The objective of writing Life of a Double Agent was to write a book about fictional characters doing fictional things in a way that feels like it is about real people doing real things.
The way I tried to accomplish this was by placing the fictional characters in real environments with plenty of details about their environments. This included places like Hong Kong, Davao City in the Philippines, and Krasnoyarsk, Russia as a few examples. The other part of their real environment was the real organizations, like the CIA and China’s Ministry of State Security, and even Dow Chemical. Those real organizations combined with some fictitious organizations, like the Renewable Power Company, hopefully combined to create the feeling of reality.
The other technique used was to sprinkle in a few historical events to add to the feeling of reality.
The challenge to the author is to mix the real places and events and organizations with the fictitious people and fictional events and activities in a way that it is impossible to tell what is fact and what is fiction.
The other part of the realistic tone of Life of a Double Agent involves the author’s life experiences. I was in the army in Vietnam. I worked for Dow Chemical. I lived in Los Angeles and Hong Kong and San Diego. I was a volunteer for the Peace Corps in Russia. The lead character, Jim Hunt, had similar life experiences. There is a definite parallel between some of my life experiences and some of Jim Hunt’s life experiences. By creating Jim Hunt to parallel many of my life experiences, it is difficult for the reader to decide if Jim Hunt’s activities with the CIA and China’s MSS are also similar to the author’s experiences or completely fiction. I will leave it to the reader to decide where to draw the lines between fiction and reality.