Progress Report on New Cold War Espionage Thriller

The famous Schloss Heidelberg
Schloss Heidelberg 1986

The summer has been a good one for making progress on The Heidelberg Gap, Nick Temple File no. 6. I thought it would take me to the end of the year to finish a first draft. Now it’s looking like I could get there by the end of August. At this point, I’m under 19 thousand words to that goal, and I’ve been churning out about five thousand words a week.  Even though I’ve been writing for about 30 years, bursts of creativity still surprise me. They happen without warning. They come out of nowhere. I never know how long they’ll last. Sometimes they cover a period that includes finishing one work and starting another. Sometimes I’ll be going great guns and just hit a wall, almost mid-sentence. Wherever they come from, and however long they last, they’re the most enjoyable periods of writing, full of focus, energy, and creative pleasure.

Below is another selection from the work-in-progress draft of The Heidelberg Gap. Remember, this is not a final product so it may be a bit rough. However, it’s a decent peek at a portion of the SIGINT (signals intelligence) that helps drive the book’s primary plot.  It’s the first half of a chapter about 2/3’s into the book. The date will likely be August 24, 1968, but I’m still adjusting the timeline. And, as you can see, I’m not sure of the chapter number or title as of this writing. With those caveats in place, I hope you enjoy it.

CHAPTER ??: ?????????

August ??, 1968

Sergeant Crittenden Durant – Crit to his fellow scribes – works furiously to keep up as the stack of tapes piling up on the NCOIC’s desk keeps getting higher. For the first time in his two years at Field Station Berlin, radio traffic from the NVA, East Germany’s regular army, is overwhelming the German linguist intercept operators and transcribers at the ASA’s listening post on Teufelsberg. The analysts are breathing down his neck, demanding the impossible. They want it all, and they want it now! Six transcribers are working as quickly as possible to transcribe the comms, and the analysts are picking through the hand copy of the intercept operators to prioritize the tapes that have to be transcribed ASAP. Of course, with four analysts doing the prioritizing, they want nearly every intercept fully transcribed no later than 10 minutes ago.

One of the transcribers calls out.

“Crit! I need callsigns for the 9th Panzer Division. I’ve heard these guys before and I’m pretty sure it’s 9th Panzer.”

Crit hands his fellow scribe, specialist Jay Knudsen, a loose-leaf binder full of known and suspected callsigns for the NVA’s 7th and 9th Panzer Divisions. Knudsen flips quickly through the manual and stops.

“Yep, that’s them! That makes three motor rifle divisions and a second panzer division. This isn’t some routine field training exercise, that’s for damn sure!”

“Flag it and get it to the OIC. This shit’s unbefuckinglievable! Five divisions in the field and on the move. We’re in deep, my friends.”

It occurs almost simultaneously to each of the men in the German transcription bay of Team III, Company A, that their worst fears are on the verge of being realized, that the balloon is about to go up, and that in a matter of days, if not hours, they’ll be sitting more than 100 miles behind enemy lines with only the Berlin Brigade to protect them. Instead of worrying about what will become of their relatively small unit should five East German divisions decide to go head to head with NATO, the men keep working, focusing on doing what they’ve been trained to do, pushing aside nagging thoughts about their own exposure, about their own mortality.