Bob Nolan is an crytoanalyst for the CIA.
When we first meet him, it was while he was in Rangoon, Burma, and had just announced he was leaving the Agency after nearly 33 years of working for them. Nolan was tired of the lousy treatment he was getting from his Station Chief who, seeing that Nolan was no one to help advance his career, saw him as someone to treat like a servant. Of course, Nolan was telling this to his friend, Hecker, and the two of them had just finished off a bottle of "blended brown nector" so maybe truths were told that were better kept unsaid and plans were made that were best kept as thoughts.
Nolan is actually based out of Singapore and it is there he has a house and a wife and a plan to keep both long after he separates from the CIA, assuming he ever does because whiskey-talk is not gospel. Still, he is 55 years old and being that long in one line of work and having to deal with a lousy boss and the hope that whatever is just around the corner is almost certainly better, well that does tend to give a person a short-timer's attitude.
He might have taken that "leave it for the next guy" approach in the adventures we follow him in except for that annoying trait that would not let go: he had been "motivated to solve problems his entire life". For years he has "broke unbreakable codes, designed unstoppable computer worms, and conquered almost every professional challenge". He abhored the idea of leaving a question unsolved. In that regard, he was a true professional.
On the other hand, as we are told at one point, there is the "Anti-Nolan", the man who "nearly ended his marriage with a disastrous inter-Agency affair" not to mention that "sex-free but doubly dangerous debacle" a year later that almost ended his employment right then. On any given day, it seems, Nolan was not quite sure if he still had what it took to be the man many of the newcomers to the Company thought of him as: "a latter-day CIA Renaissance man - code breaker, cybersecurity expert, competent electronic surveillance field man".
As he told himself once, "sometimes you have to live up to your own press clippings".
- Said about the insanity of drivers in Buddhist countries, "the prospect of reincarnation surely added to the recklessness".