Leaving behind a career as a master forger, Nicole Blake's peaceful life in rural France is interrupted by the arrival of a U.S. intelligence operative, John Valsamis, who warns her that her former lover Rahim has become a terrorist and seeks her reluctant assistance in bringing him down. Original. 30,000 first printing.
Forced out of a self-imposed exile, one woman faces a lifetime’s worth of secrets and betrayal–all in the name of staying alive. Nicole Blake had planned to leave her criminal life in the past. She had done her time in a dank prison in Marseille and relinquished the world of forgery and counterfeiting for an unassuming career as a freelance consultant. Now her world is a small farm in the French Pyrenees, with daily fresh eggs and the companionship of her devoted dog.But when U.S. intelligence operative John Valsamis shows up at her door, Nicole is reminded that she’ll always be an ex-con. Valsamis is after Nicole’s former lover, Rahim Ali, and soon Nicole finds herself back in Lisbon, tracking down Rahim in all their old haunts. Except now Rahim isn’t just a document forger–he’s a suspected terrorist. Unwittingly drawn into an international web of fundamentalism, crime, and corruption, Nicole discovers that its threads stretch from the cobbled streets of Lisbon to the once-beautiful city of her birth, Beirut, and to the top levels of the government that sent Valsamis to find her. And as with any good web, the harder Nicole fights to free herself, the tighter it closes around her. “Thought-provoking . . . The gritty atmosphere is perfectly drawn, and complex layers of lies and betrayal keep the reader happily guessing up to the end.”–Publishers Weekly“Chilling and utterly believable, An Accidental American hurls the reader into the dark and forbidding world of espionage. Not to be missed.”–Gayle Lynds, author of The Last Spymaster______________________________________________________________THE MORTALIS DOSSIER- ALEX CARR’S NOTE ON THE BOMBING OF THE AMERICAN EMBASSY IN BEIRUTOn April 18, 1983, at one o’clock in the afternoon, a van carrying twothousand pounds of explosives blew up outside the American embassyin Beirut, killing sixty-three people. Among the victims wereseventeen Americans, eight of whom represented the Central IntelligenceAgency’s entire Middle East contingent. In the years precedingthe bombing, an increasing number of attacks on Western andIsraeli interests had been carried out by Palestinian and Muslim extremists,but the Beirut bombing was widely seen as a watershedevent for American policies in the region. With the exception of theseizure of the American embassy in Tehran four years earlier, an actthat was carried out within the framework of Iran’s Islamic revolution,the embassy bombing represented the first time America hadbeen so directly and bloodily targeted by Islamic terrorists for its militaryinvolvement in the Middle East.It’s impossible to see why the United States was such an unwelcomeforce without an understanding of the history of Lebanon andthe surrounding region, and of American and Western involvementin the politics of the Middle East in general. Though Lebanon hasexisted in one form or another since the ninth century b.c., the moderncountry of Lebanon was not established until 1920, when it wasgranted to the French as part of a system of mandates established forthe administration of former Turkish and German territories followingWorld War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, almostall of what we think of as the modern Middle East was shapedby these mandates.America’s first direct intervention in Lebanese politics came in1946. During World War II, Lebanon had been declared a free statein order to liberate it from Vichy control. But when, after the war,Lebanon eventually moved toward full independence, the Frenchbalked, and the United States, Britain, and several Arab governmentsstepped in to support Lebanese independence. It was at this timethat Lebanon’s system of political power sharing was devised. Wellaware of the country’s shaky precolonial past and determined to keepLebanon intact, the fledgling nationalist government agreed to splitpower along sectarian lines, based on the numbers of the 1932 census.It was a well-intentioned plan, but one that inadvertently set thestage for decades of strife and civil war.The power-sharing government’s first major stumbling block camewith the partitioning of the British Mandate of Palestine in the wakeof World War II, and the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that followed. Theensuing influx of some 100,000 Palestinian refugees into Lebanonproved a strain on the carefully crafted power-sharing system. Tensionswere further exacerbated in 1956, when Egyptian presidentGamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, provoking theUnited States, along with Britain, France, and Israel, to respond withmilitary force. While Lebanese Muslims wanted the government toback the newly created United Arab Republic, Christians fought tokeep the nation allied with the West. In 1958, with the country teeteringon the brink of civil war, the United States sent marines intoLebanon to support the government of President Camille Chamoun,thus inextricably linking itself with Christian forces.It was an alliance that would be tested when, nearly two decadeslater, sectarian rivalries finally erupted into full-scale civil war. WhileLebanon had enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity, tensionsbetween the United States and the Soviet Union, and betweenthe United States and Iran, had escalated significantly, as had tensionsbetween the Israelis and the Palestinians. By the spring of1975–when gunmen from the Christian Phalange militia attacked abus in the suburbs of Beirut and massacred twenty-seven Palestinianson board in what is widely agreed to have been the first act of thecivil war–the forces at work in Lebanon were not merely internalones. The Cold War, as well as the larger Arab-Israeli conflict, wereboth being played out in Lebanon, and would be throughout thecourse of the war, as international players funneled weapons andmoney to the various Christian, Muslim, and Druze militias.The United States was a major player in the civil war from the beginning,providing mainly covert support for the Christian government,with whom it had traditionally been allied. But it wasn’t until1982, after the Israeli siege of Beirut, the assassination of Phalangeleader Bachir Gemayel, and the horrific massacres at the Palestinianrefugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, that U.S. troops, along withother members of a multinational peacekeeping force, formally intervenedin the conflict. The United Nations—backed coalition wasmeant as a neutral presence, but the complications of Cold War allegiancesand the United States’ traditionally close ties to Israel andLebanon’s Christian government meant that the Americans were inevitablyviewed by Muslim and Druze factions as anything but impartial.It was in this environment, less than six months after theAmericans arrived as peacekeepers, that the embassy bombing tookplace.There can be no doubt that the main goal of the bombing was tointimidate the United States into pulling its forces from Lebanon.But there were other, less obvious but no less significant reasons behindthe attack. Responsibility for the bombing, and the subsequentbombing of the marine barracks, was claimed by a radical wing of theIranian-backed Hezbollah. In the years leading up to these attacks,Iran had taken an increasingly aggressive role in its support ofLebanese Muslim militias, most of which were traditionally Shiite,transforming what had once been a mainly political fight into a religiousand moral one. Not only did Muslim radicals want Americantroops gone, but they wanted to rid the country of Western culturalinfluence–which they saw as mainly American–as well. In thebloody years to follow, the American University of Beirut, as well asAmerican and Western journalists, would be targets of a concertedcampaign of kidnapping and intimidation.Under any other circumstances, the Islamicizing of the conflictmight have been yet another disturbing development in an alreadywildly fractured situation. But in the hothouse of the Lebanese civilwar, Hezbollah’s fierce brand of anti-Americanism became not just aShia or Iranian cause but a Palestinian and therefore pan-Arab causeas well. In the years since the embassy bombing, the cause has takenon many faces, including that of the vast al-Qaeda network, but theanger remains undiluted. Not only is anti-American thinking stillprevalent today in the Middle East, but it has become the unitingforce for radical Muslims the world over.Former high-ranking members of the Reagan administration haveconfirmed that how to respond to the embassy bombing and thebombing of the marine barracks was a subject of debate at the time.There was a clear split within the White House between those whobelieved that force was the best response and those who argued thatthe use of military power would only add to the problem by antagonizingAmerica’s remaining friends in the Arab world. The lessons ofVietnam, along with the horrific loss of life in both attacks, no doubthelped cement the decision to follow a policy of disengagement. Inthe end, the choice was made to pull all American troops out ofLebanon.It’s no coincidence that I chose to make the 1983 bombing of theAmerican embassy in Beirut central to the plot of An AccidentalAmerican. This is a novel about U.S. involvement in the politics ofthe Middle East, and the embassy bombing has shaped Americanpolicy in that region as few other events have. Disengagement is nolonger the United States’ response of choice when dealing with Islamicextremism. In light of the September 11 attacks, it comes as nosurprise that American foreign policy leans heavily on the swift useof military might. But the effects of the decisions made in the wakeof the Beirut bombings are also at the root of this powerful policyshift. Those in Washington who argue in favor of unilateral militaryaction can point to the message that the earlier withdrawal sent:namely, that the United States could be intimidated by terrorists.Writing about events in which real people lost their lives is alwaysa delicate undertaking. Sixty-three people were killed in the embassybombing, and it is not my intention to dishonor them. While I do aimfor historical accuracy, my main focus as a writer is on my characters.Truthfulness for me means looking back on the events of historythrough the flawed lens of human perception. This means creatingcharacters who are as real as possible, and whose motives are oftenless than pure and always complicated. I strongly believe that I canbest respect the real inhabitants of history by struggling to portray myfictional inhabitants as honestly as possible.Most of my fictionalization of the embassy bombing in An AccidentalAmerican adheres closely to the facts. The van used to transportthe explosives to the embassy had, in fact, been stolen from theembassy pool the summer before the bombing. It is universally acknowledgedthat the Syrians, as well as the Iranians under the guiseof Hezbollah, were behind the attacks. Among the people killed thatday were the CIA’s chief Middle East analyst, Robert C. Ames, andstation chief Kenneth Haas. Both Ames and Haas were brilliant menand rising stars, and the consequences of their deaths are still beingfelt within the intelligence community. But the idea that a rogue CIAofficial was actually behind the bombing is entirely fabricated, as areall the characters involved.In recent years, there seems to be a growing uncertainty concerningwhat, exactly, separates fiction from nonfiction. The meteoric riseof the memoir and other forms of “creative nonfiction” has furtherblurred an already fuzzy line between minor embellishment and outrightfabrication–while the popularity of a certain kind of fiction,which claims to illuminate long-concealed truths, has led readers toconfuse clever fabrication with fact. In the wake of this uncertaintyhas come outrage and even anger. I have to admit, I don’t see what allthe fuss is about. Stories are meant to transport–at its best, historicalfiction can even offer us a wise perspective on our own condition–and if readers are denied the joy of suspending their disbelief,they might as well not read at all.This doesn’t mean, however, that we should substitute thewatered-down truths of historical fiction for the real thing, or themusings of a fiction writer, whose ultimate loyalty lies with his or herstory, for the more measured presentations of historians and journalists,whose allegiances are with the truth. We live in a world in whichthe costs of ignorance are simply too high.