Agents of Innocence is the book that established David Ignatius's reputation as a master of the novel of contemporary espionage. Into the treacherous world of shifting alliances and arcane subterfuge comes idealistic CIA man Tom Rogers. Ordered to penetrate the PLO and recruit a high-level operative, he soon learns the heavy price of innocence in a time and place that has no use for it.
Ignatius, currently a Washington Post editor, covered the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal during the early 1980s. With this adept first novel, he demonstrates how well he paid attention to his beat. Basically, this is an account of CIA agent Tom Rogers's recruitment of Jamal Ramlawi, a high official of Al Fatah. But the story, revolving around the Beirut CIA station during the late '60s and early '70s, is also a highly realistic, comprehensive analysis of Middle Eastern politics. By concentrating on the CIA's actual mandate, gathering intelligence from many sources, rather than fanciful adventure, Ignatius carefully traces the interactions of Rogers and his fellow CIA agents with their contacts in Lebanon's Palestinian, Christian and Shiite quarters, and with Israel's Mossad, thereby illuminating the complex process in which secret intelligence is acquired. The plot covers the September '70 war between Jordan's King Hussein and Palestinian guerillas; the gradual dissolution of the Lebanese government and the country's descent into turmoil; development of the Black September organization and its role in the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics; and the loss of American prestige in Arab capitals. Thrilling and plausible, the novel has the grit of real life combined with a facile narrative style; and its implications are ominous.