Friday, November 23, 2012

I Spy

by G.M. Malliet

As I write this blog, we are into the second week of the General Petraeus situation.

Where I live, this story—or non-story, depending on your point of view—has taken on a life of its own. I live close enough to the White House that with a carefully-aimed rock, I probably could break a window in the West Wing.* I’ve been aware for some time that our physical location makes us obsess over things that the rest of the world, particularly the French, would completely ignore.

No one in D.C. can talk about anything but who knew what when, what it all means for national security, and how soon the trend of men sending shirtless photos of themselves via email is going to end. Much of my family’s Thanksgiving Day conversation was taken up not with thoughts of gratitude but with speculation about Petraeus’ entanglement. Was it no more than the usual and expected human folly (nephew Matthew), a sign of the moral rot that set into this dag-nabbed country when Roosevelt left office (great-uncle Reggie), or a total frame-up job by an unnamed foreign power (neice Betsy). Betsy’s theory was, I thought, highly original. Hey, I’m supposed to be the mystery writer, the thinker-upper of bizarre plots. Here was the Mata Hari story of the century and I completely missed it.

I thought it might be time to conduct a little poll to see how closely people outside the D.C. beltway have been paying attention as the revelations pile up. (As one online commenter noted, “I am running out of popcorn.”) Please circle your answers below using a number two pencil. There are no wrong answers, only wrong people, or whatever it was my civics teacher used to say:

1.      I have now learned all I care to know about General Petraeus, including how to spell Petraeus.
2.      I don’t understand how Robert Barnett, the big-name, $900-per-hour D.C. lawyer and literary agent, can help Petraeus or anyone “navigate their return to private life” without using up that person’s entire pension fund. I think I can help you return to private life for a lot less money than Bob would charge. For example, you could simply change your voicemail message and leave your key with the receptionist. Oh, and you might want to think about opening a new personal email account.
3.      I want to become an "honorary ambassador" like Jill Kelley and get diplomatic plates for my car. Do I have to move to Tampa or can I do that from here?
4.      One of the more fascinating things we’ve learned in recent days is how many perks go with being a general. I think everyone should have their own motorcade of twenty-eight motorcycles to escort them to parties. That would probably be way better than being driven by a psychotic D.C. cabdriver with a suspended license who speeds through red lights, narrowly missing pedestrians, which is how I currently get to parties.
5.      I think belly fat like Mata Hari’s should come back into style, and soon. Thanksgiving was all that.

This poll is by no means complete. By the time this blog goes to print, the press will have come up with many more astonishing revelations than I could ever imagine. Writing fiction is so much easier.

Happy Post-Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope your team won.

*If anyone from the FBI is reading this blog, please be aware that this comment was A JOKE. I have no intention of throwing anything, anywhere. Please do not search my email because the problem, you see, is that I am a crime writer and you simply would not believe what you can find in my Gmail account. There are earnest discussions about administering and detecting poisons, and Dexter-like analyses of blood spatter patterns, and speculation about how short you would have to be to easily be folded inside a steamer trunk. I am inured to this now but I can see how anyone idly trolling through my online research folder might be alarmed. An editor who recently was researching the premise of a short story I’d written said, “My internet history might now look a little scary to anyone searching my computer.” I hear you. One thing that spurred me on to become a published author was the thought that I really needed to justify some of the creepy stuff saved in my browser history, not to mention some of my tax-deductible expenses.**

**If anyone from the IRS is reading this blog, let me just ask you when is the last time you traveled to St. Louis for a writers’ conference? Because that is one very expensive city, let me tell you. The $75 filet was just the tip of the iceberg. I left off of my return a ton of expenses I thought you might find questionable, like the camel rental. Don’t ask.

G.M. Malliet is the author of the DCI St. Just mysteries, from Midnight Ink, and the Father Max Tudor mysteries, from Minotaur/Thomas Dunne. Please visit her at her website:, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

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