Former Senator Bob Graham, his wife Adele, and Senator Jay Rockefeller at a party honoring Graham's spy thriller, "Keys to the Kingdom." (Roxanne Roberts/ the Washington Post)

Everyone’s always asking journalists when they’re going to write a novel, but it’s the politicians who really crank them out: Newt Gingrich, Barbara Boxer, Bill Weld, William Cohen and now former Senator Bob Graham, who just released his first spy thriller, “Keys to the Kingdom.”

The author of three political books said he decided to tackle fiction because it enabled him to address the role of Saudi Arabia in the Sept. 11 attacks. “There was some things I wanted to say that I didn’t think I could do in nonfiction,” he told us Tuesday at a party in his honor. Graham said the final report of the 9/11 congressional inquiry was “heavily censored”; this novel was cleared by the CIA but provides “some slightly closeted real information that I think will be educational.”

(Courtesy Hilsinger-Mendelson)

The book took five years to write. Though the Florida Democrat retired from the Senate in 2005, appointments to one commission or another (BP oil spill, financial crisis) cut into his writing time. “He understands the consequences of disaster better than most legislators,” said author Mark Olshaker, who served as Graham’s mentor through the process.

Friends and former colleagues — Jay Rockefeller, John Warner, Pat Leahy, Don Graham, Terry McAuliffe, Dan Glickman — showed up at the McLean home of family friends Greg and Lynne O’Brien to toast the author. Some have cameos in the book, though Graham wouldn’t reveal who’s who. “There are 20 or more characters in the book who are somewhat like a real person. You’re going to have to figure it out.”

But Graham let it slip that Rockefeller was the inspiration for Sen. John Stoner. An inside joke? We just have to take Graham’s word for it.