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David McCloskey ’08: Agent to Author

Words: Melissa Schill ’22

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David McCloskey '08

After eight years in the C.I.A., David McCloskey ’08 stepped away to pursue a different career path, leaving him with plenty of memories to process. So, he started writing. What began as a way of thinking through his experiences as an analyst on the Syria team turned into 100,000 words. Five years later, he picked the manuscript back up and decided to officially turn it into a book.

Damascus Station released in October 2021 and tells the story of a C.I.A. officer searching for the root of an American spy’s disappearance. His search leads him into the perilous territory of the Assad regime. The narrative takes place during the Syrian civil war and is peppered with a forbidden romance, a web of secrets, and imminent danger. 

“My book is not about characters on a faith journey.” Rather, David hoped to honestly reflect human nature through his characters. “There is a tension between moral clarity and ambiguity. You’ve got bravery and self-sacrifice and heroism. And then you’ve got the other side with tragedy and inhumanity and brutality. I hope that it’s saying something true about the human experience,” he said.

The spy thriller received high praise from former director of the C.I.A., General David Petraeus and former Secretary of Defense, Leon E. Panetta. The New York Times included Damascus Station in a list of must-read political thrillers. It currently holds court as one of Amazon’s “Editor’s pick” for best mystery, thriller, and suspense book.

The accolades did not come easily. Especially as a new author, the process of releasing and publicizing a book is a difficult process. David recounted months spent promoting the book through events, word-of-mouth, and media. 

“I didn’t want to look back and realize I didn’t do the legwork to give this book a chance at success,” David said. “At the end of the day a lot of it comes down to the author’s ability to create connections and promote it. I took on the perspective that I am a small business with one product: Damascus Station.

David majored in international relations while attending Wheaton College, but his free time was devoted to working on “Off the Record,” a satirical publication that covered school events with a critical lens. Though he loved writing, David never imagined that his hobby would one day turn into a career.

As a father with three children all under the age of seven, David expressed that this career change has been a positive thing for his family. The flexibility of his writing schedule allows him to be present at times that his other jobs did not. 

He is currently working on his second book, another spy thriller, published through Norton. “I like being part of the conversation in the spy genre,” David said. “Understanding where you fit in relationship to the genre is a really helpful way to understand how you can contribute to or build off of what comes before you. There are elements [in my writing] that I hope are interesting to people and position my work uniquely inside the genre.”

What began as a way of thinking through his experiences as an analyst on the Syria team turned into 100,000 words.