Ken Follett's on Wings of Eagles: Narrative Negotiation of

Ken Follett's on Wings of Eagles: Narrative Negotiation of "True Story" Fiction (Critical Essay)

By Michigan Academician

  • Release Date: 2007-03-22
  • Genre: Reference


In 1981, H. Ross Perot, who was then Board Chair of Electronic Data Systems, asked the British thriller writer Ken Follett to write a non-fiction account of a rescue mission to Iran during the height of the 1979 revolution. Although the resultant book, On Wings of Eagles, was published to largely favorable reviews in 1983, a number of controversies emerged over the next several years. Media scrutiny of Perot's background during his unsuccessful presidential campaign as well as public confusion of the television mini-series based on Follett's book with the book itself raised questions about the accuracy and authorship of On Wings of Eagles. Although contemporary distrust of absolutes has led to the common and routine view that all narratives are "fictionalized," even those which purport to be true, Follett stated in the preface to his book that "This a true story.... [It] is not a 'fictionalization' or a 'nonfiction novel'.... What you are about to read is what really happened." (1) This article will address the various controversies surrounding On Wings of Eagles, including the extent to which Follett may or may not have negotiated his narrative to conform to the wishes of his subject and patron, Perot, and will address the question of whether or not the drafting and compilation process required for Follett's book resulted in a fictionalizing of "what really happened."