09 Oct 2006

The Book, version 0


After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, one of the changes in the world was the sudden apparent irrelevance of spy agencies. Politicians spoke of a “peace dividend” – which was pure hype, and many spoke of drastic expenditure cuts at the centers of intelligence. Whether those happened, I don’t know, but there was certainly a period when few had any firm idea of what the future held for intelligence services. Maybe – likely – that contributed to our lack of readiness when the problems of the Middle East spilled over into terrorism. Although it’s also likely that it was far too late at that point. Certainly the only voices in the early ’90s who did seem to have an understanding were pushing for urgent reallocation of resources to that region.

If we didn’t know what spies were supposed to be doing, neither did spy fiction writers. New fiction was set in the past, at the height of the cold war. Even John le Carré, one of my favorite writers and the grandmaster of spy fiction, wrote a couple of books that were either retrospectives or seemed to lack his flair. He’s found his voice again, since then – and a level of anger that makes his books more compelling than ever – but for a time I feel that his writing fell far short of “Tinker, Tailor” or “The Constant Gardner.”

That’s when I started thinking, well, what would you do with a spy evicted from the cold war? Obviously, you could send him to the new hotspots, but those were going to be covered quickly enough by the masters, as soon as they had found their new understanding. What about a spy who’d been sidelined by the “peace dividend”? What would he do in real life?

Which started me thinking about industrial espionage. It happens, but not many books are written about it. It just isn’t sufficiently violent or sexy to make a good thriller, in general. So I started wondering how it could be, and eventually, began to wonder whether I’d be interested in trying to write it myself.

I should note that by the time I got to putting pen to paper – or fingertip to keyboard – there wasn’t much left of the original “redundant spy” idea, and the book possibility mentioned above never really made it into version 1. But that’s what started the process.

Much later, I decided that yes, I did want to write. Short stories, a novel – I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to create something. I took a writing class, started working on ideas, and eventually wrote what I consider a decent short story while mapping out a novel. I met with a critique group who helped me focus my thoughts. I found that the area which had always scared me about writing – dialogue and relationships – was probably where my writing was at its best.

So in about 1999, I started writing in earnest.

Continues in The Book, version 1

Current obsessions: (anime) Simoun
Reading: The Narrows (Michael Connelly)

This entry was posted on Monday, October 9th, 2006 at 11:26 am and is filed under Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “The Book, version 0”

  1. […] Continued from The Book, version 0 […]

  2. […] I have two goals for this site: 1) my own amusement, and 2) a way to outline my thoughts as I head into version 3 of The Book. It seems (and has been, so far) useful to me to lay out the obsessions that have led to where I am, and that will both feed and distract from the process of creating the story I want to tell – and to do that in a sufficiently public way that I really have to think about what I’m doing. […]

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