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The Cold War Swap by Ross Thomas (1966)

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If I have read a Ross Thomas book before it was so long ago I have forgotten. I really enjoyed this. It has good characters, lots of action, all that double, triple, quadruple dealing that you love in a good spy story. Our hero is McCorkle "Mac" who owns and operates a bar in West Berlin during the cold war. His partner, Michael Padillo, takes the odd job as a secret agent. Now he is in a real jam and needs his partner's help. If you think a spy novel should be like a James Bond movie, don't even pick this up. If, on the other hand, you enjoy the spy novels of the Cold War Era try this one. ( )
  mysterymax | Apr 10, 2013 |
I believe this book was written in 1966 and while I am old enough to remember that year very well, possibly more has changed from that era than I realize. I came across this author and this title in an article reviewing all-time mystery and thriller writers and the description of the author's style made me want to check it out. As well, other reviews I have read of it write of the author's wit and how the book was therefore a funny read. Maybe that is what has changed. I didn't find anything even mildly amusing in this book. It was rather a disappointment after all the hype. The plot was simple and the characters stereotypical, down to the Albanian thugs who are just background "heavies".
Maybe in 1966 this type of book was a departure from what was normally written in the genre. I wouldn't know as I believe I was going through the teenage male addiction to science fiction back then. But today, at least for me, it is a fairly wooden read and I certainly wouldn't recommend it for its humour ( )
  Northlaw | Nov 26, 2011 |
During his life, other writers, critics, and fans ranked Ross Thomas (1926-1995) as one of the top thriller writers. He won two Edgar Awards, for "The Cold War Swap" (1966) and "Briarpatch" (1984). However since his death many of his 25 novels have gone out of print. Thank heaven for the interwebs and used bookstores where readers can find Thomas’ powerful and funny stories.

In "The Cold War Swap" (in the UK, "A Spy in the Vodka") Mac McCorkle owns and runs a popular watering hole in Bonn, West Germany. His pal Mike Padillo uses the bar for espionage and con jobs, two activities treated as indistinguishable in Thomas’ novels. An Unnamed Mysterious Agency sends out Padillo, a resourceful clandestine agent, to do risky and sensitive jobs.

In this thriller Padillo’s masters instruct him to drag back two American defectors from East to West Germany. Snafus occur one after the other, and McCorkle has to help Padillo ferry the unstable pair back. Strengths of the novel: snappy dialogue, cynical but likeable characters, and the credible milieu of the two Germanys. Never sounding like a know-it-all, Thomas comes off as having a fix on how the world works--evidence of his life as a beat reporter, foreign correspondent and PR executive before he started writing thrillers. Thomas is especially funny and insightful when he’s talking about clothes; every one of this novels has tangents about men’s fashion. Some argue that, like Hammet’s tales, Thomas’ plots sometimes get unwieldy, but I don’t think that’s true of this one.
  Kung_BaiRen | Mar 24, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312315813, Paperback)

At the height of the Cold War, two Americans are runnng a bar in the West German capital, called Mac's place. One of the pair, Michael Padillo, isn't around a lot; he keeps disappearing on "business trips." McCorkle, his partner, wisely doesn't ask questions; he knows Padillo has a second job -- he's a (reluctant) US agent. But McCorkle is ready to answer a call for help from Padillo, and he joins his friend in a blind journey with no inkling of what they will encounter at the turn of each dark and dangerous corner.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:49 -0400)

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