His spy thrillers tantalized readers with violence and sex but intrigued foreign diplomats and CIA officials with his insider knowledge of hot spots.
Gérard de Villiers, a French conservative who was a reporter before he started churning out pulp fiction with a James Bond-like hero, seemed to have the gift of prophecy.
The Madmen of Benghazi, which was released six months before the U.S. missions were attacked, revolved around Islamists in post-Gaddafi’s Libya and how the CIA was confronting them.
In 1980, his book seemed to predict the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who was killed the following year.
Last year, he described an attack on the Syrian regime’s command centers near the presidential palace in Damascus a month before a hit took out several of Bashar Assad’s top lieutenants.
How did de Villiers do it? He had good connections in French intelligence and beyond, putting his plots “ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves,” wrote Robert F. Worth in a January profile of the novelist in the New York Times Sunday magazine. .
“The French elite pretend not to read him, but they all do,” Hubert Védrine, a former foreign minister of France told Worth. He made sure to read de Villiers before heading to a trouble spot to get the inside scoop.
At the end of the article, Worth asked the novelist what his next book would be about:
“It goes back to an old story,” he said. “Lockerbie.” The book is based on the premise that it was Iran — not Libya — that carried out the notorious 1988 airliner bombing. The Iranians went to great lengths to persuade Muammar el-Qaddafi to take the fall for the attack, which was carried out in revenge for the downing of an Iranian passenger plane by American missiles six months earlier, de Villiers said. This has long been an unverified conspiracy theory, but when I returned to the United States, I learned that de Villiers was onto something. I spoke to a former C.I.A. operative who told me that “the best intelligence” on the Lockerbie bombing points to an Iranian role. It is a subject of intense controversy at the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., he said, in part because the evidence against Iran is classified and cannot be used in court, but many at the agency believe Iran directed the bombing.
De Villiers died of cancer in Paris on Thursday. He was 83.