Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reading the Red Menace

The eponymous Chieftain tank 

As I'm working on a Cold War game at the moment - I've been reading around the subject. Isby's "Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Union" is superb if lengthy - so I've been reading some Cold War Hot fiction to lighten the palette. 

The Kindle store and free PDFs have proved invaluable in this regard. I have read several books on the third world war.

Thus far they are Chieftains, Red Army and Red Storm Rising. Red Storm Rising is typical Clancy stuff.  Interesting from a naval point of view but without much detail on the central front which is what I'm interested in. Writing about par for a thriller. The naval battles were played out with Harpoon - a naval wargame of legendary complexity.   I find Clancy a guilty pleasure - like cheap sweets - his characters are not models of depth, but he (and it must be said Larry Bond) are eager for things to happen and to tell a story. The absence of which is the besetting sin of modern fiction.

General Creamor is very keen to play the board game - which he can link with the Hunt for Red October board game I got him a while ago.

Chieftains by Robert Forrest Webb is much bleaker and focused on the chaps at the sharp end specifically the armoured troops.  Some well written stuff on the realities of living in armoured vehicle for prolonged periods of time. The ending is atrocious and essentially reads like the author wrote himself into a corner. I'll be culling a bunch of stuff about AFVs from it for my game.

Red Army is a book by an American spook specialising in the Red Menace and
is probably the best of the lot. Not as good on technical detail, but well
written, things happen and some nicely observed characters. I'm about three
quarters of the way through - my money is on a shock soviet win.

Last shot in the locker is Team Yankee, which isn't available
electronically, at least legally - so it will have to wait a while until I find a copy. 


  1. Some good books on your list. And Team Yankee....

  2. If your sense of humour takes you in that direction, you could try General Hackett's 'Third World War' books, set in about 1985. It was never clear what the motivation was for the WARPAC sttack upon Western Europe, and the nuclear exchange of Bournemouth for Minsk is a real hoot...

    The funniest part about the whole thing was, the author had planned upon a Soviet victory. The reason? He was pushing the barrow of increased 'defence' spending in Europe by the NATO powers. But apparently (the story goes) he was induced by certain powers that then were to amend the outcome. 'Scaremongering' I think was the charge.

    So: the Soviets lost. In desperation owing to the failure of their 'conventional' invasion, the Soviet high command sent a nucleat 'warning shot' into Bournemouth (General Hackett made this up, not me!). Predictably, NATO thumbed a nuke into ... Minsk (as you would), everyone decided things were getting out of hand, and the status quo ante bellum was restored.

    Quite how this demonstration of the hopelessness of a WARPAC attack was supposed to persuade anyone of the necessity for increased spending (which globally had increased to the point at which insanity was already a vanishing speck in the rearview mirror), I am at a loss to discover.

    Quite a good read, but!

  3. I do love Clancy for a bit of old-fashioned Jingoism. He's still writing the same schlock he always has, with the same "no really, I'm a non-partisan moderate!" Republican-in-all-but-name protagonist. The names change, but the characters remain the same. I grew up on this stuff, and I still love reading it. Bless his heart, long may he continue writing.