Collecting the Cold War
Friday, August 23, 2013
Chatting with fellow bibliophile Ian Sales, we decided it was high time to get more (book) porn out on the internet. We bandied around a few topics and settled on on a theme broad enough to allow for multiple interpretations: the Cold War.
You can check out Ian's post here - he's got an astounding collection. It is also worth taking a moment to check out his alternate-history-hard-SF-Cold-War novella: Adrift on the Sea of Rains.
The Cold War is such a huge theme that I've divided it up into "sub-themes", any one of which could easily spawn into its own collection. This is definitely not meant to be an exhaustive list of either my own books or what I think of as the "definitive" books in the category, I've just given five examples that fit within each group. A final caveat, I don't think any of these are particularly valuable, but they're all fun, and that's the best part...
Cold War Pulp:
Roger Blake's Commie Sex Trap (Boudoir, 1963): "A Berlin GI's desperate search behind the Iron Curtain for the nympho queen who held the plans to America's most important secret weapon!"
Woody Haut's Pulp Culture: Hard-Boiled Fiction and the Cold War (Serpent's Tail, 1995): all about the paperback books during late 1940s - mid-1960s. An immensely useful guide to this area.
Frank Hazlitt Brennan's One of Our H Bombs is Missing (Gold Medal, 1955): soldiers at a remote polar posting go mad, and someone nicks a Hydrogen bomb. A nice example of how genre fiction adapted to include/reflect the tensions of the time. A first edition, with a really lovely painted cover by Stanley Meltzoff.
Jack Laflin's The Spy Who Loved America (Belmont): "...and why shouldn't he? His was a grim, important mission that involved a honeymoon at the Waldorf with another man's wife and gallons of champagne - all paid for by the wrong government." A first edition (and paperback original) with suitably sultry Barye Phillips cover art.
Stephen Marlowe's Death is My Comrade (Gold Medal, 1961): Honestly, the entirety of Stephen Marlowe's Chester Drum series is proper Cold War noir - and I've pretty much got the entire set in their original Gold Medal formats. But this one goes above and beyond the others when it comes to period camp. Again, a nice example of a genre - what happens to the trenchcoat and fedora noir detective when the big bad is half the world?
The Supernatural (or Speculative) Cold War:
Tim Powers' Declare (William Morrow, 2001): a signed first edition of Tim Powers' alternate Cold War history. Le Carré with supernatural powers. (Alternate collection - ACCA finalists: It wasn't released in the UK for another ten years, when it then made a sneaky appearance on the Arthur C. Clarke shortlist.)
Robert Harris' Archangel (Hutchinson / Random House, 1998): Sort of The Boys from Brazil, for the Cold War crowd. I collect Harris with a weird rigour - I liked a few of his books and now I'm sort of stuck with collectivitis. Anyway, I've somehow wound up with both US and UK proofs of this book, as well as the signed UK first edition.
Rebecca Levene's Cold Warriors (Abaddon, 2010): Another mixture of the Cold War and the apocalypse (with CIA demons!). A signed first edition. Plus, we helped with the launch for this book, and made little "Hermetic Division" badges. (I still wear mine at cons, obviously.)
Brian Lumley's Necroscope (Voyager): Another of the quintessential Cold War/supernatural novels, this time with Lovecraftian psychic vampires. 'cause, you know. Because. My copy is a late edition, but signed.
Cold War Apocalypse:
H.D. Smyth's Atomic Energy: a general account of the development of methods of using atomic energy for military purposes under the auspices of the United States Government (His Majesty's Stationary Office, 1945). An odd little pamphlet.
Richard Foster The Rest Must Die (Gold Medal, 1959): One of my favourite nuclear apocalypse stories, partially because of the nifty wrap-around cover art, partially because the hero is a guy that works in marketing (!). A nice example of a popular genre.
London After the Bomb (Oxford University Press, 1982): "Five research scientists give a straightforward account of the consequences of a nuclear attack on a major city, using London as their prime example." Exactly as cheerful as you might think.
Mordecai Roshwald's A Small Armageddon (Heinemann, 1962): Extremely cheerful (seriously). An accidental mutiny on a nuclear submarine leads to a free-wheeling, er, party-boat. Meanwhile, a parallel right-wing coup at a nuclear power base has slightly more belligerent intentions. The first edition, with a gorgeous cover by Sheila Perry.
Nevil Shute's On the Beach (Heinemann, 1957): The Cold War apocalypse classic (ok, maybe Alas, Babylon, but this came first and was made into the Peck/Gardner/Astaire/Perkins film). Heartbreaking and still pretty wonderful. A first edition, with stunning cover by John Rowland.
COMMIES EVERYWHERE (aka "The War at Home"):
Justin Athol's How Stalin Knows: The inside story of the Soviet Spy Ring (Pocket, 1951): "This book has been specially written for News of the World". What else do you need to know?
John J. Flaherty's Inside the FBI (Lippincott, 1943): A signed first edition. The author describes the FBI as "the center of the arena where I could hear and see the struggle going on around me and feel the pulsing fervor of the thousands of clean-blooded Americans fighting on the side of Justice against those who would set themselves above the law." Includes a section on spies and counter-spies and a foreword from Mr. Hoover hissonself.
J. Edgar Hoover's A Study of Communism (Holt, Rinehart and Wilson, 1962): A hardback copy, and signed by the man himself. If you hold this up to Communists, they'll hiss. Touch them with it, and they burst into flame. True story.
[Leonard Lewin's] The Report from Iron Mountain (Penguin, 1968): A report of a secret government meeting in which the Powers That Be conclude that a perpetual state of war is really the best thing for everyone. A hoax, but a fascinating one, and apparently it fooled people for several years.
Harry and Bonaro Overstreet's What We Must Know About Communism (W.W. Norton, 1958): a first edition, with lovely dust jacket, signed by both authors. Blurb: "The Overstreets have addressed this book to every intelligent American. They have looked at the subject of communism as it affects American life and have seen it as a force so powerful that no one of us can risk being in ignorance of it, or of only half understanding it."
Cold War Cover Design:
James Gavin's War and Peace in the Space Age (Hutchinson, 1959): Probably more one of Ian's sort of books than mine, but hey, fightin' space-commies is important. A first edition, with the lovely dust jacket.
Douglas Grant's Europe and the Czechs (Penguin Special, 1938): a disproportionate number of Penguin Specials seem to be about the Cold War in Europe. This is a good example. Again, stonking cover design.
Isaac Don Levine's Red Smoke (Robert McBride, 1932): a first edition, a pro-Soviet history of industrialisation in Stalinist Russia. One of the most gorgeous covers ever.
John Lukacs' A History of the Cold War (Anchor, 1962): one of the influential histories of the period, also a really lovely piece of design. (Alternate Collection - Anchor paperbacks; Anchor had Edward Gorey as part of their art department in the 1950s, and so I've gotten into the habit of snaffling up their paperbacks on sight. This one is designed by Sydney Butchkes.)
Life in the Twenty-First Century (Penguin, 1951): "Twenty-nine distinguished Russian scientists were asked about their research and to predict developments within the next fifty years." My copy is charmingly stamped with a 1961 date and "E&S Department, Unilever House". Any idea what an E&S Department is?
What about you? Got any cool Cold War books you'd like to share?