Monday, April 07, 2008

Is There Such A Thing as Too Much Accuracy?

One of the highlights of the Virginia Festival of the Book is the Crime Wave luncheon. They put one author at each table which insures each of us our 15 minutes of fame.

This year’s luncheon keynote speaker was David R. Ignatius, an associate editor and columnist for the Washington Post who also writes top notch spy thrillers. His latest, Body of Lies was released today in paperback. As a journalist David has written a number of articles on the real-life intelligence world and has made the kind of insider friends that help a writer recreate the spy world with chilling authenticity.

Which raised the question.

Like most of you, I combine research and creativity to write authentic crime fiction that hopefully moves beyond the common criminal but stops short of comic book villainy. When I appear in public I often get asked if I’m concerned that real life crooks will read my novels and learn how to escape justice or pick up a new way to steal or kill. I’m sure you get that question too.

My standard response is to tell my readers not to worry. By definition, almost all real life criminals are not too bright. If they were they’d make a good living honestly. In other words, real crooks are too stupid to pull off the kind of plans you’ll see in my murder mysteries or my caper novels.

But what about David’s work? David writes really authentic stuff about foreign policy, our intelligence community and its relationship to the spies of other nations. And we can assume that most people in that business are NOT stupid. I know that an awful lot of valuable intelligence is gathered from open sources. Anyone who has looked into his bio and credentials could reasonably assume that David Ignatius knows what he’s talking about when he writes about these things. Is it possible that spies and saboteurs in other nations are picking up valuable tradecraft tips from David’s books? If so, our nation may be paying too high a price for a great read.

Of course…. He COULD just be an invaluable tool for disinformation…. Hehehehe….

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