Thursday, 25 October 2012

To The Ends Of The Earth - David Yallop

I recently finished reading David Yallop's best-selling work, In God's Name, and blogged about it.

I then moved on swiftly to another one of Yallop's books, one which might not have garnered quite as much recognition and acclaim internationally, but nevertheless is another mammoth achievement of investigation and analysis.  I am speaking of To The Ends Of The Earth, subtitled "The Hunt for The Jackal".

The author seemingly set out with the intention of exploring the issue of terrorism, and in particular that which stemmed from the Middle East conflict. The focal point for these enquiries was "Carlos The Jackal", real name Ilich Ramirez Sanchez.  As Yallop's journey progressed, this turned into a sprawling epic.  The content grows and expands to encompass geopolitics of the late twentieth century, and the shadowy world of espionage.

In keeping with the approach adopted for In God's Name, Yallop pursues an exhaustive search for truth, not afraid to deviate from, and expose, widely accepted viewpoints. Out of the pages one can strongly detect a diligence and a determination to highlight deceit and disinformation, and to arrive at the unalloyed, ungarnished facts.

Throughout, the author is regularly contemptuous of key figures and organisations on all sides of the debate, where he considers that lies and/or injustice have been perpetrated , being very even-handed in this respect. At times there is almost a weariness and despair in his words, but at the same time a conscientiousness and passion which is difficult to ignore.

Those who Yallop deems culpable of deceit or inhumanity are taken to task, no matter what their status or reputation. If they have a case to answer, no deference is displayed, and rightly so.

In some quarters there was, and still is, a tendency to "romanticize" the terrorists and urban guerrillas of that era.  Yallop is quick to puncture such notions and illusions, pointing out unerringly the brutality, unscrupulousness and moral bankruptcy of those involved.  Hypocrisy of those on all sides is decried, as is rank ineptitude.

Some authors, even those in the "investigative" sphere, are often guilty of skirting around subjects, not getting to the heart of the matter, or treating some matters as taboo or off-limits. This is emphatically not the case with David Yallop.

At first, the excursions away from the "Carlos" story itself, and into the labyrinthine world of Middle East politics, threaten to make things feel disparate and disjointed.  However, later the author manages to marry these strands, and slowly but surely things begin to make sense in an overall context.

This book was first published before Carlos was detained by France, so it will be "out of date" in that respect. However, many of the areas touched on very much resonate in 2012, from official deception and manipulation to intractable world problems. So, it is still very much worth trying to get hold of a copy.

There are numerous other books out there about Carlos, and related subjects, but To The Ends of The Earth differs in its sheer sweep and scope, and the quantity of original and thorough research clearly undertaken. Reading the book from cover to cover has prompted me to ponder with renewed clarity a range of topics, and this in itself must be a litmus test of sorts.

A compelling and ambitious work, and the revelations and findings contained within are hard to overlook. Comprehensive, persistent and determined, but also persuasive.

As a postscript, an accompanying BBC television documentary was made around the time of the book's original publication, circa 1993/94.  I did not record the programme when it was originally broadcast, and would be very interested in obtaining a copy.  Any pointers would be much appreciated!

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