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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