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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Is There A Publisher In The Room?

Last week the CIA completed its review of "Mukhabarat, Baby!" (MB), and my friend Jennifer and I have spent the last week cleaning up any left over egregious grammatical issues.  My dear friend, author, and former colleague Lindsay will be writing the Forward, and I have to assemble a page of "thank yous".  Aside from those minor details, the book is good to go.

The prologue introduces the reader to my life by way of my family.  I'm bicontinental: I was born in North Carolina, raised in Europe until twelve, then spent the last six years of grade school in Converse, Texas.  My extended family offers the most fascinating variety of culture and perspective.  I am who I am because of my heritage and my childhood, so it was an obvious place to start the book.  I did my best to keep things chronological.  I enjoyed High School, but the events of my teen years have absolutely no connection to my life in government service, and would have been a superfluous and unnecessary addition. The majority of MB focuses on my years working for the Central Intelligence Agency.  But I do include a few bits about my immediate post-graduate life in Africa and also a story or two from my days working Immigration Inspections on the International Bridge in Laredo, Texas (on the Texas - Mexico border).  More than half of the book details my experiences working as a case officer for the CIA.  I have been very careful to follow all of the publishing rules regarding retired Agency officers.  Its not just an issue of legality, its an issue of integrity.  I believe in the process, which makes it easier to work through the details.

When trying to get a book published, one of the most difficult obligations is to not give the story away.  You want to create an interest, but its a thin line that must be followed.  Tell enough, but not too much. I was poisoned while working overseas.  It was premeditated, and I almost died.  This event is an important part of MB, but not as much as you might think.  I have been advised to build the entire book around the poisoning event, because its "sexy, interesting, and full of 007 intrigue".  The toxic event has played havoc with my central nervous system, and left me with no peripheral nerves from the waist down (give or take...I can still go number one and number two on my own, thank you).  I didn't need to write a book to keep the issue fresh in my mind, because it is always with me from the minute I wake up until the last painful second before I fall asleep.  There was no way in hell I was going to write a three-hundred page book about being poisoned.  Besides, I wanted to write about what was important to me...and what was clear, and fresh. I decided to construct MB around the stories and experiences of my career as told through my interactions with my family, friends, colleagues, and brief acquaintances.

 I am in every scene.  I did not write a voyeuristic book, manipulating my colleagues by telling their stories.  I wrote about my interactions with people.  You'll never know exactly how you will react to being mortared, until it happens.  Seen someone driving a washing machine down the street that has been fitted out with a lawn mower engine and four wheels? I have.  And I describe in detail the reactions of my friends after the discovery that indeed, walls, tables and furniture at a foreign posting can have "historic B.O.".  When reading MB you will expand your cultural intelligence, by learning the definitions of "Balkans Bacon Strip" and "Phantom Shitter".  Of course, my book is not all laughter and smiley faces.  I have something to say about Abu Ghraib, and also the seemingly never concluded argument over WMDs.  As an unmarried officer, I was always ready to tackle any position in any country.  I understand and respect the issues that married officers must consider, about schools, spouse's career, safety, etc.  That burden never visited my shoulders, and I was happy for it, because I enjoyed having options.  I started my career as an average officer who improved thanks to the time taken by colleagues to help me address my shortcomings.  During my career, the Agency functioned like a prize fighter in his youth.  It was well-oiled, streamlined and focused on the singular mission of national security.  Regardless of the news of the day, which at times can paint a dismal future, I am convinced that the Agency's best days are ahead.

When the time comes, I hope you will have enjoyed the blog and the occasional excerpts enough to buy my book.  Thanks for hitching a ride up to this point.  I promise you that MB will not disappoint.  

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