Peter Ivorson is an agent with the CIA.
As we are introduced to this experienced operative, he is arriving in Laos in 1968, coming in from Vietnam. While his record in that Indochinese country was good and solid, his transfer was clearly an opportunity by his Chief of Station in Saigon to get over the Fear.
That is what Ivorson calls it, the sudden numbing dread that causes his whole body to go cold and clammy and his heart to be seiged by a fist. He had heard of such a thing but never experienced it himself and would have frowned in annoyance if someone had suggested the possibility he would be a victim of it. Then several Viet Cong smashed into his apartment door in the dark early morning hours and the only thing that kept Ivorson alive was the shotgun he kept near his bed. "Frantic pumping of the action of the riot gun until the hammer clicked on empty" destroyed the intruders and kept Ivorson alive but the experience brought him the Fear.
So as the first recorded adventure begins, we find Ivorson, for his own health and wellbeing, transfered to the Laosian capital with his "reputation intact" and a chance to "relax" and get his courage back. Mind you, this is the same reststop where his predecessor was ambushed along a dark road and where he has no known friends or experience and where the Vietnamese Embassy is preparing their end of the upcoming Tet Offensive and its operatives are ready to kill again and again. And Langley is screaming for information from inside that same Embassy and it is suddenly Ivorson's job to get it. Relaxation is not going to happen.