Two men: One discovers the cost of keeping secrets, of building a career within a government agency where secrets are the operational basis. Noel Leonard works for the Defense Intelligence Agency, mapping coordinates for military actions halfway around the world. One morning he learns that an error in his office is responsible for the bombing of a school in Pakistan. And he knows suddenly that he is as alone as he is wrong. From his windowless office in DC to an intelligence conference in Switzerland, and back to his daughter's college in Virginia, Noel claws his way toward a more personally honest life in which he can tell his family everything every day.
Another man learns that family secrets have kept him from who he is and from the ineluctable ways he is attached to a world he has always disdained. This unnamed narrator, a cartographer, is the son of a career diplomat whose activities in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and then in Europe during the Cold War may not have been what they were said to be. He, too, travels to Switzerland, but his quest is not to release himself from secrecy--it is to learn how deep the secrets in his own life go.
With a voice like John le Carr?'s and the international sensibility of Graham Greene, Frederick Reuss examines the unavoidably covert nature of lives that make their circles through Washington, DC. A Geography of Secrets is a novel of the time from an acclaimed author who knows the lay of the land.
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August 31, 2010
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Excerpt from A Geography of Secrets by Frederick Reuss
"Don't you think that's a little dangerous?" He set another ball on the tee without so much as a glance in my direction.
"Hey!" I called.
He relaxed his grip and turned to me with an expression of forced calm. He was well over six feet tall, with bunched athletic shoulders and a neatly trimmed goatee. His hair was cropped short, and he wore a red Washington Nationals baseball cap. My heart was thumping. "There's a busy road down there. You could cause an accident."
"You know what this is?" He held the club up, pointed to its absurdly outsized metal head. "Big Bertha. Titanium cup face, carbon composite body. Named after a forty-three-ton mobile howitzer. I can drive a ball three hundred yards with this sucker. Wanna try?" I shook my head.
"Go ahead," he urged, as if my anger was priggish and unjustified. "The gun was named for Adolph Krupp's wife. It was fired for the first time on August 12, 1914, outside Liege. Took sixty seconds for the shell to travel the distance. Over nine miles. Then, boom! Fuckin' World War I." It was dark now except for the glow of traffic below and a single streetlight farther up the road. "The canal down there is a national park. I'm sure there's a law against littering it with golf balls." "Who are you? The neighborhood watch?" He shook his head and yanked the tee out of the ground. Muttering, he stalked off.
I remained for a while, feeling as if I'd somehow earned rights to the spot. An airplane descended overhead, following the Potomac down to the airport. Across the river and through the trees, I could see traffic moving along the George Washington Parkway. Like many who call D.C. home, I am not from here but of here. I am not from anywhere, really, and yet I call this city home. It's a strange triangulation of geography, psychology, and fate and makes for great confusion, a confusion that calls for--no, demands--a map. Or many maps since, in cartography, a true one-to-one correspondence is impossible. The moment we begin to apply scale, we distort and alter our relationship to the world. Finally, I got into the car and drove home, listening on the radio as NPR reported on a missile strike against a Taliban guerrilla leader in Helmand Province.