In Dugoni’s The Eighth Sister (Thomas & Mercer, Apr.), someone is knocking off U.S. sleeper agents in Russia.
Can you elaborate on how a meeting with a man who “had a story to tell” spurred this novel?
I can’t identify the gentleman. He has chosen to remain anonymous, and I agreed. He and I met for coffee, and he told me he enjoyed my writing and thought I might be able to use his story in one of my novels. I told him his story was fascinating and frightening, but I didn’t think it would work in a modern novel. I had, however, thought of bringing back Charles Jenkins, ex-CIA agent, who was a secondary character in my David Sloane novels, and I asked if he’d help me with the spycraft if I did so. The story is inspired by real events, though none of which took place in Russia.
Putin is behind the targeting of U.S. agents in your book. Do you think most Americans have an accurate sense of the threat Putin poses?
Not after reading Bill Browder’s Red Notice and dozens of articles on Putin for the writing of The Eighth Sister. Those articles and that book describe a man who is largely amoral and unethical, and who was not trusted even within the KGB. They describe a man not running a country, but a criminal enterprise.
How much has new technology changed the spy game?
Spying can be done without a person ever leaving a computer terminal. Emails, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Instagram, bank accounts, and just about everything else can be hacked and/or used. Countries can influence elections by spreading false news, fake reports, and other false information. We’ve all become so accustomed to believing what we see in print that we often accept it without questioning it. Because of technology, it’s more difficult to find people with “boots on the ground” experience, people who know how to engage, manipulate, and turn sources with access to valuable information.
What did you rely on in researching Putin’s Russia?
Red Notice showed the extreme measures Vladimir Putin will take if he doesn’t get his way or is publicly criticized. Browder lost $230 million in assets, his lawyer was killed in jail, and his life has been threatened. Browder claims Putin runs Russia like a crime syndicate and has a record of silencing those he doesn’t like. The recent poisonings in Britain evidence Browder may be right. I tried to incorporate some of that sense of danger and tension into the story of The Eighth Sister.