[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Spy Dance

by Allan Topol

Ex-CIA agent Greg Nielsen thought he had escaped his shadowy past. He was wrong. Someone has found him-and is blackmailing him to enter the dangerous game of international espionage once again. But there's one very deadly difference: this time, the target is his own country.

Spy Dance Review: Carnegie Mellon Magazine, Summer 2002
Spy Dance Review: Hadassah Magazine, May 2001
Spy Dance Review: San Francisco Chronicle, November 2001
Spy Dance Review: Newt Gingrich, 2002
Spy Dance Review: Montgomery County, Maryland Gazette, November 2001
Spy Dance Review: Washington Jewish Week, November 2001
Spy Dance Review: The Jewish Chronicle December 2001
Spy Dance Review: Legal Times December 2001

Carnegie Mellon Magazine Volume 20 Number 4, Summer 2002

-by Ann Curran

"Spy Dance" by Allan Topol (S'62) Penguin Putnam 2001 This is an intriguing book that you will have a real tough time setting down. Full of high-tech spy equipment and characters leaping from the U.S. to France, to England, Israel, and back, the book focuses on renegade CIA agent Greg Nielsen, AKA David Ben Aaron and a few other aliases. He is clearly better than James Bond in escaping bullets, traps, counter-traps, etc. His Israeli girlfriend outstrips even his abilities. So how does a Tech chemistry major come up with such a thriller? He got himself a Yale law degree and ended up in international environmental law. He obviously knows all about corruption and influence peddling in high and low places. It's a smooth and exciting ride. You'll want to see these characters take on another problem or two. Yep, I was sorry the story stopped. One drawback: Americans in their newfound suspicion of any number of things won't find any reason to soothe their nervousness. Except: The good guy wins, and you almost know he will.


Spy Dance by Allan Topol

Chevy Chase author Topol tells the story of ex-CIA agent Greg Nielsen, who, to avoid trial for a crime he didn't commit, poses as a Russian émigré in Israel named David Ben Aaron. After having plastic surgery and burrowing deep into his adopted country, he thinks he's safe-until, years later, he receives a phone call from someone identifying him as Nielsen.

From there, the story takes off at warp speed. In true spy-novel fashion, everything and everyone David cares about is put at risk. He plummets, of course, in a downward spiral into the proverbial web of deceit, wherein he meets and either kills or saves many people. One of the latter is a sexy Mossad agent named Sagit. The two complain that the isolating nature of espionage makes personal relationships impossible. They long for "normal lives" and blame their failed romances on the thrill of the spy life. Says Sagit, "Sadly, it's the old spy dance. You go round and round in circles, sometimes you change partners, but the music never stops."

Besides a few Washington references-a murder on Rock Creek Parkway, dinner at the Cosmos Club-most of the novel alternates between the Middle East and France. Although extensive descriptions of each locale show that Topol has done his homework, some scenes could have taken place anywhere, with specific locations marginally relevant.

As predictable as it is, Spy Dance has the potential for mass appeal because of its readable pairing of romance with action and politics. It's a guilty pleasure, best read on a plane-you can finish it in about two cross-country flights. Then wait for the multimillion-dollar movie the author clearly hopes will follow.

-Beth Whitaker

Copyright ©2002 by Washington Magazine Inc.

Hadassah Magazine, May 2001

Spy Dance by Allan Topol

David Ben Aaron is a new immigrant who has helped transform his northern Israeli kibbutz from the fading age of agriculture to the brave new world of high-tech computer systems. He has a stepdaughter from a tragically ended marriage and a new life in his adopted homeland.

He also has a secret, as his fellow kibbutzniks quickly learn when authorities begin asking questions about his dental records, stolen from a Haifa office by a burglar who later turns up dead. Questioned and released by the Mossad, Ben Aaron tries to stay one step ahead of the investigators, who suspect he is not the Russian émigré he claimed to be on his immigration papers.

In superbly suspenseful fashion, first-time novelist Allan Topol, an international environmental lawyer, weaves an intriguing tale through the lattice of actual events, the 1995 bombing of an American military barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, central among them.

Although some of the twists are predictable, and Ben Aaron's true identify is known to the reader early on, the deadly scheme in which he has been intertwined is as enveloping as it is frightening. With Mossad agent Sagit Bat Yehoshua as his only ally, Ben Aaron finds himself an unwitting pawn in a greedy plot to overthrow a major Arab government for financial gain. Initially motivated only to maintain his adopted identity, Ben Aaron is later lured by the prospect of revenge against the terrorist who murdered his wife in a Jerusalem bus bombing.

Topol has done his homework, exhaustively painting the scenes of the action, which spans from Israel to London, Geneva, Paris, Saudi Arabia and other locales. As a senior operative who has gotten rusty in the ways of the cloak and dagger, and had a hand in blowing his self-imposed cover, Ben Aaron is a believable character. But Topol occasionally sacrifices some credibility by romanticizing him a la James Bond, with anachronistic powers of seduction over women, unfailing luck at the casino and an inability to lose a fistfight.

Spy Dance is a must-read for fans of espionage thrillers, and deserves a place on the bookshelf alongside the works of Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and even John LeCarre.

--Adam Dickter

San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday November 4, 2001 Chronicle Book Reviews, Mysteries & Thrillers

Mysteries and Thrillers

By David Lazarus

Spy Dance by Allan Topol opens with a haunting echo of recent events as a bomb explodes at a U.S. facility in the Middle East.

CIA station chief Greg Nielsen rushes to the scene.

"All around him he heard the words 'huge bomb in a truck.suicide bomber.just like Oklahoma City. Wait'll we find out who did it. We'll kill the bastards."

From this point on, though, verisimilitude is thrown out the window and "Spy Dance" settles comfortably into the comic-book world of lethal men and the full-figured women who love them.

Nielsen, following an altercation with a U.S. general, goes into hiding and eventually re-emerges with a new Israeli identity. Somehow his cover is blown, and Nielsen finds himself drawn into a conspiracy to overthrow the Saudi royal family with a military coup.

There are lots of players -- the CIA, the Mossad, a shadowy French corporation, Islamic terrorists -- but only Nielsen has the wherewithal to appreciate the full ramifications of the coup and take steps to intervene. He is assisted by a beautiful Mossad agent who can't quite decide whether to follow orders or fall head over heels for her hunky comrade.

Topol, making his literary debut, displays a knack for this sort of story but stumbles a bit with his handling of the book's assorted villains. The sadistic French tycoon, the bloodthirsty terrorist leader, the corrupt Saudi royals, the sneaky Washington power brokers -- it's hard to keep track of who exactly Nielsen is pitted against.

Not to worry. The world is made safe in the end. As if this outcome was ever in doubt.

Reviewer: Newt Gingrich (Amazon.Com)

This is a superb first novel about a military coup in Saudi Arabia, a French oil company run by a megalomaniac woman determined to use the coup to seize control of Saudi oil away from the Americans and then use it to raise the price of oil and therefore her company's profits, an American CIA agent on the run and hiding in an Israeli Kibbutz and the efforts of Mossad and the American agent to sort everything out.

The novel starts with the very persuasive premise that the American rejection of the threat to the Shah was a major factor in his being replaced by Khomeini. Topol asserts that Jimmy Carter's Washington analysts grossly underestimated how radical and how anti-American Khomeini was and therefore were far too willing to have the Shah fall. Topol's bias is clearly that modernizing military are far preferable to reactionary religious dictatorship as a solution to a corrupt and decaying regime.

Topol then paints a very depressing (and largely accurate) portrait of a corrupt Saudi monarchy which maintains power through repression and which is not dramatically better than the Taliban in its treatment of women in public rights and legal rights. No one who has been excusing the Saudis' behavior toward their own population and toward the United States and Israel will feel comfortable with this section of the book.

Topol postulates that the Saudi system hangs between a reactionary terrorist faction that is growing in strength as the public despairs of declining standards of living and rising repression and a military coup by American trained Saudis who are modernizers and democratizers and who loath both the current system of corruption and the reactionary religious terrorists.

This is both an enjoyable book and a useful book in suggesting new thoughts about a country that is important but may be on the edge of substantial change.

Watching a Saudi cleric smile and laugh as bin Laden reported gleefully on the killing of Americans and listening to that Saudi cleric reassure bin Laden that there were many supporters of anti-American terrorism in Saudi Arabia ("my mother's phone kept ringing all day with congratulations" was a direct quote from the Saudi visitor) is a useful prelude for reading this novel and thinking about its implications.

Montgomery County, Maryland Gazette, BookMarks, Wednesday November 28, 2001

'Spy Dance' proves it takes only one to tango

Local author succeeds with character-driven thriller

The hero of Allan Topol's new novel is about as compelling as they come. Dark and secretive, with an almost primitive sense for danger, Greg Neilsen is an ex-CIA agent on the lam, hiding on an Israeli kibbutz under an assumed identity. And although Neilsen does become attached to several characters in "Spy Dance" -- his wife Yael and stepdaughter Dafna, and later a beguiling and brilliant Mossad agent named Sagit -- he stands alone at the center of the action.

"Spy Dance" is a complicated web of plot and character. Neilsen worked with the CIA for years, stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect American oil interests. After part of the U.S. compound was bombed, Neilsen had to escape, and fled to Israel. For five years, he lived a quiet life there.

"I started with the premise that Saudi Arabian oil is a valuable prize," the Silver Spring author says. "And then I said to myself, 'Well, what if a ruthless female industrialist -- Madame Blanc, my villain -- wanted to find a way to get control of the oil... and one way was to hitch up with a military man in Saudi Arabia and overthrow the king?' "

That's where Neilsen comes in. Soon, he is again caught up in a world of high-powered oil moguls and foreign government agents.

"Neilsen wanted to serve his country, and he did, very valuably, in the Middle East," Topol says. "He saw a series of governmental misjudgments there... I put my hero in a confrontation with the CIA and the American military five years ago, and then I put him on the run, because he will have valuable information about Saudi Arabia, where he served. The information that he has is information that Madame Blanc will want, and as a result, she will try to him draw into the life he left."

However unwillingly, Neilsen is drawn in. "Spy Dance" is all about the thrill of the chase, strength in the face of fear and enmity, knowing whom you can and can't trust.

It's also a novel that at times speaks with a slightly eerie prescience about the shaky relationship between the American government and the oil-producing countries on which it relies so heavily. The book was completed long before the recent terrorist attacks, but passages like "... the religious fundamentalists, who hate the United States, are on the rise and becoming more violent" now seem uncomfortably obvious.

"Suddenly the book became extremely timely," Topol says. "I'm not smart or prophetic or even lucky, it was just inevitable."

Topol worked hard to write a smart, cohesive, passionate novel about a tangle of foreign affairs and industry. He's been a lawyer with the same Washington, D.C., firm since 1965, when he first moved to Montgomery County, but he has researched foreign policy extensively and traveled to Israel numerous times.

"You become swept up in the history and in how transitory world history is, that so many people had occupied this piece of ground and how it keeps changing," he says. "[But] with Saudi Arabia, that was just reading a lot of books... I'm not defensive in saying that I haven't been there -- you can't go just to be a tourist, you have to have religious or a business visa, so it was lots of reading."

It paid off, because Topol is an expert on a part of the world few people understand.

"We haven't been sensitive until right now, until Sept. 11, about what's happening in other parts of the world. We try to preserve the free flow of relatively inexpensive oil, but we don't pay attention politically and we haven't made the right decisions. That's the problem we've gotten ourselves into now."

A truly thoughtful and relevant spy novel -- that may teach its readers a good deal as it entertains -- is relatively uncommon, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Washington Jewish Week, 11/08/2001

Novel links ex-CIA agent, Israel Chevy Chase lawyer writes 'Spy Dance'

by Aaron Leibel, Arts Editor

A former CIA agent on the run has taken on a new identity and is living in Israel under the name of David Ben Aaron. He becomes involved with a sensuous female Mossad agent and in a scheme hatched in Paris by a ruthless female French industrialist to control Saudi Arabian oil.

That's the plot for Spy Dance (Onyx Books), Allan Topol's third novel of international intrigue. The Chevy Chase resident is proud of its fast-paced action and its real-life, interesting characters. But the book also has two important messages, the author says.

"One is that Saudi Arabian oil is very much at risk of falling into the hands of fundamentalists or some other power, and this could have a serious, adverse effect on the American economy," Topol says. "The other is that Israel is a firm American ally, and it is struggling against great odds to stay strong in a dangerous part of the world."

Topol, 60, who is a partner in the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling, heading its environmental practices group, says his novels owe much to his relationship with Israel.

He grew up in a typical Conservative Jewish home in Pittsburgh. In 1968, his wife, Barbara, convinced him to make his first visit to the Jewish state. It was a life-altering experience.

"It changed how I looked at Israel and Judaism," he says. On his return, Topol began studying Hebrew in a serious way so that he was able to read Israeli newspapers. He also credits the visit with the decision to send his children to study at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville.

In addition, he wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post about the Jewish state and another article for The New York Times after the death of David Ben-Gurion.

The influence of his Israel connection continued in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he published two novels dealing with international intrigue and the Jewish state, The Fourth of July War and A Woman of Valor.

For the next 20 years, his writing was limited to works connected to his law practice, including journal articles and a two-volume treatise, Superfund Law and Procedure.

He traces the origins of his latest novel to musings a few years ago about America's over reliance on Saudi oil and its failure to wean itself of that potentially catastrophic dependence.

And, of course, to his continuing attachment to Israel. The author has visited the Jewish state eight or 10 times during the past 33 years. Topol notes that several scenes in his novel take place in London and Paris, cities he also has gotten to know very well in the course of many visits.

He credits his wife -- a former head of the Washington-area chapter of Hadassah and of the American Israel Cultural Foundation -- and his agent, Henry Morrison (who was Robert Ludlum's agent for all his novels) with being of invaluable help with Spy Dance. "Writing is a lonely profession," he says. "A novelist needs people to read redrafts and provide helpful criticism, as well as encouragement."

The Sept. 11 bombings -- which, in addition to the horrible loss of life, have had such a detrimental effect on so much America commerce -- ironically may have provided a boost for his book. Bookstore orders for his novel, which was released this month, have increased recently, and "the publisher believes it [the subject of his book] has become topical since Sept. 11," Topol says.

Topol is optimistic about the chances for commercial success for Spy Dance, but doesn't want to give up his day job. "Being a lawyer gets you into the real world dealing with people," he says, "and I need that."

[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
"I think the
sales have
been so brisk
because, like
lots of things
in life, the
timing was good."
--Allan Topol
Pittsburgh Native Writes Thriller
Executive Editor
The Jewish Chronicle
December 20, 2001

As Allan Topol practiced law in Washington, D.C., he developed a second career as well: novelist.

The Pittsburgh native managed to get two books published with William Morrow & Co. Each generated 9,000 to 10,000 hardback sales. There were a few foreign language translations and a movie option that never panned out.

Not bad for a beginner.

But Topol, who grew up in East Liberty, walked away from his second career.

"I really spent my time with my law practice during those years," he said. "And durmg those years we had four children."

It would be 20 years before another Allan Topol novel hit the bookstore shelves.

But he's back with a vengeance. His latest novel, "Spy Dance," has made three best seller lists across the country for at least two weeks in a row, and has sold nearly 200,000 copies.

In fact his publisher, Penguin-Putnam Co., has a goal of 300,000 copies for the book, which is out in paperback only.

He credits his wife, the former Barbara Rubenstein of Squirrel Hill, a book reviewer who reads all his drafts, and his agent, Henry Morrison, for the success of "Spy Dance."

"Henry is unique. He works with the author from conception of the story to outlines, through drafts," Topol said. "He had an idea to build on my knowledge of Washington, and after we talked for a while the idea that would become "Spy Dance" took shape... He was incredibly valuable."

"Spy Dance" is a cloak and dagger novel about an ex-CIA agent forced into hiding for five years. Living in Israel under an assumed name, someone has discovered his identity and is trying to force him back into service —against the United States.

Sounds like the stuff paperbacks are made of, but Topol's book has a message. In fact, it has two of them:

First, Israel still has a cooperative relationship with the United States, that is mutually beneficial. Second, it is "unconscionable," as he puts it, that the nation -- some 30 years after the Arab oil embargo remains dependent on Saudi oil when the regime there is "despotic and precarious."

"I wanted to write a book where people would come away with some information about the messages, but I didn'! want it to sound preachy," Topol said.

His messages may be hitting home harder because Israel and Saudi Arabia are so much in the news-now.

"I think the sales have been so brisk because, like lots of things in life, the timing was good," he said.

A chemistry graduate from Carnegie Mellon University, Topol became interested in writing there, studying writing with the English professors whenever he could.

He went to Yale after graduation and got a degree in law, but he still had the drive to write. He tried unsuccessfully to publish some short stories, but he had better luck with his op-ed pieces, which appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Saturday Review.

His next book, which has the China-Taiwan dispute as a back drop, should be out next year. If that's not enough fame for one's life Topol has a bit more: Topol of "Fiddler on the Roof" fame.

He said the two met for lunch once when actor Topol was in Washington for a perfomance. "We decided we were probably distant cousins."

The Spy Novelist Who Came In From The Cold
Joel Chineson
Legal Times December 3, 2001

Much like one of the main characters in his latest espionage thriller Spy Dance, Allan Topol has two identities.

By day he is Allan Topol, lawyer. A partner at D.C.'s Covington & Burling, Topol co-chairs the firm's environmental law practice.

By night, on weekends and whenever else hr can steal the time from his busy practice, he is Allan Topol, novelist. Spy Dance, his third work of fiction, was just published last month by New American Library, a division of Penguin Putnam. The initial press run for this paperback original totaled and impressive 300,000 copies.

Yet don't call Topol a lawer-turned-novelist. He hasn't abandoned the practice of law for the life of a full-time novelist, nor has he any intention of doing so.

"I would find it personally daunting to look at a blank page every morning," says Topol. "Besides, I enjoy being a lawyer."

In contrast to the denizens of his spy novels, who often find it necessary to shift allegiances, the 60-year-old Topol has shown an unusual degree of loyalty to Covington & Burling in the course of his legal career. He joined the firm in 1965 after receiving a degree from Yale Law School and has never strayed.

Topol's work as the firm is perhaps befitting of someone whose undergraduate major at Carnegie Mellon University was chemistry. Topol's practice primarily involves civil and criminal environmental litigation. 1-Ic specializes in water, air, and major hazardous waste enforcement cases, as well as international environmental law and toxic torts. He is also a member of his firm's patent and intellectual property practice groups.

According to Covington & Burling's Web site, Topol has represented such clients as General Dynamics, General Motors, the Hughes Aircraft Co., IBM, Lever Bros., the Lockheed Martin Corp., the McDonnell Douglas Corp., the Northrop Corp., Procter & Gamble, and the state of Washington on behalf of the Boeing Co., California on behalf of Del Monte, Iowa on behalf of Armstrong-Pirelli Tire, and Pennsylvania on behalf of Quantum.

Topol says that the reaction he has received from his clients when they learn he is a novelist has been "fantastic and enthusiastic."

Theodore Garrett, the Covington & Burling partner who co-chairs with Topol the firm's environmental law practice group, does not find this so surprising. "Clients know that creativity is the hallmark of an excellent lawyer, and that creativity manifests itself in Allan in many ways," Garrett says. "Writing is something he enjoys."

Topol 's practice has forced him to travel a great deal. He calculates that he has averaged more than one trip a month to California Since 1982. His work has also taken him to Europe and to the Far East. Such treks have brought him "a lot of airplane time," Topol explains, which he often dedicates to fiction writing. He writes his first draft out longhand, so he doesn't even need to carry a laptop with him.

Topol says that he doesn't know how his tale is going to end when he first starts writing. "The story develops as you're writing," he explains. He began Spy Dance with a relatively detailed 10-page outline, which he was forced to alter as his writing proceeded. Once he found his writing rhythm, he jettisoned the outline entirely. He worked on Spy Dance in 1999 and 2000 to meet his deadline in late 2000. In order to properly prepare to print and market its books, New American Library requires its authors to submit manuscripts about a year before release date.

Although Topol says that it takes him about a year to write a novel, Spy Dance has arrived in bookstores more than two decades after his previous effort, A Woman of Valo,: That book, published in 1980, and his 1978 novel, The Fourth of July War, were published in hardcover by William Morrow & Co. Neither book found much of an audience, Topol admits, although The Fourth of July War was translated into Japanese and was optioned by Warner Bros. for a movie that was never made.

Topol suggests that the somewhat unsatisfactory nature of his earlier publishing experiences and the demands of raising a family—Topol and his wife, Barbara, have four children—led to his fiction-writing hiatus. (It wasn't that he stopped writing entirely. In 1992, West Publishing brought out Superfund Law and Procedure, which Topol co-wrote with Covington & Burling partner Rebecca Snow.) But circumstances have changed now, and Topol says he no longer has any excuses not to return to fiction. "1 don't play golf. I don't boat. And my children are grown up," he explains with a chuckle.

The publication of Spy Dance has proved to be a relatively happy experience for Topol. In addition to committing to the sizable first printing, New American Library declared Spy Dance November's lead title of the month. This designation meant that the house provided increased publicity for the $6.99 book, placing prominent ads in USA Today and arranging for Topol to be interviewed by Armstrong Williams on Williams' syndicated television talk show. Early indications are that the book is selling well. Topol's contact at Amazon.com recently e-mailed him with the news that "Spy Dance is flying off the shelf."

Topol is pleased with more than just the marketing of his book. He also speaks happily of the collaborative creative process involving his agent and his editor that resulted in the final manuscript of Spy Dance.

Topol first praises his agent, Henry Morrison, whose services extend beyond just hawking his clients' manuscripts to publishers. Morrison, who also was Robert Ludlum's agent, is noted for his hands-on approach with his authors. Keeping close tabs on his clients while they are writing, Morrison hopes to spot any plot kinks or flawed character development in their books before manuscripts are delivered to the publisher. Topol described Morrison's comments as specific and incisive. "You need constructive help," he says.

Topol also handed out kudos to his editor at NAL, Doug Grad. Grad returns the compliments: "Allan worked hard and delivered a good book. He was a lot of fun to work with."

Grad says he has never received a perfect manuscript from an author, and Topol's was no exception. "Generally, the manuscript was fine, but when placed under a microscope, things needed fixing, and Allan cooperated fully."

What particularly struck Grad about the manuscript, which involves a former CIA agent on the run and a scheme by a French industrialist to control Saudi Arabian oil, was how the widely traveled Topol was able to make "all the scenes in foreign locales read true to life."

This is an assessment that Topol will certainly be gratified to hear. The action in Spy Dance takes place in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, London, Paris, and Washington and centers around a plot to overthrow the Saudi royal family. "Good stories with an international setting" are the hallmarks of Topol's two favorite authors—Graham Greene and Leon Uris. And although he isn't prepared to place himself in such exalted company just yet, he says that when he set out to write Spy Dance, he didn't want to produce yet another "mindless thriller."

The novels Topol most enjoys reading are those that explore, he says, "exciting issues, exciting problems." He points, for example, to Uris' Trinity, which within its fictional framework provided a serious examination of the Irish troubles.

Although Topol realizes that most readers of spy thrillers are hungry for entertainment, he strives to provide escapism based in reality. The fabric of Topol's fiction is woven from the threads of real events and real-life concerns. Thus, the opening of Spy Dance takes place against the backdrop of the June 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers military compound housing unit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. And an overarching question in the book is just how firm a grip on control King Fahd maintains in Saudi Arabia. Keeping in mind the history of Iran, for example, "how long can the regime last is a real issue in Saudi Arabia," says Topol.

Topol says that he also tried to explore smaller, or at least more personal, themes in Spy Dance, among them "the tug and pull between an individual and a bureaucracy."

Says Topol: "I've always been fascinated with how an individual agent manages to operate within a bureaucracy." The protagonist of his book is a former spy who prides himself on being an independent thinker and who possesses a hiatory of troubling encounters with authority figures. One can't help but conclude that this rebel spy, who is something of a loose cannon, is actually the alter ego of the outwardly staid and stable author. The spy and his creator share some personal details—they both hail from western Pennsylvania and had fathers who ran small family restaurants—and they both seem to view the world from the same political vantage point.

How much Topol identifies with his literary protagonist he doesn't say, but he does offer that whatever verisimilitude Spy Dance displays is the result of careful research. Before putting pen to paper, he read a great deal about the Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia, a nation he has never visited and is unlikely to gain entrance to, since his passport reflects his 10 or so visits to Israel. About Saudi Arabia, he says it's "not easy to get good information," but he read a dozen or so books about the country.

Some of the action in Spy Dance occurs on a kibbutz in Israeli. Although Topol has never lived on a kibbutz, one of his daughters has had that experience. She proved an available and ready source for some of his questions. He remembers fondly on one of his visits to Israel picking fresh fruit in a litchi orchard, an idyll he has reproduced in an important scene in his book.

If two decades unfolded between the publications of A Woman of Valor and Spy Dance, readers will not have to wait 50 long for Topol's fourth work of fiction. Tentatively titled The Winthrop Affair; the novel has just been submitted to NAL and is scheduled to be published in about a year. Another spy thriller, it will take place primarily in China and Taiwan. And Topol is working on yet a fifth novel, which is also set in the Far East—this time in Japan and Hong Kong. "Japan is an interesting place," says Topol, who has traveled to the country on three occasions.

How does a busy practitioner who shoulders such a heavy workload manage to pursue a burgeoning literary career as well?

"I catch the time that I can," says Topol, proving the old adage that if you're destined to be a writer, you'll somehow find the time to write.