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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Former CIA Operations Author, Duane De Mello, Shares his Work

I am a writer, educator and former Central Intelligence Agency senior operations officer.  I was born and raised in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area.  After earning a master’s degree at Stanford University, I taught high school history and biology in Cupertino, California.  Following two tours of duty in Vietnam as a U.S. Army military intelligence adviser, I stayed on in Asia for two decades working as a businessman in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.  I subsequently joined the CIA and continued working overseas, primarily in the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.  I currently live with my wife outside Washington, DC, in southern Maryland, where I write spy thriller novels.

I write fiction novels in the spy genre due to my experiences as an intelligence officer and extensive travels living and working in various environments around the world.  It is a genre I feel most comfortable in, believing that I have stories of interest to tell. 

My most recent spy thriller novel, Under the Cover of Darkness (ISBN-13: 978-1462045853) was published in August 2011.  It is a sequel to The Wave of the Future (ISBN-13: 978-1439260098), published in January 2010.  Both novels deal with espionage, counter terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism and assassinations.  Both are also available as eBooks.

Under the Cover of Darkness picks up following the killing of Osama Bin Laden, with President Barack Obama ordering the targeted assassinations of key foreign heads of state that represent threats to American freedom and safety.  The protagonist leads a team of dedicated intelligence and military professionals who track down these supporters of terrorists bent on destroying the U.S.    

The Wave of the Future involves a group of radical Islamic terrorists who target a nuclear waste processing facility in northwestern England and an international airport outside Washington, DC.  Led by the antagonist, a terrorist mastermind Pakistani physician, he faces off against the protagonist, a deep cover CIA operations officer who is severely challenged by terrorist successes and his own commitment to the Agency and his oath of loyalty, dedication and secrecy.     

The first book I wrote, The McCarthy Era: 1950-1954 – Was American Society Threatened (ASIN: B000HLULLA), was a non-fiction title on the American political scene, and published in 1968.  With the cold war raging, cases of espionage and charges of Communist influence on U.S. policies resulted in the emergence of Senator Joe McCarthy.  He occupied center stage in the controversy over civil liberties, independent thought and personal freedom. is my website, and contains further details on my three books to date.  These books are available at,, and through your local bookseller.

In the use of locales and characters in my books, the locales are real and the descriptions are accurate as based upon my having been to them.  It is a rarity for me to select a place that I have not been to or experienced.  The characters are primarily composites of actual people I have known, worked with, been targeted against and further embellished to the degree that satisfies me.  As a result of my extensive travels, I have been exposed to a number of real characters and I am not at a loss to select them out as characters for use in my books.  With that kind of choices subsequently available, I have been able to come up with some character descriptions that range from wonderful people I have met over the years, to those of a lesser number I have found to be quite despicable and annoying to be around.  Recalling all of them and writing them up for use as characters is one of the more enjoyable aspects of my craft.

For protagonists and antagonists, I turn to making them composites who personalities and descriptions range from idealized figures I have met, worked with and respected, to some of the lesser types that I have encountered.  I even include some of myself in characters, roles played and events that have taken place.

The favorite thing I have found is not as much as the book itself, but rather the process of what goes into writing it.  Being able to sit down, think and proceed to write something is the enjoyment I get out of trying to develop my craft.  Being that I am retired from what was my real job, that gives me as much time as I wish to spend on enjoying what I like to do.  Sure, I have things to do around the home, errands to run and a few appointments to keep.  But, by trying to keep them to a minimum, I am able to find the hours each day that satisfies me.

I have been able to develop my writing schedule along lines of six to seven days a week, four hours at a time, primarily during the morning hours.  The environment I live in is conducive as well.  With a home along the Potomac River, a boat and pier included, this makes for a relaxing and unhurried locale in which to enjoy oneself.

I started writing while in college.  Taking several journalism courses and working on the school paper -- first as a sports editor and then rising to city editor with my own weekly column, served as my introduction.  For better or for worse though, the AP Stylebook and the Five Ws (and one H) have come to cast my writing style as hard as I have tried to modify it.  Unfortunately, I came to lack a more solid grounding in the basic writing of English, grammar, sentence structure and punctuation included.

The problem was one of expediency – throughout my college years I was married and had a wife and two children to support.  Getting through course work and working at outside jobs as time would permit, did not provide the luxury of being able to immerse myself into the subject matter that interested me most.

At the end of graduate school though, a break came when a professor who mentored me arranged with a New York publishing house for me to sign a contract to write the Senator Joe McCarthy book.  The hard part was agreeing to write an objective, non-partisan accounting of the Senator, and avoid taking a stand for or against him.  Ten years later, 45,000 copies of the book ended up being sold.  For a novice trying to learn a craft, it did help put some food on the table for my wife, son and daughter.

Currently, I am researching and working on an outline for the third spy thriller follow-on to Under the Cover of Darkness and The Wave of the Future.  I also plan on resurrecting interview notes and an outline for a historical novel from World War II that takes place in Macau.  While living in Hong Kong during the 1970s, I spent considerable time in Macau and was able to interview numerous people who lived through the war years there.

I do not believe my progression over the years, in terms of writing, lends itself into representing much in the way of a successful writing career.  Therefore, I do not have much to offer in the way of advice to those seeking to write and publish.  It is obvious though, what I lacked in the way of a solid grounding in the craft of writing is just what is needed for anyone hoping to write and be taken as a serious writer. 

The “Made It” moments for me have never changed -- one marriage partner of many years, and two wonderful children the result.      

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