By Mark Esper
Robert Baer, the former CIA agent who authored the books “See No Evil” and “Sleeping with the Devil,” which became the basis for the movie “Syriana,” says his newest book won’t be much of a real thriller.
“It’s not a do-or-die adventure,” said Baer, who lives in Silverton with his wife, Dayna, and the 3-year-old Pakistani girl they have adopted, Khyber.
The book, due out on March 8, is called “The Company We Keep,” and was co-authored by Baer and his wife.
“It’s about family, really,” Baer said. “It’s very much in a memoir-ish, fictional style.”
The book chronicles the last few years of the couple’s lives, culminating in the adoption of Khyber 2-1/2 years ago.
Baer, 58, said the book covers a time when “we were in Iraq during the war, and then moving to Silverton and then trying to adopt. That’s sort of the arc of the story.”
Dayna Baer describes it as a “chicklet” book.
“She’s right,” Robert Baer said. “She writes in her voice, and then I tell the story from a different angle.”
Baer was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Aspen before spending 20 years as a CIA agent.
Asked why he is now living in Silverton, Baer responded, “Been to Aspen lately?”
Dayna Baer said they were taking a cross-country trip in the summer of 2004 “and a friend said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to stop in Silverton.’”
They got a room at the Prospector Motel for a night.
“We ended up staying a week and buying a house,” Dayna Baer said.
Now the couple spends about half their time in Silverton and the other half in Berkeley, Calif.
The Baers credit Grand Imperial Hotel owner George Foster with helping them to decide to adopt.
They were driving to Ouray to have dinner with Foster and his wife Kerry when they got stuck on Red Mountain Pass due to winter weather.
“We couldn’t move, so we just sat there talking,” Dayna Baer said. “Bob is the one who brought it (adoption) up. Then it was just about where from. Pakistan sort of came around. I had been to Peshawar and loved it.”
The couple first looked into adopting a child from Chechnya or Ukraine.
“International adoption is mostly a racket,” Baer said. “You need to go out there and check the parentage yourself.”
He said he and Dayna wanted to adopt a child from someplace they had been.
“I had an old contact with Pakistani police,” Baer said. And they found Khyber through a church in Pakistan.
“There are no real organized adoptions in Pakistan,” Baer said. “So we both went out to Pakistan. Dayna and I had both worked out of Pakistan in one way or another.
“That was sort of the shoals we had to navigate.”
Baer said he and Dayna “wanted to do as much of it ourselves as we could. We didn’t want to participate in it (adoption) as a business.”
They found Khyber when she was just a year old. She was the daughter of a Christian couple from Faisalabad, Pakistan. The mother had died.
The adoption was finalized in a courtroom in Montrose on Halloween Day, 2008.
The Baers say Silverton is a great place to raise a child.
“You couldn’t let kids run around the street in Telluride or Aspen,” Robert Baer said.
“This is one of the last places in the world where kids can run around in the streets safely.”
“It’s such a great place for kids to learn to ski and stuff like that,” Dayna Baer added. “She (Khyber) started skiing at 18 months.”
And Robert Baer said Silverton is also “a good place to have a quirky house. This house has no bedrooms.”
A portion of the Baer home was hauled to Silverton from Eureka years ago. Since then a couple additions have been strung onto it.
“It’s really a comfortable place and fits in with Silverton.”
Baer said he and Dayna go skiing in Telluride once a year “just to remind ourselves that the grass isn’t much greener over Black Bear Pass.”
The Baers also said they are thankful for the Silverton Family Learning Center.
“One of the big reasons we’re here is the preschool,” Bob Baer said. “In Berkeley it costs 1,500 bucks — it’s like college tuition.”
Baer said Silverton may lack an exciting nightlife, but now that he and Dayna have a girl to raise, “we should be home anyway.
“It’s better to be home here. And the dogs like it better.”
Dayna Baer said Khyber has interests similar to many Silverton children.
“She loves to ski and can’t wait to get to the lift to see ‘my friend Justin’ (Vinson) who loads the chairs at Kendall,” Dayna said.
“She loves ballet — which she does in Berkeley. Her favorite holiday is Halloween, which she has always spent in Silverton,” Dayna said. “Last year she was a bee and trick-or-treated with Nolan Swonger.”
And Khyber loves her three dogs — Cooper, Boomer and Max and two cats, Muffin and Fatcat.
“She can’t wait to learn to ice skate. In Berkeley she loves to ride her bike — with training wheels still,” Dayna Baer said. “As far as toys, her favorites of the moment are puzzles. And of course she is big on ‘Angelina Ballerina,’ ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ and ‘Olivia’ — her favorite TV shows.”
Silverton may be far from the turmoil in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but Baer still keeps up with what’s going on out there.
He pointed to a colorful paper kite from Kabul now on a wall in his home.
Competitive kite-flying was a popular activity in Afghanistan before it was banned by the Taliban. With the ouster of that regime, the kites fly there once again.
But Baer is not optimistic about the long war there.
“Corruption is as bad as ever, but they got their kites back,” Baer said. “We’ll never win it. There’s nothing to be won.
“We’re not going to bring anyone from the 13th century into the 21st century in our lifetime.”
The hardback version of “The Company We Keep: A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story,” by Robert and Dayna Baer of Silverton, is to be released March 8 Crown Publishing. It can be ordered now at Amazon.com