This is the real-life story of a Green Beret colonel, who came out of retirement to lead a secret raid, the computer executives, shaped into a crack commando team and the Texas industrialist, who would not abandon two Americans in an Iranian jail. After a hairbreadth escape, there is a desperate race for safety. Today the team is back home living normal lives. But for a while, they lived a legend.
I had done four spy stories and I was looking for something a bit different. Out of the blue, a call came via my agent saying, “this maverick Texan, Ross Perot, has been involved in an adventure and he wants you to write a book about it.” I was intrigued.
A lot of people knew about Perot’s adventure and a number of journalists were sniffing around. The rescue team felt that if there was going to be a book, it should be an accurate one by a good writer. Perot asked his wife who should write it. Margo Perot happened to be reading Eye of the Needle, and she said, “well, this guy’s great.”
The elements of the story were a gift. There were these Texan data processing guys, so respectable in their white shirts and striped ties, caught in Tehran in the middle of the revolution. They got arrested and put in jail, and no one could get them out.
I agreed to do the book. Journalists sometimes say that Perot paid me to write the book, but that’s not true. My publishers paid me, as with any other book.
I made the decision early on that I would write a completely true book; I wouldn’t change the story in any way. That created a technical problem because, in real life adventures, there are long periods where nothing happens. For example, day after day, these Texans would go to the Ministry of Health in Tehran and ask for an interview with the Minister. They would wait all day and go home again in the evening and say, “tomorrow we’ll do it.” That kind of thing is tedious and you can’t do it dramatically. How could I handle those long periods without being unfaithful to the truth of the story? It was a challenge but I think I finished up with a true story full of the suspense and adventure of the situation.
Listen to Ken’s view on On Wings of Eagles
Listen to an excerpt
- “Absolutely electric with suspense!” — San Francisco Chronicle
- “A marvellous, rare, terrific read… A superb edge-of-the-seat true story that is as exciting as a novel!” — USA Today
On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett — William Morrow, New York 1983 (non fiction)
Comme un vol d’aigles in French by Robert Laffont
Auf der Schwingen des Adlers in German by Lübbe
Sulle ali delle aquile in Italian by Mondadori
Las alas del águila in Spanish by Random House Mondadori
Op vleugels van de adelaar in Dutch by Uitgeverij Unieboek
Also published in many other languages, and available as an audiobook and as an ebook.