Most of my reading since the September Atrocity has been non-fiction. Whether related to my (now former) industry, academic studies, religious texts, or explanations of terror-war-related subjects, most of what I've been stuffing in my head has come in the form of cold information. For pure artistic retreat from events of the day, I've spent some time with old favorites like Patrick O'Brian and J. R. R. Tolkien. Standing alone in all this, though, is the 1987 spy novel, Agents of Innocence, by David Ignatius.
The tale is set primarily in the labyrinthine world of Lebanon in the 1970's and 1980's, and follows the career of the fictional CIA case officer, Tom Rogers. When Rogers arrives in Beirut, it is September 1969, the eve of the tragic implosion of cosmopolitan Lebanon. By the conclusion of the story, terrorists have brought the nation to its knees. Throughout it all, Rogers desperately tries to keep from being overcome by events as he develops "assets"—and relationships—in an attempt to keep tabs on the growing threat of militant radicalism. If you know your history, then I don't have to tell you that this is a tragic tale.
The author draws heavily from his experience covering the growth of terrorism in Lebanon for the Washington Post. To an extent, the book is a fictionalization of the life of real-world CIA man, Robert Ames. Purportedly, this novel is on the reading list at "The Farm" (the CIA's training ground at Camp Peary near Williamsburg, VA), and CIA Director George Tenet himself recommended this book in an interview on NPR several years ago. On top of that, it also does an admirable job of making sense (as far as possible) of the wild and varied religious, cultural and political forces operating in the region today.