The Cold War in Hot Places

I assume that when people think of locales for the Cold War they typically imagine cold places, cities like Berlin, Moscow, and London that have a reputation, deserved or not, as dreary, damp urban landscapes continually locked in the grips of the worst weather Northern Europe has to offer from one season to the next. My experience of living in Berlin for three years tells me the unfortunate stereotype is not far from objective reality at least for that city. I recall sitting around one chilly June afternoon and having the distinct impression that the weather had been bad for a year straight. We used to say, “I hope summer falls on a Saturday this year, so I can enjoy it instead of having to work,” as a way of dealing with the relentlessly gloomy climate.

My first Nick Temple File, Switchback, takes place largely in Berlin, but since that initial foray I’ve ventured out in favor of more hospitable climes. Crete is the focus for Nick Temple File no. 2, The Heraklion Gambit. Nick Temple File no. 3, Silent Vector, takes matters a step further. The book moves from the U.S.V.I. to Kenya, to Cairo, and back to the Virgin Islands, with stops in Cuba, Miami, and Atlanta along the way. The soon-to-be-released Nick Temple File no. 4, The Flemish Coil, pulls back a bit from the trend. However, much of the action takes place in Hawaii and Miami, with a brief stopover in Vietnam, not the sort of locations one usually associates with the Cold War. And that’s the point.

The Cold War was global. Successful espionage moves beyond existing paradigms testing and probing venues thought to be of little value and thus no interest. I remember being told during a briefing I received when I first arrived in Berlin in 1983 that the city was ground zero for Soviet and American espionage and counterespionage activity. I believed it then, and I have since had no experience that shakes that belief. However, my thought at the time, and one I still hold onto, was that a single operation, a lone strike, a solitary blow directed at a less obvious and less-monitored target might yield more for either side than the literally thousands of daily, routinized attempts both undertook to achieve strategic hegemony in the Cold War.