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Political fiction from an ex-CIA analyst turned novelist, Susan Hasler

Updated on October 27, 2014

Curious about the real CIA? Check out Hasler's books.

Susan Hasler, a twenty-one year veteran of the CIA, has turned to novel writing in her retirement, pursuing the subjects she knows best: the bureaucracy of the U.S. government in general and the CIA in particular. Her debut novel, Intelligence, is an insider drama that's unique among the current sea of action-oriented fiction.

As a former analyst, Hasler brings her readers a perspective on the intelligence business that we don't often see: the people who slave over endless streams of data, trying to predict the unpredictable. Their world is less glamorous and less thrilling than that of Jason Bourne and James Bond, but it's more real and infinitely fascinating. Hasler gives us a detailed view of that life in her debut novel with a story you aren't likely to see elsewhere.

Read on for my review of this eye-opening novel about the CIA, as well as details about Hasler's second novel, Project HALFSHEEP.

Susan Hasler has written the missing novel in the dark world of counter-terrorism.

— Gordon Thomas, author of Secret Wars and Gideon’s Spies
American flag
American flag | Source

Intelligence: a different breed of CIA thriller

Being ex-CIA — specifically, a counter-terrorism analyst working for the Agency on September 11 — Hasler has insider knowledge of what it was like to be an intelligence analyst following one of the most dramatic events of terrorism to occur on U.S. soil this century. Over the course of the novel, her characters try to head off another terrorist attack they feel certain is coming — a quest that invokes their memories of the 9-11 attacks. For me, this aspect of the book was particularly compelling; learning about the reaction to the attacks and the political wrangling that followed was both fascinating and disturbing. At a time when many people are questioning the effectiveness of our leaders, the idea that our elected officials are more concerned with posturing and political gain than with protecting the U.S. from terrorism is more than a little galling.

The novel is told via a shifting first-person narrative, passing the role of storyteller among different characters with each chapter; most of the story is told by a handful of CIA analysts, but one of the terrorists also has narrative control for a number of short interludes. I found this technique a bit disconcerting at first, but I eventually understood the reason for it; by giving us the terrorist’s point of view, we’re able to make connections before the CIA agents.

This book isn't for everyone. Some fans of thriller fiction will be disappointed by the lack of gunfights, car chases, sultry foreign spies, and dangerous missions. This book isn't about the exploits of field agents; it’s about the in-house intelligence community and how they operate. If that interests you, if you want to peel back the curtain and see what it’s like to be a CIA analyst on terrorist threat watch, then this book is for you.

We know where the bodies are buried and have the don't-give-a-damn gall to joke about it.

— from Susan Hasler's debut novel, Intelligence
Intelligence: A Tale of Terror and Uncivil Service
Intelligence: A Tale of Terror and Uncivil Service
Intelligence is available in four formats: hardcover, Kindle, audio, and paperback. Amazon Prime members can borrow the Kindle version of this book for free through the Kindle Lending Library program.

More CIA novels

According to Ms. Hasler, her sequel to Intelligence, currently titled The Flat Bureaucrat, is back in the revision stage, so hopefully we'll see it released before long. (Hasler has parted ways with her publisher and is now self-publishing her books.)

Her recent efforts have been focused on a very different novel: Project HALFSHEEP, Or How the Agency’s Alien Got High. This second release ventures into the territory of speculative fiction, with a story based on an alien captured by the CIA and then used in mind control drug experiments. (According to Hasler, this aspect of the novel is rooted in agency history; the CIA did such experiments in the 60's, although not on aliens.) Project HALFSHEEP spends several chapters on another planet, tracing this alien's preparation for her journey to Earth, so it's quite different from Intelligence. But it reflects the same dry wit and satiric commentary that we saw in the first book. Project HALFSHEEP should appeal to fans of classic science fiction as well as to devotees of political satire.

Project HALFSHEEP: Or How the Agency's Alien Got High
Project HALFSHEEP: Or How the Agency's Alien Got High
Project HALFSHEEP is available in Kindle format and in paperback. Amazon Prime members can borrow the Kindle version of this book for free through the Kindle Lending Library program.

Hasler shares her CIA experiences with the media

In case you had any doubts about Ms. Hasler's credentials, she and her former colleagues were interviewed as part of a documentary called Manhunt. The program premiered on HBO in 2013 and featured CIA analysts talking about their experiences and perspective regarding the war on terror and the hunt for Bin Laden — insights gleaned from years of working for the agency in counter-terrorism analysis.

NPR also interviewed Ms. Hasler about her efforts to track Bin Laden and warn about the 9-11 attacks, and CNN published an exclusive article Ms. Hasler wrote about the role of women in the fight against terrorism.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about former CIA counter-terrorism analyst Susan Hasler and her political novels. If you enjoy political satire and you're looking for a unique read, I urge you to give her books a try.

© 2014 C. A. Chancellor


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