Excerpt From The Flemish Coil

The Flemish Coil, Nick Temple File no. 4, sits awaiting publication. I'm hopeful that will take place sometime before the end of the year. The book is unique in my writing experience in that I had a title for it years before I actually wrote it. I learned what a Flemish coil is more than 30 years ago when I was spending time with my father on his boat. I immediately thought, "That sounds like the title of a spy novel." I was reading through his collection of spy thrillers at the time, so that may have influenced my thinking. The bottom line is that I had to sort of back the plot into the title, not an easy feat, at least not for me. The selection below is from the book's first chapter. It takes place on the Glienicke Bridge, the so-called "Bridge of Spies," which entered into the contemporary consciousness thanks to Steven Spielberg's movie starring Tom Hanks. Those of us who served in Berlin during the Cold War could almost feel the bridge's presence at the southwest corner of the city, where east met west, where two superpowers traded human beings as bargaining chips in a deadly geopolitical game. I hope you enjoy it.


The two sets of seven men begin walking towards each other. When they are near the middle of the bridge and 20 meters apart they stop. Thompson separates himself from his armed escort as does Smertov. The spies walk slowly towards each other. They are now in the middle of the bridge, one step away from the American sergeant. They stop, facing each other.

“What the fuck are they doing?” the major thinks to himself. “Keep walking, dammit. Keep walking!”

The two men simply shake hands before they resume walking across the bridge. The major breathes a sigh of relief as the exchange is nearly complete.

“Too much cloak and dagger bullshit. There’s got to be an easier way to do this,” he thinks for about the twentieth time since getting this assignment.

Both men are no more than three meters from their countrymen, three meters from returning home, three meters from some measure of freedom when the major hears the faintest of noises from the wooded area north and east of the bridge, like an instant rush of compressed air, followed in less than three seconds by another.

Thompson and Smertov, one immediately after the other, drop to the pavement, each mortally wounded by a sniper’s bullet to the skull.