CIA Officer Logan Alexander is assigned to Los Alamos National Laboratory on rotation, to tackle the counterintelligence threats plaguing the lab. While there, Logan uncovers a plot by the North Korean Intelligence Service to penetrate the lab with operatives who, on the surface, appear to be upstanding citizens, but in reality are plotting a sinister attack against the U.S.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I spent thirty years working at the Central Intelligence Agency, defending America against threats, domestic and foreign. North Korea, although a small country and for the most part, inconsequential on the world stage, has nuclear weapons and advanced ballistic missiles in their arsenal. Given the instability of North Korea's leadership, they pose a grave threat to our national security and that of the world.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Logan Alexander, the protagonist in this and four earlier novels in the Logan Alexander series, is an amalgamation of many of the people I worked with at the CIA – smart, savvy, physically and emotionally strong, worldly and patriotic.
Lee Chul-Moo stood before the U.S. immigration officer at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, doing his best to appear relaxed. Canada was one of only six countries globally withU.S. pre-clearance operations at entry points outside the United States. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) established these offices at strategic international gateways to prevent terrorists and others viewed as a security risk from reaching U.S. soil. Lee certainly didn’t consider himself a terrorist, but only time would tell if he might be considered a security risk. He was on his way to New Mexico, where he was about to begin a new job at Los Alamos National Laboratory.It was December, and a blizzard was dumping snow across the region. Despite the brisk temperature in the terminal,he could feel the sweat dripping from his armpits.Outwardly, there was no indication of the inner turmoil he felt as he stood before the immigration officer. Flight departures and arrivals blared from the loud speaker with such regularity that he was having trouble concentrating. And concentration at this moment was vital to everything.“Name?” Was it his imagination, or did the CBP officialfill the small booth that served as his office? He was mammoth-sized, and his stern look made Lee wonder if he should turn back and try his luck in another line. But it was too late now. The man was motioning to him to come closer.He swallowed hard and found his voice.“Jason Lee.” He spoke the name with confidence. It rolled off his tongue, giving no clue to the CBP officer that it was not entirely true. On the surface, Jason’s mouth, however,felt like sandpaper and his stomach like a monkey fist. Jason Lee was, in fact, his legal name, and his passport was 100 percent legitimate. But Lee Chul-Moo was what his father’s
family, living in Pyongyang, North Korea, called him.Chul-Moo didn’t appear on any official Canadian documentation– birth certificate, passport, school records, driver’s license. These all bore the name Jason Lee.“What’s the purpose of your trip?”“I’m starting a new job in New Mexico.”“Whereabouts?” The officer covered a yawn with his large, hairy hand before flipping through the Canadian passport.“Los Alamos,” Jason said.“Is this your first visit to the United States?” “I’ve never been there before. I just completed a Ph.D.program at the University of Toronto. I’ve been too busy at school and work to travel.” “Where were you working?” The officer looked up from the passport and scrutinized the Asian man standing before him. Late twenties, thin, unusually tall for an Asian,possibly six feet. He wore his hair cropped short in a crewcut and sported black-framed, tinted eyeglasses concealing what most certainly were dark brown eyes.“I had a part-time job at the Munk School at the university.It’s a center for the study of Korea at the Asia Institute.” “Was Korean studies your major?” “No. My degree’s in physics. Korean studies is just a hobby. They had me reviewing Korean language documents and scanning scientific journals published in Korea.”The immigration officer nodded as he continued to scrutinize the passport. “Just a moment, Mr. Lee. I need to make a call.” He picked up the phone and spoke briefly to someone on the other end.“Okay.” He put the phone down and handed the passport back to Lee. “Go with Officer Starkey,” he said, pointing to an approaching CBP official. “He has a few additional questions for you, and then you’ll be on your way.” The officer dismissed him with a wave before he could reply, calling the next person to come forward. Jason turned to go, but then spun around. “Is there anything wrong?” His voice remained steady, but the sour
taste of bile rising to the back of his throat nearly gagged him. He passed it off with a slight cough. It never occurred to him that Immigration would question his story. Years of preparation had prepared him for this very moment. Yet he was about to be turned away because this sleep-deprived bureaucrat didn’t like how he looked.“No. We just need some additional information.” The man was speaking to him. Lee stepped back as he sensed someone at his side. It was the other immigration officer. It looked like he was going into secondary for questioning. Officer Starkey took his passport and led him to a small interview room nearby.“Have a seat.” Starkey scanned the passport and did a name search on the computer. He printed a page, retrieved it from the printer, and then took his seat in front of Lee. After perusing the paper for a moment, eyes darting back and forth, he looked up.“Your mother’s name?” he asked.“Lee Ha-Yoon.”“Father?”“I don’t know.” It always pained him to admit he was technically a bastard. “My mother immigrated to Canada in the 1980s from South Korea. She was single, working as a medical doctor here in Toronto. From what she told me, I know she met someone in her thirties. It was a brief affair. She got pregnant, and he didn’t hang around. She never saw him again. She pretty much raised me by herself.”The facts were more complicated. Lee’s father, Roe Min-Woo, grew up in South Korea. He and Ha-Yoon dated in college, but after medical school, she wanted to practice in Canada, and he wanted to remain in Korea. They stayed in touch and then reunited briefly, a year later, after his father traveled to Canada as a trade delegate. That’s when she became pregnant.Unbeknownst to his mother, Lee’s father had long harbored fantasies about returning to North Korea, hoping to reunite with his family. They couldn’t leave their home in Yanggang when the Korean Armistice Agreement was adopted three years after the Korean War ended. This same agreement established the Korean Demilitarized Zone along the 38th parallel.His parents and two brothers eventually relocated to Pyongyang, but they could not leave North Korea. On July10,1995, a couple of years after his fateful trip to Canada,Roe defected to the North, where he had resided for the past twenty-five years. At some point, the North Korean Intelligence Service (NKIS) recruited him to work undercover as a trade official, and he now traveled the world in that capacity.“That must have been hard for your mother, being a singleparent working in a demanding profession like medicine.”Starkey looked at Lee for affirmation.“We lived in Seaton Village here in Toronto. There’s a big Korean population, so she had tons of support. My mom felt strongly about maintaining Korean cultural traditions, so I had to attend Korean language classes and go to a Korean church. It was a good life.” That last bit was a lie. Even though he lived in Koreatown, he could never overcome the feeling that he was a second-class citizen inCanada. From the time he was old enough to understand that he was different, it seemed that overt racism permeated every facet of his life, especially whenever he stepped out of Koreatown’s bubble.“Did you ever run into any North Koreans when you were growing up?”“North Koreans?” Lee wondered where this was going.Surely, they didn’t know about his trip to North Korea in 2011. He and his father had connected for the first time in 2010 and agreed to meet in Europe just before he started college.They met in Paris, and although it was initially uncomfortable for him, they bonded in a way Lee had hoped for but never expected. Somehow, using his intelligence connections,his father orchestrated a trip to Pyongyang, where they remained for two weeks. That’s when he met some ofhis father’s friends working for the NKIS.
“No, I didn’t even realize North Koreans were living inCanada. Are there many here?”“About twenty-five thousand. Most are defectors. Our Canadian friends keep an eye on them for us, but they don’t give us any trouble. Well, I think that’s all I need, Mr.Lee. Have a nice trip.” Starkey stamped Lee’s passport and handed it back to him, then escorted him to a passage way that led out to the main concourse.Lee pocketed the passport and walked through a door into the main departure area. He was still thinking about CBP’s decision to pull him into secondary. He couldn’t think of anything he’d said or done to raise suspicions. There was no record connecting him to North Korea, which was the one red flag the CPB officer had raised. Was it the same old thing, then? White racism against Asians? He hadn’t felt that vibe from either of the men. They were professional in the interview. He shrugged his shoulders and dismissed it. Checking the departures display, he saw that his Air Canada flight was on time. He was on his way.
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