Spycraft For Thriller Writers

Much of what the public believes it understands about espionage in general and the CIA in particular, and anything in between, comes from spy fiction (spy-fi): novels, television series, and movies.


Sometimes the writers get it right. More often, they do not, to the detriment of the public’s understanding of what intelligence officers do for our country, the development of misimpressions at home and overseas of the missions and operations of these organizations, and a winnowing of the number of talented people who would otherwise consider a career in intelligence.

Intelligence is one of the world’s oldest professions, and possibly the most misunderstood. This session will give you tips on how intelligence officers go about their work, what some of our arcane language means, and what they are like. It will point out common myths, and suggest how you can avoid perpetuating their more deleterious effects on your credibility and their public images. This session covers the types of material that the author (retired CIA) and his colleagues frequently see in fictional writing about espionage, and will lead you away from some of the more common glaring errors.


It will give you just what you need to provide an accurate flavor of where intel officers work, what they do, how they sound, how they think, and what motivates them.



Edward F. Mickolus, PhD served a 33-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency in analytical, operational, management, and staff positions in four Directorates. His work at the CIA included analysis of international terrorism and African politics, covert action, humint collection, counterintelligence, public affairs, and recruitment. He is a recipient of the CIA Career Intelligence and the Clandestine Service Medals.

He founded Vinyard Software whose International Terrorism Data Center provides the best publicly-available data on terrorists and events around the world. After graduating from Georgetown University, he wrote the first doctoral dissertation on international terrorism while earning an M.A., M.Phil, and Ph.D. from Yale University.

Ed has written more than 40 non-fiction books on humor, intelligence, inspiration, and education (sometimes combining all four and more!). His books also include a series of multi-volume chronologies and biographies on international terrorism. He has written more than two dozen book chapters; over 100 articles and reviews in refereed scholarly journals and newspapers; numerous presentations to professional societies; and 14 humorous publications.

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