Terrorists killed his parents. Now Sami Lakhani works in the dark corners of intelligence to kill the terrorists, but he’s not your average spy. Sami is gay. And Muslim-American. His job and his identity keep him bouncing between a sense of patriotism and the shame of feeling part of a dangerous machine.
Life in the shadows is still better than reckoning with family and the secrets Sami does not want to confront, until he is assigned to stop a terrorist attack which forces him back into the orbit of one person he knows he cannot trust, his own grandfather.
Sami’s dream team of outcasts from the buzzcut world of intelligence uncover links no one wants exposed, including the White House. Before they can stop the plot designed to strike at America’s cultural flashpoints, they are ordered to shut down their investigation.
Sami’s sense of duty and pride in his identity finally coalesce in one mission, but to save lives he will have to defy his orders, confront his grandfather, and take on nefarious elements of the government that he serves.
Author J. A. Walsh took some time out of his day to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss the first installment in his Sami Lakhani thriller series, PURPOSE OF EVASION:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
The world did not need another James Bond, John Wells, Jack Reacher, or Gabriel Allon. Those heroes are great, and I tried to do something completely different by starting with the question: what happens to a contemporary spy thriller when the hero is a Muslim-American? Sami Lakhani is my answer.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
The book’s major action takes place in the DC suburbs. Spy thriller readers are used to being whisked around the world from chapter to chapter, but in intelligence school we were taught that DC’s streets are ground zero for global espionage. There are more spies in Washington, DC than any other city in the world.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
Sami is a new kind of spy hero, whose experiences are drawn from my own service in counter-terrorism, and inspired by some of the great writers and heroes of the spy and political thriller genres, including Alex Berenson’s John Wells, and Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon, as well as the novels of Stephen L. Carter, Michael Crichton and John Grisham.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
The professionals who do America’s spying don’t all look like the heroes in many spy books. Even as America’s foreign policy has grown more unilateral, many of the people protecting American interests are people with global cultural, language and family ties. This book has a familiar style and plot, but turns spy thrillers on their ear by asking what happens when an LGBT Muslim-American is the hero protecting American values against WASPs?
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
I served in intelligence and counter-terrorism from 2001-2006, and even then I would read spy thrillers. I love how the genre’s best writers can tell an entertaining story while mixing in history, current events and politics.
J. A. Walsh worked in intelligence and counter-terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, before embarking on a career advising the U.S. military on energy security strategies. He has degrees in Russian, English literature, and Environmental Law. He lives in North Carolina with his family.
To learn more about J. A. Walsh, please visit his website.