The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Valerie Plame pens a spy novel about (surprise!) a covert CIA agent

A beautiful, driven, possibly unstable CIA agent. A dangerous undercover operation. A global conspiracy.

“Homeland,” right?

No,  it’s “Blowback” — the upcoming spy novel by ex-undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame— which feels like a chapter from the addictive Showtime series.

You remember Plame: the glamorous spy exposed by the Bush administration in 2003 during its feud with her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson. The scandal caused a huge uproar, Plame and Wilson briefly became Washington’s sensational “it” couple, and Plame authored a heavily-redacted memoir, “Fair Game,” in 2007.

Now Plame, aided by veteran author Sarah Lovett, has penned a first novel: A spy thriller about Vanessa Pierson (hmm, familiar initials), a “young, blonde, lithe and nicely sexy” covert agent who appears incapable of taking orders and finds herself at the center of a deadly race to locate and eradicate an Iranian nuclear threat — which dovetails neatly into Plame’s real life as an activist on the issue of nuclear proliferation.

So, how is it? What espionage fans call “spy light”: Two-page chapters with cliffhanger endings, predictable clashes (“You’re acting like a goddamn cowboy — I can’t begin to list your sins,” her supervisor angrily tells her after yet another breach of protocol) and years of covert operations somehow packed into a couple weeks of action.

Set aside, if you will, the reality that most undercover agents spend years living pretty boring lives. Vanessa ricochets across the globe, fighting the clock and her bosses at Langley to capture an international criminal mastermind. Despite several close calls, she manages to stay in the field (“I may be crazy, but I’m counting on your instincts,” says her boss) and saves the day.

Doesn’t really matter how well “Blowback” sells: “Burned,” the second Vanessa Pierson book in the spy series, is already in the works. “More thrills, danger, romance and sex!” Plame promises in the release.

Update: Valerie Plame on female spies in movies and TV

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