Today’s guest blog is by award winning author Dan Fesperman. Dan Fesperman’s travels as a writer have taken him to thirty countries and three war zones. His first novel Lie In The Dark was nominated and won the CWA John Creasey Dagger for best first novel in 1999, and his second novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows, won the 2003 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Thriller of the Year. The Prisoner Of Guantanamo won the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers. Lie in The Dark was nominated for a Barry Award for Best First Novel in 2000. In 2004, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows was also nominated for a Barry Award for Best Novel.
Dan kindly agreed to interview himself for us about his new novel The Double Game.
We arrive for our interview with ourself just a bit late, which seems to irritate our subject, a stickler for punctuality. We then further irritate him by demanding a fresh pot of coffee, so by the time we actually sit down it’s well past 10 a.m.
Q. So, let’s talk about spying. Tell us about the thrills of leading a double life, which is presumably what your new novel The Double Game is all about?
A. Presumably? You haven’t read it?
Q. Only if you can refer to writing it and rewriting it about a zillion times as not having read it.
A. Point taken.
Q. Let’s try another tack. What are you reading lately, especially with regard to spying?
A. Well, about an hour ago, I was reading copy from a magazine ad – or I suppose the Brits would say ‘advert,’ wouldn’t they?
Q. They might, but coming from an American, they’d find it annoying.
A. Oh. Well, then I was reading a recruitment ad for MI6 from earlier this year. Very wordy and dense. Nevertheless, as far as I could tell, half the appeal of the job involved the attraction and charm of being paid to live a lie.
Q. How do you figure that?
A. Because at the very end it said, quote, you may feel like talking to friends or family about this. That’s completely natural and will end your application process before it’s even started. Unquote. So there you have it, the ultimate appeal of a secret world in which you’re totally justified in keeping everything to yourself. Meaning that if your wife or best friend ever mistrusts you, all you have to say is, sorry, but it’s for the good of the country. God Save the Queen.
Q. Aren’t you oversimplifying?
A. It’s a blog item, for God’s sake, oversimplification goes with the territory.
Q. Does the CIA appeal to the same base instincts in its recruiting ads?
A. I was hoping you’d ask that. To my mind, yes. A few years ago, they ran a radio spot that talked about the appeal of working in, quote, a world of challenge, a world of ambiguity and adventure.
Q. Interesting they were able to show italics on the radio.
A. The italics are mine, because to me ambiguity was the real hook. Once again, you’re being told you can make a career out of living a lie.
Q. Or maybe they were referring to dealing with the ambiguities of others, the ambiguities of complex issues and situations.
A. Is this your blog or mine?
Q. Both, actually. We’re sort of like Mitt Romney that way, taking two sides of every issue, even three or four if needed. If we keep at this long, enough we won’t be sure which of us is real and which is the façade.
A. Unless we’re both living a lie.
Q. A double agent, posing as ourself?
Q. Let’s back up a bit. Tell me about the episode from your life which helped inspire your new novel, the time when you – excuse me, we -- met John le Carré.
A. Interesting you were able to italicize your voice just then. I met Le Carré, or David Cornwell -- although I don’t recall how he introduced himself, so I suppose I couldn’t be sure which one I really met – way back in 1986, when he was in Baltimore promoting his new novel, A Perfect Spy.
Q. A novel about how a dissembling, lying, pretending son of a dissembling, pretending liar actually had the perfect psychological make-up to become an effective double agent.
A. As I was just about to say.
Q. Happy to save you the trouble. And was he impressive?
A. Deeply so. I was enamoured. Already a fan of his books, I realized that he spoke just the way he wrote – in complete and flawless paragraphs, rarely hesitating and never doubling back. He was a marvel.
Q. You’re starting to sound like Bill Cage, the protagonist in The Double Game, in the scene where he interviews his literary hero, spy novelist Ed Lemaster. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, you stole that line about speaking in paragraphs from page nine.
A. Very nice segue into a promotional plug.
Q. Well that is why we’re here. (Italics added for emphasis).
A. I think you were supposed to say, let’s move on.
Q. Let’s move on. So are you saying, in a least one sense, that life itself is a sort of spy game, a process in which, from situation to situation, we adopt different personalities as needed, and that to an extent we enjoy living a lie, despite what all those whiny country-western songs say about how it’s supposed to make us miserable?
A. A little wordy for my taste, but that’s the general idea. It’s a huge part of the appeal of spying, and of spy novels. Not to mention a huge part of the appeal of what I do for a living.
Q. Interviewing yourself?
A. Writing novels. Making things up. Entire lives and entire worlds. Moreover, if some of those characters are spies, then you’re making up people who are in turn making up themselves.
Q. Double games within double games.
A. Or, as the CIA said in that radio ad, a world of challenge, a world of ambiguity and adventure.
Q. That’s the life for me.
A. Then let’s get back to work. Besides, I think the neighbours can hear us talking to ourselves.
More information about Dan Fesperman and his books can be found on his website.