Assassination as a political act has a long history, predating the murder of Julius Caesar and continuing into our own time. The murder of the mighty has long fascinated artists and rebels but only rarely has it been studied in a scholarly manner. In Assassin, J. Bowyer Bell combines existing historical evidence with years of personal interviews with terrorists in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The result is an incisive study of that enigmatic figure, the revolutionary killer. As Bell makes clear, the motives of the actors, and effectiveness of assassination, vary widely across time and place. Assassination in many parts of the world has not only been a normal political act, rational, explicable, but also often effective, in some cases taking fewer lives in the transfer of power than an election. Likewise, there have been all kinds of assassins--personal, psychopathic, professional, ranging from lonely failures trying to make their mark to authorized agents of the state. Using the assassination of Henry IV of France as a historical backdrop, Bell writes about contemporary political murder from the perspective of one who has studied the subject of political violence for decades. Bell has met with or known well the perpetrators, conspirators, and intended victims of assassination who have escaped. His interviewees include a radical Irish revolutionary leader, an American Arabist diplomat, a spokesman for the PLO, and the president of a Mozambique liberation movement. The itinerary of his investigative journeys covers most of the flashpoints of contemporary political violence.The people and places studied here at firsthand are engaged in a deadly game. The attrition rate is often high, the power fleeting, and the consequences often unforeseen. If past is prologue, assassination is to be with us for years to come. The volume will be essential reading for those engaged in the prevention of political violence and terror as well as historians and political scientists.
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