I  first became smitten with the Middle East at age 16 while reading National Geographic magazines and being enticed by the exotic landscapes, the culture, and the crazy shapes of the Arabic language that I decided I had to learn. I studied a lot about the Middle East, and Russia, when I was in university. I always expected to become an academic, but my draft board deemed otherwise; I was drafted and sent into intelligence work. I had an extraordinary chance to learn about the Middle East first hand while serving as a CIA operations officer all over–Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Hong Kong for two decades. It was an education in itself, and a chance to travel and learn a lot of languages, which I loved. 

I then “came in from the cold” and was appointed a top analyst at CIA for global forecasting. After 25 years with the US government I felt it was time to leave; I joined a major West Coast think tank (RAND)in California (no, nothing to do with Ayn Rand) where I was a senior political scientist. In 2004 I moved to Canada and, among other things, am now an adjunct professor of history at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. I never lost my interest in Islam, the Middle East and Asia and ended up writing many books on the subject –on Islamic fundamentalism, Shi’ite Islam, and Arab, Turkish, Kurdish and Persian politics. By now they amount to nearly a dozen books; my more recent ones include the well-received “The Future of Political Islam,” and later the provocative “A World Without Islam.” 

My last book was a personal memoir, “Three Truths and a Lie.” It’s a painfully personal book about our Korean son, adopted at age one who sadly died of crack cocaine at age 21. Although it’s a sad tale, many people have commented that they find it uplifting as well, which is personally very gratifying. I’m about to publish a new book, “Turkey and the Arab Spring” in April 2014 And I’m at work on a novel–yes, you guessed it– about the Middle East. 

I currently live in a small town in the Vancouver BC area; when I can break away from my desk I like to spend time on community issues dealing with with bears, eagles, and salmon. And mountain biking is good for the soul.