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Showing posts by: Olen Steinhauer click to see Olen Steinhauer's profile
Oct 29 2015 12:00pm

The Many Masks of Actors and Spies: Pulling into Berlin Station

For the past year I’ve been wrapped up in a project that, to be honest, has taken a lot more of my time than I suspected it would. It’s a TV show, Berlin Station, that I’ve been creating and writing with the help of a small staff of writers in a room in New York City. By the time you read this, I will have moved with my family to Berlin to go through the rigors of preproduction and shooting, and by Fall of 2016 you should be able to see the results in your very home.

Creating a show is the inverse of novel-writing, which I’ve done for more than a decade now. The collaborative nature, the huge variety of tastes that have to be satisfied, and the way a lot of the brainstorming has to be done outside the house has forced me out of my little creative bubble. Which is both exhilarating and unnerving.                                           

Along the way I’ve had the chance to speak with some talented actors about the project. When you say you’re making a spy show, it’s people leap to assumptions: one explosion per episode, a dashing protagonist who saves the world once a week, and an unbelievably young, attractive cast. That’s not the kind of show Berlin Station is, and so when I speak with actors I find myself having to explain what the show actually is.

[Are you ready?]

Mar 4 2015 4:00pm

All the Old Knives: New Audio Excerpt

Olen Steinhauer

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer is an espionage thriller about an ex-couple from the CIA who can't get over their failed hostage-handling from six years ago (available March 10, 2015).

Six years ago in Vienna, terrorists took over a hundred hostages, and the rescue attempt went terribly wrong. The CIA's Vienna station was witness to this tragedy, gathering intel from its sources during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground and from an agent on the inside. So when it all went wrong, the question had to be asked: Had their agent been compromised, and how?

Two of the CIA's case officers in Vienna, Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison, were lovers at the time, and on the night of the hostage crisis Celia decided she'd had enough. She left the agency, married and had children, and is now living an ordinary life in the idyllic town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Henry is still a case officer in Vienna, and has traveled to California to see her one more time, to relive the past, maybe, or to put it behind him once and for all.

But neither of them can forget that long-ago question: Had their agent been compromised? If so, how? Each also wonders what role tonight's dinner companion might have played in the way the tragedy unfolded six years ago.

[Click here to start All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer...]

Mar 15 2012 12:00pm

Too English? Espionage Authors Discuss Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Author Olen Steinhauer (left) talks with author Charles Cumming (right) about one of our favorite subjects here at Crime HQ...spies, spy novels, and spy movies. In particular, John Le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy!

If you haven’t seen the film or read the novel, there may be spoilers ahead—be warned!

CC: Why do you think Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy fared better in the UK and Europe than it did at the US box office?

OS: I think that can be explained largely by the fact that Smiley doesn’t say his first word until the 17-minute mark; Tinker, Tailor is a quiet film, unlike the thriller fare regularly served up in our cinemas. It is, by American standards, an art film; I mean, all those gorgeous, static shots, those scenes where nothing is said, those jump-cuts requiring viewers to fill in the blanks in order to play catch up along with Smiley… It’s not mainstream in any sense of the word.

[Spying on the world is a quiet business...]

Feb 27 2012 12:00pm

An American Spy: New Excerpt

Olen Steinhauer

An American Spy by Olen SteinhauerWith only a handful of “tourists”—-CIA-trained assassins—-left, Milo Weaver would like to move on and use this as an opportunity to regain a normal life, a life focused on his family. His former boss in the CIA, Alan Drummond, can’t let it go. When Alan uses one of Milo’s compromised aliases to travel to London and then disappears, calling all kinds of attention to his actions, Milo can’t help but go in search of him.

Worse still, it’s beginning to look as if Tourism’s enemies are gearing up for a final, fatal blow.


Tuesday, April 22 to Thursday, April 24, 2008

There had been signs, and it was more a measure of luck than intelligence savvy that Erika Schwartz was able to put them together in time. For instance, the military counterintelligence office, MAD, could easily have left her off the distribution list for their April 17 report on EU-related anomalies—a list they only added her to because they were preparing to ask for the use of an Iranian source in return. When the report came, it would have been easy to miss number 53, an item from Budapest. In fact, she did miss number 53, and her assistant, Oskar Leintz, had to draw her attention to it. He came into her new, large-windowed office on the second floor of the Pullach headquarters of the BND, the German Republic’s foreign intelligence agency, slapping the report against his palm. “You saw the bit from Budapest?”

She’d been sitting, uncharacteristically, with a salad on her desk, staring out the window where, just over the trees, she could see distant storm clouds. Since her promotion two weeks earlier, she still hadn’t gotten used to having a view; her previous office had been on the ground floor. She hadn’t gotten used to having resources, nor to the look on people’s faces when they walked into her office and shuddered, having forgotten that this obese, ill-humored woman now sat at Teddy Wartmüller’s desk. As for poor Teddy, he was in prison. “Of course I saw the bit from Budapest,” she said. “Which bit?”

“You haven’t touched that salad.”

“Which bit from Budapest, Oskar?”

“Henry Gray.”

Of course, she’d seen number 53, but she hadn’t connected the name because she’d only seen it once before, months ago, on another report from the same source, a journalist named Johann Thüringer. Now, with Oskar’s prodding, it returned to her. She opened her copy of the MAD report.

53. JT in Budapest: On the night of 15 April, Henry Gray (American journalist—see ZNBw reports 8/2007 & 12/2007) disappeared. His romantic partner, Zsuzsa Papp (Hungarian), insists he was kidnapped. Her suspicion: either the USA or China. When pressed, though, she refuses to go into details.

“Gray is connected to Milo Weaver,” Oskar helpfully reminded her, now stroking his thin mustache.

“Tangentially,” she said, then noticed that she’d gotten some Caesar dressing on the report. She remembered Thüringer’s observations from 8/2007 and 12/2007. In August, he reported that Mr. Gray had been thrown off the terrace of his Budapest apartment and was in a coma. The December report noted that Gray had woken in the hospital and eventually disappeared on his own. Soon afterward, an AP stringer named Milo Weaver had arrived asking questions about him. Gray had so far eluded the man . . . until now, at least.

[Read—and listen to—the complete excerpt of chapters 1-3 of An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer]