of whom had fought in Arabia's deserts. The cunning murders, which occurred over a 14-year span beginning in 1977, were carried out in such a way that local police dismissed any possibility of foul play. The Feather Men, however, soon concluded that those they had pledged to safeguard were homicide victims. In the skilled hands of the author—whom the Feather Men picked to tell their story—the facts of how a crew of retired army officers and civil servants working with volunteer operatives managed to track down and eliminate the professional assassins (whose fifth target was Fiennes himself) make for a riveting narrative. Thanks to a generous measure of dramatic license, moreover, the same holds true for the author's vivid reconstruction of episodes on which he was not briefed by principals or participants. Excepting this cavil and the moral ambiguities of rough justice: A marvelously entertaining account of good versus unequivocal evil.(Eight pages of photos—not seen.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440217848
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/1/1994
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2000

    The Feather Men, The Review

    Good book, slightly confusing with the characters but once over that hurdle, the book is etremely enjoyable and very interesting. Well worth a read and well worth 4 stars.

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