When retired U.N. spy Mai Fisher leaves a diplomatic reception on a cold, rainy night early in the new year of 2001, she dashes for the first cab she sees. The driver has a tattoo Mai has seen before on Serbian paramilitaries. Suspicious, she forces him to admit he was waiting for her–to deliver her to the Russian Mafiya.
After almost 40 years as a spy for the United Nations Intelligence Directorate, Alexei Bukharin is glad to be alive to enjoy time with his wife, Mai Fisher, and to finish raising his college-student granddaughter, Natalia. When Mai calls him out of bed to bring her dry clothes after she takes an information drop from a Serbian diplomat, he discovers she’s suffered something that can be death for a spy, retired or otherwise: Someone knows her true identity.
A raid on the Mafiya apartment where Mai was to be taken uncovers something more devastating. The thugs have a photograph of Natalia at her university. The investigation becomes two-pronged: Who burned Mai, and why is the Russian underworld interested in Natalia?
Their investigation uncovers a Russian mole in the FBI, one who has been selling America’s secrets to the Soviets and the Russian Federation for more than 20 years. When Alexei discovers the reason behind the interest in Natalia, he realizes a decision he made in 1974 has come back to haunt him.
Personal needs, professional standards, and a choice from the past collide in a war of deception.
Hello there! I’m so glad you are joining me today to learn about your first full-length novel, A War of Deception. Tell me a little about the book.
A War of Deception is about a retired spy getting burned (i.e., her true identity revealed), and the investigation into that leads to two subplots that end up being related. The tag line is: “Past and present. Fathers and sons. Retribution and revenge.” That pretty much sums it up. It is based on a real event in 2001, the discovery of a Russian mole in the FBI who’d been selling secrets for almost three decades.
You have also written several novellas and short stories. Are the same characters in all of them or are they different?
The same two principle characters, U.N. spies Mai Fisher and Alexei Bukharin, show up in all of them (except for a collection of literary short stories titled Fences), and they’re joined by a large cast of supporting characters: analysts, enemy agents, friends, lovers, adversaries. It’s a lot of work to keep them straight.
Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
From recent history and current headlines. I’m a student of history and politics (domestic and international), and world events appeal to me. I’ve written a lot of fiction about the Balkan wars in the 1990s and the Troubles in Ireland. My characters start out as spies in the Cold War and have to make an adjustment after the fall of the Soviet Union, and I deal with that in my work as well. And, of course, this past presidential election is fodder for all sorts of fiction. I’m sure every thriller writer is salivating over what comes next. Indeed, I’ve written (and published) a short story (“Brave New World” in Spy Flash II) and a novelette (Who Watches the Watchmen? and its soon to be published sequel, Hidden Agendas) about the 2016 election.
Do you have to do a lot of research or is this subject area one you have extensive knowledge about already?
Well, I’m not a spy–or maybe I am. LOL. I have to research tradecraft in different eras extensively because I want the stories to be authentic. My history degree helps, but I still have to research technology, customs, clothing, etc., for the time period I’m writing in. In my case, a lot of it is a walk down memory lane, especially looking at 1980s and 1990s fashions. Did I really wear things like that?
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to play your main characters?
I’m a big fan of Viggo Mortensen. A great actor and easy on the eyes. When I saw him in Eastern Promises, he became my model for Alexei Bukharin. Imagine Mortensen with hair like the scientist Michio Kaku, and you have Alexei. Mai Fisher has always been harder for me to “cast.” I’ve seen her in Angelina Jolie (Lara Croft movies and Salt) and Cote de Pablo (formerly of NCIS). Having recently seen Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot would be a great contender for Mai in the 1980s and 1990s. Other people have suggested a young Helen Mirren.
And in theat movie, would the Russian parts be dubbed with thick accents or subtitled? (Okay, this is just a personal bias of mine. I want Russian with subtitles! hahaha!)
Well, Alexei has a slight Russian accent, but there are long exchanges of dialogue in Russian, so subtitles would work. 🙂
So what’s next for you? Do you have more novellas or short stories coming out or more novels? Anything in the works?
I’m always working on short pieces. They are great diversions when I get blocked on a novel. I have a couple of straight literary fiction novels I’d like to pitch to agents, but the big announcement is starting in April of 2018, a four-book series (aka a tetralogy) will begin, based somewhat loosely on the siege at Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing, though both those events have been “moved” to other locales for decency’s sake. I’ll continue to do NaNoWriMo, so I’m pretty much set with a backlog of manuscripts.
So, you’ve pretty much had one of the coolest careers prior to being a writer of anyone I know. Can you tell us a bit about this?
I held a number of jobs in the Federal Aviation Administration for thirty years, including reporter, editor, aviation safety inspector, and finally Flight Standards chief of staff. I was your basic bureaucrat for most of it, but I got to do a lot of interesting things: accident investigation, task forces, special investigations, and so forth. It was a good career, and I still keep my eye on pilot and flight attendants when I’m on an airplane. LOL.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that people might not guess.
I’m certified in the Commonwealth of Virginia to perform weddings. I specialize in nondenominational or humanistic weddings. A lot of the couples I’ve married have been from mixed religious backgrounds but who want a ceremony that’s spiritual but doesn’t favor one religion over the other.
If you had to go undercover as a spy, what would be hardest for you and why?
The lying–to your family, to the people you’re trying to recruit. I’m a lousy liar myself, so I’d likely not be successful at it. The deception, particularly with a spouse or your family, is something I’d find hard to overcome.
P. A. Duncan is a retired bureaucrat but one with an overactive imagination—at least that’s what everyone has told her since she first started making up stories in elementary school prompted by her weekly list of spelling words.
A commercial pilot and former FAA safety official, she lives and writes in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. A graduate of Madison College (now James Madison University), she has degrees in history and political science. Politics and history manage to work their way into her writing.
She is president of the Virginia Writers Club, one of the oldest writer organizations in the country.
Her fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. When not writing, reading, reviewing books, singing in a UU choir, watching the Yankees, or cheering on Dale Earnhardt, Jr., she delights in spoiling her grandchildren.
Connect with P.A. Duncan here:
Http://www.facebook.com/unspywriter (Facebook author page)