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Jason Matthews  

Former CIA Agent and Author of Bestselling Novels,"Red Sparrow" and " Palace of Treason"

A former CIA agent who retired after 30 years in the service and turned his hand to writing says penning his books is like a form of therapy.

Jason Matthews who now lives in Los Angeles, California and is cut off from the agency and its secrets, channeled his energy into the 2013 novel 'Red Sparrow.'

It became a best-seller and critical success, resulting in a reported seven-figure movie deal. 'I started thinking about war stories,' he said in an interview. 'Pretty soon I blinked and I had like 300, 400 pages.'

Five years on from his retirement, Matthews is back this week with a sequel, 'Palace of Treason,' set in Vladimir Putin's Russia.

And the most interesting accolades are coming from CIA insiders, who marvel at how he manages to slip so much past the agency's censors, portraying the heart-pounding rhythms of on-the-street espionage better that any novelist in recent memory.

They are not alone: The New York Times dubbed Matthews' new book 'enthralling' in a recent review. Matthews, 63, spent most of his career overseas specializing in 'denied areas,' places where Americans were closely watched and their movements restricted.

He is part of a long line of former spies who turned to fiction but the first to have spent a full career at the CIA, rising to management, and then emerge to write with such commercial and critical success.

Matthews speaks six languages and helped manage seven CIA stations, sometimes working in tandem with his wife, Suzanne, also a retired CIA officer.

They raised two daughters in countries they aren't allowed to name. At one point he was operations chief in the counter-proliferation division, tasked with slowing Iran's nuclear program, among other things.

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