The Moscow Olympics of 1980 presented a setting for thriller writers that was too good to miss. Especially if they timed it right and got their book in the shops ahead of the Games.
Russia in Fiction has already reviewed one such book (John Salisbury’s 1980 novel Moscow Gold). David Grant beat Salisbury to the tape, with Moscow 5000 being published in 1979.
Well, we say David Grant. In reality, Moscow 5000’s author was renowned British thriller writer Craig Thomas (1942-2011), writing under a pseudonym. And the novel’s skilfully complex plot betrays that it is not written by a novice; with four strong and interlinked story lines coming to their conclusion in the running of the men’s 5000 metres final in the XXII Olympiad in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in 1980.
From the Russia-in-fiction angle, two of these plot strands are notable; particularly so the Ukrainian nationalist one.
Published in 1989, but set a decade earlier, as Jimmy Carter’s presidency is coming to an end and the Soviet Union seems as threatening as ever to the West, The Romeo Flag flew briefly in the world of Russia-in-fiction thrillers.
The Romeo Flag offers a complex globe-trotting, decade-spanning, page-turning plot that differs from the run-of-the-mill, even whilst being built around a couple of the staples of Russia-related fiction; a surviving Romanov heir and a Soviet mole at the heart of the US government.
On top of that, The Romeo Flag turns out to contain uncanny parallels with a fresh new soon-to-be bestselling novel published only last week.
Part two of this review is here.
‘It’s all right, Martha. You’ll find where you’re supposed to be.’
I spoke into my hands. ‘I’m supposed to be in Moscow. I love it there and there’s so much I didn’t see. I was waiting for the snow.’The wolves of leninsky prospekt
With Cold War espionage fiction at its height, the Moscow Olympics of 1980 presented a fine opportunity for authors to write thrillers whose very titular contemporaneity might propel them into the best seller list.
Strangely, the two thrillers that I know of —and have read— in this category were both written by well-known authors who chose to adopt pseudonyms for the purpose.