So, the USAREUR G2 reunion is over, the organizer’s wife has loaded the banner into their car, and many of us had a relatively communal breakfast before we all scatter again to the corners of the country. My husband and I said our goodbyes to the organizer’s wife (“behind every great man, there’s a woman …”), the organizer (who kindly autographed his Secrets of the Cold War book for me), and friends of friends (who’ve become people with whom we want to stay in touch).
We traded email addresses with a married couple, the husband having had overlapping co-workers with my husband, and our new friend hinted at a book he, too, was writing. I gave him an arch look, as you do when something wonderful this way comes, and said, “Mine takes place in Fulda. Where is yours set?” My question was prompted in part from an overheard comment from another of our breakfast companions about his proposed novel, as well as hearing a talk at last night’s banquet from the author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series. People close to “spy stuff” during the Cold War are feeling the need to write.
My friend’s story is set in Wiesbaden, Germany, during the Berlin crisis in the early ’60s, an event whose seriousness was compounded by the Cuban missile crisis. My own experience of that time was that my mom and my siblings and I were in the U.S., still at the Air Force base my dad just left, while my dad was at another base in Bermuda trying to find us a house. I remember feeling as if the Russians had physically erected an oceanic wall between me and my dad, just as they were really done to the people of Berlin. To a child, this was overwhelmingly scary — “scary” being the best I could do to express my feelings as I had yet to learn just how horrific adult threats can be.
My stories, also in Germany, begin about a decade after my friend’s story. The American military forces were dealing not only with the Soviet Union across the inner border between the two Germanies, but also with Soviet-supported terrorism within West Germany, a terrorism that was spreading across Europe and the Middle East like a plague. Everyday people knew that the terrorists had elements of the American military in the crosshairs of its sights. Clearly, those of us who were there have stories to tell.
Our new friend and I talked about a longing to preserve a period about which little is written (neither one of us have had much luck with library research), but yet which is a time that consumed the better part of our adult lives: the “spy vs. spy” era in Europe. The difference being the actual “spy vs. spy” and the fictional depiction of it comes mostly from the gap between the workaday perspective of filling in the puzzle pieces of actual espionage, and James Bond style glitz. The trick will be infusing the memories with enough necessary fictional drama to keep readers turning the pages.
In any case, I was tickled enough by finding yet another writer in our group that I’ve put off packing my suitcase to write this blog post (checkout is when? thirty minutes?!?). For me, enthusiasm shared is enthusiasm doubled — and if I want to live long enough to enthusiastically write anything else, I’d best get a move on as my husband is already taking suitcases out to the car.