Saturday, August 03, 2019

Five of the best Cold War thrillers

Owen Matthews reported on conflicts in Bosnia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq and Ukraine and was Newsweek’s Bureau Chief in Moscow from 2006-2016. He is the author of several nonfiction books including Stalin’s Children, Glorious Misadventures and An Impeccable Spy.

Matthews's debut novel is Black Sun.

At CrimeReads he tagged five favorite Cold War thrillers, including:
From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming (1957)

James Bond is the classic Cold War spy hero—effortless seducer, expert marksman, suave English gentleman who always gets the girl and defeats the baddie. From Russia With Love is a silly, though very enjoyable, romp. A plot is hatched by SMERSH, the Soviet counter-intelligence agency, to assassinate Bond. SMERSH deploys a beautiful Russian cipher clerk to honeytrap our hero with the promise of her body and of access to the Spektor, a Soviet decoding machine. You know how it’s going to end even as you read it. Childish it may be, but Fleming’s Bond series is very revealing of British attitudes to the Cold War. Bond embodies an winning British glamour and officer-class sophistication that was very much absent in the drab, rationed world of real-life post war Britain which had, as US Secretary of State Dean Acheson put it, lost an Empire but failed to find a role in the world. And it also caricatured the West’s fear of the Soviet Empire as thoroughly evil, ready to fight dirty (remember Rosa Klebb’s poisoned blade in her shoe) and also comically inept at penetrating the social codes of Bond’s world (“red wine with fish?”).
Read about another entry on the list.

From Russia with Love also made Dwyer Murphy's top ten list of spy thrillers featuring Russia versus the West, Sarah Ward's top ten list of trains in novels, John Lawton's top ten list of Cold War noir novels, Sinclair McKay's five best list of books on ciphers and codebreakers during World War II and after, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best housekeepers in literature, ten of the best chess games in fiction, ten of the best punch-ups in fiction, and ten of the best breakfasts in literature, and a list of eleven presidents' favorite books. It is on Keith Jeffery's five best list of books on Britain's Secret Service and Samuel Muston's ten best list of spy novels.

--Marshal Zeringue