Friday, December 1, 2017

Cold War Variation: Guest Post by Bill Rapp

Bill Rapp began his professional life as an academic, teaching European History at Iowa State University. A graduate of Notre Dame (B.A.), The University of Toronto (M.A.) and Vanderbilt (Ph. D.), Bill has always been particularly intrigued by German history, but the last 35 years working for the U. S. Government has broadened his perspective to all of Europe and much of the Middle East. His career has taken him around the world, including to Berlin as the Wall fell and Germany was reunified. Bill Rapp’s books include the mystery novels Angel in Black, A Pale Rain, Burning Altars, Berlin Breakdown, and Tears of Innocence. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife, two daughters, two miniature schnauzers, and a cat.  His latest novel, The Hapsburg Variation, releases today!

Bill Rapp:
Cold War Variation

Having started my adult life as an historian and then moved on to a career as an intelligence officer, writing Cold War spy thrillers would appear to be the perfect cap to my career. It certainly combines my love of history--especially the European and American pasts--and the last 35 years as an analyst, diplomat, and senior executive at the CIA.

As an historian, I have always been fascinated not just about what transpired in the past, but also on what remained and the influence that has had on the events that followed. As an intelligence officer, I had to work to understand those elements that remained, along with what had changed, and translate that into a usable product for our policymakers. At the same time, I have always had a love of literature. Fortunately, combining elements of all three allows me not only to enjoy the time I spend researching the stories--I spend much of my free time reading histories and mysteries--but also to pursue a dream of mine I have harbored since those bygone days in graduate school: to take my academic training and populate that world with living characters confronting historical challenges and dangers.

Given recent events in Europe and developments in our relationship with Russia, it should come as no surprise that writers would begin to explore the Cold War once more as a field for espionage thrillers. Granted, the continent has changed, as has our major antagonist, not to mention our own relationship with our European allies. But once again we have that tension and conflict that was the source of so much of our nation's policy and the definition of our interests after the Second World War when Europe was the principal field of competition. Admittedly, I have the benefit of hindsight as I recast the stories that enlivened those times, which invariably colors the characters I invent and the work they do. The challenge is not to lose sight of the mentalities and perceptions that drove those characters to act as they did and to provide the readers with an accurate and credible portrayal of the period and the world I am trying to recreate.

I should add that there is a personal element to the stories in this series as well. I have to credit my wife with the original idea on Karl Baier's inception, the protagonist and young American CIA officer in the The Hapsburg Variation. I mentioned to her one day that I wanted to place a thriller in Berlin in the days and months immediately after the Second World War, and that I had an idea for an opening scene but no story yet. She suggested I take her father's case as a model. Not only had he been stationed in the city at that time as part of Operation Paperclip to assess Germany's scientific achievements and capacity and identify the leading personnel, but he had also moved into the house of a man with the exact same name. That provided the starting point for Karl Baier's career as an American intelligence officer in post-war Europe, portrayed in Tears of Innocence. That particular individual--the German, not my father-in-law--never returned, but the American version brought home a box of his German counterpart's memorabilia that included objects as varied as photographs from the occupation of Greece to never-claimed laundry tickets. And sorting through that box actually helped move the plot in the first book in the series along. It's a bit ironic that when I decided to take Karl Baier's path along a different route from that of my wife's father, it was a laundry ticket resting at the bottom of the lot that provided the vehicle to do so. I should add that I made Karl Baier a first-generation German-American not only because that reflects my own family background, but, more importantly, because I wanted to symbolize the ties that bind our country to its Old World heritage. It's a bond that made our emergence after WWII as a global power deeply involved in the future of Europe almost inevitable. It is also the bond that helps propel the people and stories in the Cold War Spy Series that began with Tears of Innocence and continues with The Hapsburg Variation.

* * *

About The Hapsburg Variation (Coffeetown Press; release date December 1, 2017)

In 1955, as the Allies prepare to sign the State Treaty granting Vienna its independence, CIA Deputy Chief of Station Karl Baier becomes enmeshed in the case of a murdered Austrian aristocrat. Then his wife, Sabine, is kidnapped, and he suspects a connection. The stakes rise along with the danger as his investigation takes him from Vienna to Berlin, London, Scotland, and finally Budapest. 

No comments: