Tuesday, January 6, 2009


As I was staring at my laptop screen, contemplating the next action scene in my WIP, I was startled by a burst of laughter. When I looked up inquiringly, my husband handed me the front page of THE BALTIMORE SUN. The headline said, “Laurel Man an Iraqi Spy.”

An Iraqi spy in the town of Laurel, Maryland, made famous by the 1972 shooting of George Wallace? Yeah. From my husband’s reaction, I was pretty sure who it had to be. The grandfatherly guy who owned Gourmet Shish Kebab, the restaurant where we sometimes stopped for lunch or dinner. The place was decorated with artificial flowers and plastic hanging plants. The tables and chairs would have been at home in a VFW hall. Service was cafeteria-style from an open counter. But what the place lacked in ambiance, it made up with the food. Since we’re on a low-carb diet, Mr. Al-Dellemy, the proprietor, would obligingly fix us a plate of mixed kebabs–with cabbage and salad instead of rice and pita bread. He called it his “protein special.”

Gourmet Shish Kebab attracted quite a mix of people. Soldiers from nearby Fort Meade. Defense Department types from NSA. Moslem families. And groups of Middle Eastern men who turned out to be from the Iraqi Intelligence Service, stopping by for the hummus and the sensitive information collected by the proprietor, code name Adam. According to the SUN article, he’d been spying for the Iraqi government since 1989. Now he could spend five years in jail.

Adam, who always sat behind the cash register, was good at his job. Starting with the nicely spiced kebabs and the easy conversation. He knew how to chat you up. To find out what you did for a living. And where you lived. He said he had a PhD in psychology. So why was he running a kebab joint? That should have been a clue there was something funny in kebab land.

Did I tell him anything he could pass on to Baghdad? Probably not–unless Saddam Hussein wanted my recipe for low-carb Key Lime Pie.

Maybe you’re thinking it’s ironic that the author of more than fifty suspense novels couldn’t recognize a real life spymaster when she stumbled over him. I’ll go with--his disguise was so perfect. He was the last guy I’d expect to be funneling information to a foreign power. Yet he must have been using his customers from Fort Meade and NSA as sources of information.

After reading the newspaper account of his activities, I was tempted to stop by and see how Adam is doing. Is he still sitting behind the counter, next to the cooler with the Cokes and bottled iced tea? On second thought, maybe I don’t need to have my picture snapped by the FBI agents in the parking lot.

Instead, I’m going to turn the tables and make use of the old spymaster. Of course, his name will be changed.. From Adam to Arnie? But how about a restaurant owner in one of my books who charms state secrets out of his patrons and passes them on to a hostile government halfway around the world. Will you believe it when you read it? Or will you say–that could never happen?

And now about the Key Lime Pie. It’s one of my favorite desserts. And if you’d like to try my low-carb version, I’ve put it on my Web site (www.rebeccayork.com) under “About Ruth” then “Cookbooks.” If you don’t cook much, you probably don’t realize that one of the main flavor ingredients, in addition to key lime juice, is condensed milk, which is very high in sugar. I figured out that I could get the same taste with evaporated milk and whipped cream. Unfortunately, I’m making myself hungry now, so I may be running out of the house soon to get a bottle of key lime juice.

Rebecca York


  1. Wow, that must have given you a shake! It does kind of tilt your world a little bit when something you have a accepted as one thing; is not. And I agree with you, it would make an interesting twist in a story! Is he going to be a minor villin or a major player?

  2. Wow!! What a thing to read about this morning. I agree too that it would make an interesting plot for a story.

  3. You might as well stop by and see Adam if all you're afraid of is the FBI,etc snapping your picture because I'm sure they already have it from one of the other times you stopped there to eat.LOL I remember a few years back when they were investigating a couple of people in my area for espionage. We have a Navy Base here and one of the favorite places to eat was just off the base.

  4. Wow! I think that would be a liitle too close to home.

  5. I do love the idea that this could be a good plot for a book.

  6. Ellen, I could stop by. maybe theFBI already has my picture. But I'd feel kind of weird showing up NOW.

  7. Wow, what a great story, Rebecca! I'm looking forward to reading your fictionalized version.

  8. Wow this was a great story you should put it in your books.

  9. I think it would make a great story and very believable.