Working my way through my BEA piles for this week’s #FridayReads: Blowback by Valerie Plame & Sarah Lovett; quite a good, pacy thriller setting an American female operative amid a covert operation to apprehend a villainous underworld puppetmaster who’s selling clandestine nukes to dangerous international players, and killing off the operative’s sources. Coming out in October from Blue Rider Press, this is Plame’s first novel, after her 2007 Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House. That book was heavily redacted by the Bush-era CIA, and though it had a well-reported Afterword by national security reporter Laura Rozen, the many blacked-out passages inevitably left readers in the dark. Because I had worked on her husband Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s 2003 book, The Politics of Truth: Insider the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity, which with Fair Game had formed the basis of the Naomi Watts and Sean Penn 2009 movie of the same name, I was of course interested to read Valerie’s latest book. I had hoped it would be good, and happily have found that her first thriller, written with Sarah Lovett, has an intriguing plot with lots of surprising twists and great insight in to, and empathy for, the complex and sometimes troubled lives of undercover agents, women and men. No redactions this time around!
Have moved on to read The Affairs of Others, Amy Grace Loyd’s novel of modern manners set in a Brooklyn widow’s apartment house, with fascinating cross-currents among her and her tenants. Elegant and smooth sentence-making, with a plot that I know from the BEA Buzz Editors’ panel presentation on the book is going to soon turn toward the sensual and erotic. Knowing that’s to come, it’s all the more notable for its restraint in the first 70 pages. It’s worth adding that I live in a New York apartment building with lots of strange neighbors, so the subplots and side characters in the book are starkly real. The novel by Loyd, who is the fiction editor of byliner.com, will be out in early September.