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Question: In your "Author's Note" you write that "the problem of mental illness among intelligence professionals is often said to be endemic." This link between intelligence work and madness is certainly born out in your character Jericho Ainsley. Why do you think this link exists and is this what drew you to Jericho's story?
Stephen L. Carter: In researching my previous novel, Palace Council, I became fascinated by the problem of mental illness in the intelligence community, an issue much-commented on in the 1960s and 1970s, mainly because of James Jesus Angleton, whose paranoia when he ran counter-intelligence at the CIA nearly tore the place apart. I thought that structuring a story around an ex-spy who was losing his mind might provide a nice hook, and the rest just followed.
Question: Jericho is former Director of the CIA, former Secretary of Defense, former White House National Security Advisor ("former everything" as you refer to him). You seem equally interested in how his career affected not only him but his family and in particular his ex-lover Rebecca DeForde ("Beck"). Why did you decide to make Beck the center of the story?
Stephen L. Carter: My first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, dealt in part with what happens to the family of a man who is embittered after losing a tough confirmation battle for the Supreme Court. Here, I thought about the men in public life who have been brought down (or nearly brought down) by their relationships with women. We always find out what happened to the men, but rarely what happened to the women. In Beck DeForde, I wrote a character who was once "the other woman" to a famous man, and has had to rebuild her life after their tempestuous relationship ended. The idea of drawing her into the conspiratorial web surrounding her ex-lover was irresistible.
Question: Have you always been fascinated with the idea of spies and secrets?
Stephen L. Carter: It is not spying itself that interests me, it is the people who do it. I have done some reading about the toll that intelligence work takes on families, and here I have tried to imagine it fictionally.
As to secrets, I teach a course at Yale Law School on secrets and the law. We build powerful walls to keep secrets, and most of them are probably not worth keeping. Those that are, sooner or later tend to leak through the wall. No doubt there are some secrets that should be kept, but classification and national security tempt those in power to keep in the darkness acts and words that should be dragged into the light. One rule of thumb I wish all officials would follow is this: Don't do anything you're not willing to defend in your memoirs.
Question: What sort of research did this novel require? Did you have to investigate the history of the CIA? What it's like to work in the intelligence community? Interrogation techniques? Did your research into the intelligence community unearth any surprises?
Stephen L. Carter: I did a lot of research about the CIA, its history, its structure, its personalities, as well as about various mental illnesses. One thing that struck me was how much mental illness there has been, historically, near the top of the Agency. I mentioned Angleton. Frank Wisner, the father of the clandestine services, had a nervous breakdown while on the job. There are other, smaller stories, as well.
(Photo © Elena Seibert)
Unlike his other boos that I've read, most of this book was over the top and not wee put together. I didn't finish it; I was bored.Published 5 months ago by MYSTERY LOVER
The book started slow like a Charlie Chan movie, in a one house setting and expanded to end like Rambo with that house exploding. Enjoyed the read very much. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Carlos A. Simmons
First thing, 3 stars is usually a book I enjoy and read through quickly, but don't think is exceptional and certainly not a classic. Read morePublished 8 months ago by David H. Eisenberg
I was stunned to read so many negative reviews.
I listened to this book in audio format and enjoyed it immensely. As usual, Mr. Read more
I'm glad I got this book from the library, because it's not a keeper. I had a difficult time reading it and it doesn't stick in my head at all... Read morePublished 14 months ago by S. Mahan
Mr. Carter writes for the thoughtful reader. He takes us into a world with which we are unfamiliar. He characters are real or at least legitimate in a literary environment. Read morePublished 18 months ago by steve aberle
The story was compelling enough to push you through to the end but this was certainly not Carter's best effort... Read morePublished on May 29, 2013 by E.Morrison
Carter comes up short compared to his previous novels. This one is ordinary hack writing without any insight into the subject matter to give heft to the... Read more