Simon Says » communiqué 027/January 2019

Simon Says: communiqué 027/January 2019

Hello everyone

How was your break and how has the new year been treating you?

Over the break I watched one of my favorite movies…again. The movie is based on a great book and if you haven’t read/seen, you should. Let me tell you why…and then I’ll get a bit more analytical.

The Day of the Jackal

Frederick Forsyth has a new book out, The Fox. I haven’t finished it, yet…but I will very soon. Until then, I’d like to talk a bit about my favorite Forsyth book and my favorite movie adaptation of a Forsyth book.

The Day of the Jackal was published in 1971; the subsequent movie was released in 1973. In the years since these releases many have tried to emulate both, but few have bettered the originals, or even got close.

If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you should rectify that immediately. And if you have read/watched, you’ll understand why both are worth revisiting.

Here’s why I think you should read the book and watch the movie.

Five Questions

It’s probably not surprising that story structure is something that interests me. I’m always keen to understand what makes fiction work. I want to understand what separates real story with emotional depth from a series of set pieces and spectacles.

The Day of the Jackal was the first novel by Frederick Forsyth. The story was subsequently adapted as a film of the same name. Both are still very readable/watchable, in large part, because of the central premise on which the story is built.

I’ve talked before about the five questions I ask to help me get to the heart of any story that I’m writing. These five questions can also be applied to other works to help analyze why a story works or why it doesn’t.

And those five questions help explain why I think The Day of the Jackal is such a compelling read/watch.


I made some changes to my website last year. In part this was a presentational change in connection with this monthly email—I wanted to make my Simon Says emails shorter but still talk about topics that I think will interest readers. I achieved this by moving the main content to my website then including a summary of, and link to, that content in the email.

This change has worked well and it’s also given me some additional functionality. One of the significant aspects is the ability to tag documents on my website. Much of that tagging is there to help me, but it’s also there to help readers.

One of my main focuses in tagging for readers has been to identify when I write about people. You can see who I’ve written about by following this link.

This list is a mix of real people and characters. Mixing the two might seem strange, but there is logic:

If you want to know more about the logic I use for tagging and categorization, you can read this piece.

Golden Globes

The Golden Globes were awarded last night (as I write this). I was pleased to see Sandra Oh awarded a Globe as the best actress in a TV drama (she plays Eve, in Killing Eve).

I talked about the show in November 2018…and now the Globes have agreed with me about the performances. If you haven’t already done so, you can read my piece about Killing Eve.


And that’s it for January! I’ll leave to read about the people I’ve talked about over the last few years and will be back in your inbox in February.

Until then.

All the best