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Intelligence: A Novel of the CIA

Intelligence: A Novel of the CIA

by Susan Hasler

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A team of Intelligence agents try to prevent an impending terrorist attack, but are thwarted by bureaucratic hurdles in this darkly humorous debut written by a former CIA agent

Maddie James and her colleagues are terrorism experts working in a crumbling intelligence agency. They are certain another big terrorist attack is coming, but in a post-9/11


A team of Intelligence agents try to prevent an impending terrorist attack, but are thwarted by bureaucratic hurdles in this darkly humorous debut written by a former CIA agent

Maddie James and her colleagues are terrorism experts working in a crumbling intelligence agency. They are certain another big terrorist attack is coming, but in a post-9/11 election year the Administration is stressing its victories in the War on Terror—and few want to hear the team’s warnings.

Reluctantly, Maddie’s given a team of five analysts to focus on the impending threat. The crew labors through bureaucratic obstacles, personal problems, and a blossoming romance between its senior members, Doc and Fran. They come heartbreakingly close to stopping the attack, but fail to predict a surprising twist in the terrorists’ plot.

In the wake of tragedy, the Administration pins blame on Iran despite lack of evidence—so Maddie and her team try to investigate. With dark humor and a razor-sharp tone, they fight back against office politics, government cover-ups and blackmail in order to set the record straight. A keenly crafted debut that could only be written by an ex-CIA agent, Intelligence will please fans of Wag the Dog and Primary Colors.

Susan Hasler is featured in the HBO documentary "MANHUNT" about the female analysts who worked so hard to capture Bin Ladin.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A 21-year veteran of the CIA, Hasler charts the day-to-day efforts of a team of counterterrorist analysts (aka alchemists) in a strong debut that puts most other thriller authors with similar backgrounds in the intelligence field to shame. Madeline James and her crew of brilliant misfits struggle to piece together shreds of evidence gleaned from mountains of raw data (slag) in a race to uncover a plot that threatens to dwarf the body count of 9/11. They must also battle a management structure bent on denying their findings so the current administration will have the ammunition needed to justify going to war with Iran. The parallels with recent history add to the credibility and suspense. Readers will be left aghast at the toll politics and basic self-serving, cover-your-ass government policies take on agencies and individuals whose job is to keep our country safe. Many will find Hasler's female point-of-view a welcome change from the usual smash and bash male offering in the genre. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
The gifted members of a governmental think tank try to fight the system, and lose, in Hasler's debut. There's a whole school of writers who graduated from government work to thriller-writing, from Ian Fleming all the way to modern-day novelists like Francine Matthews. Former CIA counterterrorism analyst Hasler adeptly joins her many colleagues who apply their murky knowledge to fiction. The book, containing a ferocious dose of black humor, features an ensemble of cynical, borderline psychotic spooks and analysts. Among the agents exiled to "The Mines" are Doc Hartman, the disgruntled senior member of the group; Vivi Fields, a retro-garbed empath with a heart of gold; and Fran Monroe, a networking specialist with a crush on Doc. Everyone gets a turn at telling their part of the story, including a terrorist known only as "A Voice With Many Names." The most acidly funny character is Maddie James, self-described bomb dissector and counterterrorism alchemist. Following a massive 2001 attack called the Strikes and her divorce from Doc's son, Maddie is railing against the system to which she is unavoidably vital. "What do these people have for brains?" she cries. "?Intelligence community'? What intelligence? I tell them something's going to blow up and they look at me like I'm hallucinating." Despite her reticence, Maddie continues to lead her colleagues in tracking an inbound cell of terrorists, dubbed "The Perfumers" by the crew of The Mines. With an attack on Washington, D.C., imminent, the counterterrorist team is faced with a problem as old as government itself. "Wolves and warning," Doc muses. "How to negotiate that thread that stretches between crying wolf and failing to warn? Warn too often and no one listens. Fail to warn, and reap the bloody consequences."A smart, blackhearted comedy whose generic title does disservice to an outrageous cast of characters. Agent: Liza Dawson/Liza Dawson Associates

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.62(w) x 5.84(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

1. Maddie

I can’t decide which is worse: the lucid dreams or the muddled reality. I have no one to blame but myself. I paid sixty-five dollars an hour for a “sleep consciousness therapist” to teach me how to be aware while dreaming. The idea was to learn to alter the outcome of my nightmares. So, for example, if I dreamed of an explosion and I was aware that I was dreaming, I could confront that negative image, engage it in constructive dialogue, and turn it into something helpful and pleasant. I could say, “Hey, you nasty old explosion, wouldn’t you be happier and more fulfilled as a bouquet of flowers?” Then it would turn into a dozen peonies. I would sniff them and say, “Ah, how lovely. Now isn’t that better than ripping people to bits?” The therapist told me it would be great fun, that I could even learn to fly freely about the dreamscape.

As it turns out, I was a natural at the “lucid” part, but I never quite mastered the “altering the outcome” part. So I fall asleep and I know I’m dreaming. I know shit is about to happen and I can do absolutely nothing to stop it. I confront the explosion, and the explosion says, “Fuck you!” and blows my brains out. I’m fully conscious that I’m dreaming and fully conscious that my brain bits are flying freely about the dreamscape and, frankly, it’s no fun at all.

So now I hate, hate, hate going to sleep at night.

The Mines wouldn’t even pay for the sleep consciousness therapist. They did pay for the psychiatrist—a security-cleared psychiatrist—who told me I had post-traumatic stress disorder and prescribed a series of selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Nice little druggies when they were working, but the effect never lasted for long. The woman at Special Employee Services who doled out the checks for the psychiatrist balked at the sleep therapist. She said it was “a little too new age-y” for the Mines’ taste. So I had to shell out my own hard-earned bucks, even though the debilitating nightmares were and are legitimately work related.

I’m a bomb dissector, which is Mines jargon for “counterterrorism alchemist.” Alchemist is Mines jargon for “analyst.” Intelligence analyst is just another way of saying intelligence failure. And I most certainly am an intelligence failure. I was one of the people who failed to stop the Strikes five years ago.

I’m terrified of failing again. Everything—my nightmares, my instincts, and the deadly lull in the chatter—is telling me that something is about to happen. I can stop it or I can screw it up. If I fall off this wall, I don’t think all the Mines’ drugs and all the Mines’ shrinks will be able to put Madeleine James back together again.

I’m back home after an excruciatingly long and utterly useless day in which I tried and failed to warn. No one would listen, so now I address myself to the one being in my world who will listen.

“What do these people have for brains?” I ask. “ ‘Intelligence community?’ What intelligence? I tell them something’s going to blow up and they look at me like I’m hallucinating. I ask you, what do these astounding, arrogant, arbitrary assholes have for brains?”

What do I have for brains? I’m talking to a rabbit as if I fully expect him to answer. I’ve had Abu Bunny for five years, and he’s a great little pet, but leaves something to be desired as a conversationalist. He only blinks. He stares at me, then goes back to foraging for crumbs among the pillows on my bed.

I finish undressing, but I don’t bother to hang anything up. Hangers are for anal retentive assholes and administrative personnel. Fuck ’em. I toss my skirt and jacket over a chair, lob my shoes in the direction of the closet, and collapse face-forward on the bed without the will to do battle with my pantyhose.

“Damn the FEMWIP.” FEMWIP stands for Fucking Evil Misogynist Who Invented Pantyhose. I’ve been with the government for my entire adult working life, so creating acronyms is as natural as seething.

“What does the FEMWIP have for brains?” The pillow muffles my voice so I make a supreme effort and turn over, which sends Abu Bunny hopping across the pink-flowered meadow of the comforter. I hate this comforter. Mom bought it for me even though I’ve told her a hundred thousand times I hate pink. And I hate flower prints. And I most emphatically hate ruffled bedding.

But here it is and here I am. “What do I have for brains, Bunny? It’s all mush inside my skull. Tired disgusting mush. Yep, that’s what’s inside my head instead of gray matter. Another seventeen-hour day that yielded nothing but frustration. Would anybody listen to me? No. And I’m talking to a rabbit. No offense, Bunny-Poo, but you are a freaking rabbit.”

Bunny pauses in his foraging, blinks at me, then turns his fluffy ass in my direction.

I’m too tired to be logical or fair or to care that I’m lecturing a rabbit. I want to kill someone at work, but I don’t have the energy. I need to sleep, but the monsters under the bed are bigger, nastier, more serious than the ones who lived there when I was a child. I look at the clock and see that it’s already Tuesday. What time of the year is it? Spring sometime I think. Last time I checked on Mother Nature, the Bradford pear in my town house yard was blooming. Spring sometime and past midnight. The alarm will ring in too few hours to get a decent rest even if I fell asleep instantly. I’ll be a zombie tomorrow at work.

I’m afraid, afraid, afraid to go to sleep.

I’ve been having the wizard nightmare recently. Wizard as in Wizard of Oz. In the nightmare, I’m Dorothy and Abu Bunny is Toto. I’m thirty-eight. How long do I have to deal with being traumatized by flying monkeys when I was six? What scares me is that the wizard nightmare always comes before terrorist attacks. I don’t believe that dreams come true; however, I know for a fact that nightmares do. I’ve had the wizard nightmare before the bombings of embassies, nightclubs, and planes. Seventeen years now I’ve been working terrorism in the Mines and having that dream, with different variations for each attack. Before the Strikes I dreamed of two huge flying monkeys colliding with the Emerald City.

I had that dream three times before the planes hit the towers. The terrorists have dreams, too, but their terrorist colleagues take them seriously. Mine would have me put away.

“Seriously, Bunny, I can’t sleep in these pantyhose.” I lift my butt to wriggle out of the nylons and have a brief, poignant flashback to a time when I was wriggling out of pantyhose in the backseat of a Camaro parked outside a military base. Can’t remember which one now. I’m still attractive, I think, but lately I just scare men off.

“Must not think about sex, Bunny. Must not think about sex. Pointless. Bombs. Must think about bombs, because something is about to go off. I know it.”

I cut off the lamp and mutter myself to sleep. I maintain a white-knuckled grip on my comforter, but that doesn’t stop me from getting blown away by a tornado and touching down on that asinine yellow brick road. I stomp my feet on the butter yellow brick. “Cliché!” I yell. “You’re a fucking cliché!” I know I’m dreaming, but I can’t wake myself up and it makes me really mad. I pinch my arm hard, but I’m still standing on yellow brick stretching into infinity. So here I am, waiting for the Munchkins, who will all look like former blind dates, if earlier dreams are any indication.

I can’t stop this dream, but I can look around the dreamscape for clues. Maybe I can at least learn to use these dreams. Maybe they can help me stop the awful thing before it happens. I can be a good bomb dissector. I can be a professional. But I look down and I’m wearing patent leather Mary Jane shoes, a dirndl with puffy sleeves, and pigtails tied with bows. Abu Bunny is wearing a dog collar. Would it be too much to ask to have some dignity in the dream world? I’d rather be naked. Of course, the Vice President is wearing a tin suit and my boss, Harry Esterhaus, is covered with cat fur and fondling his own tail. Is that the President with straw sticking out of his jacket, singing “If I only had a brain?” Right, good luck with that brain thing.

Here come the poppy fields and they’re crawling with Munchkins. Look over there. It’s Wesley Marshall with the appalling halitosis. It’s going to be a poppy field dream, which has got to be better than a flying monkey dream. Right? I sniff the air and it smells like Wesley’s breath mixed with the scent I wore on that blind date: Emeraude. Does smelling halitosis and Emeraude mean we’re going to have a chemical attack? I try to pick one of the poppies so I can have it analyzed by one of our chem experts, but when I bend over, the thing starts flapping like a bird and flies away. Flying poppies instead of flying monkeys? Then the whole field of poppies takes flight, hovering in a dense mass before exploding in bursts of petals and blood. Dead Munchkins everywhere.

I wake up thinking, This can’t be good.

Excerpted from Intelligence by Susan Hasler.

Copyright © 2010 by Susan Hasler.

Published in 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books and St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Meet the Author

SUSAN HASLER spent twenty-one years at the CIA, where she held a variety of positions including counterterrorism analyst. In 2004 Susan resigned from the CIA and now writes full time. Her short stories have appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal, O. Henry Festival Stories 2005, and more.

Susan Hasler is featured in the HBO documentary "MANHUNT" about the female analysts who worked so hard to capture Bin Ladin.

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