Thursday Reading Links #59 (Cold War Edition)

I don’t have any appropriate pictures for this post, so let’s just pretend this trail from my walk is a dead drop.

I’m working on a series of novels (Book 1 is in the editing phase, Book 2 needs to be rewritten and Books 3, 4 and 5 are in the draft outline phase) set during the Cold War. So, I thought I would make today’s reading links all about the Cold War.

What I Learned From Women Who Were Prisoners of the Gulag.

The Long History of the Red Scare as an American Political Tactic, an interview with Kathryn Olmstead, professor of history at the University of California, Davis.

Capitalism’s Baby Mania.

Nazi who arrested Anne Frank became a spy for West Germany.

Activist or spy? The curious case of a Cold War nuclear scientist.

Four Books about the Cold War.

My life under surveillance after I married a KGB agent.

Not about the Cold War, but set during the Reagan administration: Dee Snider on PMRC Hearing: I Was a Public Enemy. Dee Snider of the band Twisted Sister talks about his senate hearing. It’s a fascinating read because he is being brutally honest and doesn’t mind calling people on their hypocrisy. I had no idea that this was even an issue in the 1980s. Sometimes I wonder if politicians create drama and waste taxpayer money because they have too much time on their hands. (Sounds like Dee would agree with me.)

Let me know what you think of the articles.

xoxo, Jane

Four Books About The Cold War


I’m intrigued by the Cold War era for so many different reasons. It’s why I set my own fiction during this era (more on that another day).

So, it’s no surprise that I read a lot of non-fiction books about the Cold War. I wanted to share a few of them with you. Let me know what you think or if you’ve read any of these.

Iron Curtain – The Crushing of Eastern Europe by Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum is a columnist for The Washington Post. Iron Curtain covers the horrifying period in Eastern Europe between 1944-1956. The dedication in this book gives me the chills: “This book is dedicated to those Eastern Europeans who refused to live within a lie.”

Vaclav Havel

Spymaster: My Thirty-Two Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West by Oleg Kalugin

This book is written by former KGB general, Oleg Kalugin, who spent decades spying in America. Eventually he grew disillusioned with the Soviet system and its institutional corruption. He went public about it all in 1990 and now lives in Washington D.C.

Spy Sites of Washington, DC by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton

This is a fun read and I highly recommend it. It covers espionage in Washington, D.C. between the years 1790 and 2016. I bought it for the extensive Cold War section. What’s fascinating (and fun) is that the book actually gives you physical addresses of buildings and homes where spy activities took place, including dead drop locations.

A Spy Among Friends: Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre

If you are at all interested in the Cambridge Five, I’d read this book. It’s a comprehensive volume of Kim Philby’s life as a double agent. I am fascinated by Kim Philby. Not because he was such a stellar guy (he wasn’t) but because I can’t understand giving it all up to live behind the Iron Curtain. For those who don’t know about the Cambridge Five, they were a network of privileged young men recruited by the KGB at Cambridge. Philby was one of them. He defected to Moscow in 1963 because he was about to be outed as a mole. He died with full Soviet honors in 1988.

Do you have any favorite non-fiction books about the Cold War?

xoxo, Jane

Free ebook – Cold War: A History From Beginning to End

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Photo by Julius Silver on

I’m preparing a blog post on the books I use for my Cold War research and I’ll be teaching a course on this topic for my RWA chapter later this year. In the meantime, if you are interested in Cold War history, start with this free ebook, Cold War: A History From Beginning to End (US Kindle only). It’s a very short history and analysis of the Cold War and a quick read.

Enjoy and have a great new week.

xoxo, Jane

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the link. Thank you for reading my blog. xoxo, Jane

The Cold War Q&A Part II

Embed from Getty Images

Welcome to the second part of my Q&A session that I presented last year. Find Part I here.

Last week we ended our post with containment. Let’s pick up where we left off. Please remember, this was just a basic Q&A session. It is not comprehensive of the era. Feel free to ask me any follow-up questions.

Also, you might want to settle in with a cup of tea because this post is a long one.

What is detente? This is when the US and the Soviet Union began to thaw their icy relations. Nixon first went to China to meet with Mao. Important Chinese officials were literally waiting for Nixon at the airport and greeted him as soon as Nixon got off Air Force One. Then shortly after that, he went to Moscow to continue “thawing” relations. Things were looking up. Tensions were loosening. But then, the Iranian Revolution happened.

We all know about the US embassy takeover, the hostage crisis and the ousting of the US-backed Shah. Much to the bafflement and confusion of the West, this revolution was not about communism. It was about fundamentalism. This was really bad for the US because they lost their ally in Iran. And their steady supply of oil.

But that’s not all. Then the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. But the Mujahideen fought back. With US weapons. 

And with those US weapons killing Soviet soldiers, detente was over.

What resources do you use? I use the Encyclopedia of the Cold War by Thomas S. Arms to make sure I get everything straight in my stories. I also like to read modern nonfiction about the spies and spycatchers that lived during this time. Most importantly, I use a lot of primary sources such as booklets that were provided to US soldiers during their deployments or Russian travel books printed by Russian publishers.

There is some fiction I recommend if you really want to get a sense of the era, like John Le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. It’s a short, dark read. For a funner option, the YA trilogy, The Apothecary by Maile Meloy, is set during the Cold War. It’s about three teenagers trying to save the world from nuclear war. This is a super fun series that gives you a sense of the eery era.

Afterword: In one of the James Bond movies, Judi Dench’s character, M, said something along the lines of, “Damn, I miss the Cold War.” I feel exactly the same. It sounds strange, I know. The Cold War was a terrible time. It was a scary, anxious time. All of us were terrified of a nuclear war. Now a majority of Americans talk fondly about this era. I didn’t research why this is the case, but I’m going to guess it has something to do with living through 9/11, ISIS, the Taliban, the current US presidential administration…I suppose the nostalgia makes sense under the stressful times we currently live in.

This is the historical era I love to write in. I love to write stories that are interesting, mysterious and romantic and the Cold War is the perfect setting. Plus, I’m always learning something new. I feel like I will never know everything about the Cold War (well, maybe I would if I didn’t have the #dayjob).

Thank you for reading! xoxo, Jane