As someone from the GWOT (Global War on Terror) generation the Cold War has always fascinated me. My time in the Marine Corps was spent preparing for counter-insurgency, not the massed conventional warfare that the Cold War generations prepared for. So the idea of two massive armored forces clashing on the European Continent has always drawn my interest. Nothing has fulfilled this interest as much as Cold War gone hot novels.
I’ve read all the classics Red Storm Rising, Team Yankee, Chieftains, the list goes on. However, the majority of great Cold War gone hot fiction was written during the Cold War or in the 90’s. That is until now, with Harvey Black’s Cold War series. The series includes two novels, The Red Effect and The Black Effect. These two books are in my opinion not only a refreshing addition to the genre but surpass any I have read in the past.
These first two books cover the lead up to a clash between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in The Red Effect and then the actual conflict itself in The Black Effect. In Black’s novels, we follow the lead up to and conflict from three perspectives – the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. The actual units that the series is built around are varied, so it lends the reader a much broader and richer perspective than other books in this genre.
The main focus of NATO forces is on British units. This adds a certain element for American readers, as it gives insight into how the British Armed Forces prepared and how they would have deployed in response to a conflict with the Warsaw Pact. Black’s experience in the British Army as an intelligence section trooper in BRIXMIS (British Commander-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany) adds unparalleled insight and detail to the narrative concerning British forces. The British units followed in the novels include an armored unit, a mechanized infantry unit, an SAS patrol, an intelligence unit like the one Black served in and all the units leadership elements.
For those of you in the U.S that are concerned about reading about U.S. units, a Cavalry unit from the 11th Cav is also part of the story. However, it is how Black portrays the Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces that I feel add a particular depth to the novels. The Warsaw Pact units are portrayed just as thoroughly as the NATO units. They are not just cardboard cutouts of the typical mindless Soviet automatons found in other novels. In Black’s novels, the Warsaw Pact forces are in some cases apprehensive about what their leaders intend to do, and show the same type of bond found in any Armed Forces of worrying more about their fellow soldiers and than what some Commissar is spouting about. I think this adds to the story and is a more realistic outlook on what the Soviet soldier would have gone through – as anyone who has talked to a former Warsaw Pact soldier knows, they were not all dyed in the wool believers in the Communist cause.
In the first book, we follow these elements as they come to terms with what is about to happen. It is the Summer of 1984. It begins with the different units during peacetime training in NATO’s case and participating in a large-scale exercise for the Warsaw Pact forces. As the novel progresses NATO begins to come to grips with the increasing likelihood of a shooting war with the Soviets. While NATO prepares the Warsaw Pact makes its final preparations before preemptively striking. Although the first book may seem to lack action for some readers, its attention to detail is amazing, and it really does set the stage for the massive conflagration in the second book.
I will not spoil the second book but be prepared for the most detailed writing I have ever encountered when it comes to the combat sequences of the of the “Cold War gone hot” genre. This is not just a listing of specs, like what millimeter cannon a T-64 has, but the portrayal of equipment, tactical and battlefield friction is so authentic it must be read to be appreciated. The second book mostly involves combat and weaves together a particularly vivid description of what transpires in the massive battlefield that a Warsaw Pact vs. NATO fight would have encompassed. Readers are immersed in all levels of battle, from the fighting hole to the harrier cockpit, and even to the naval battle in the Atlantic. Black’s experiences in the British Army add much that is lacking in similar novels written by civilians.
If you are a fan of this genre I don’t recommend you think about purchasing the novels in the series; I’m flat telling you that you are missing out if you don’t buy them. You’ll be hard-pressed to find as detailed and tactically sound of a series on this topic. The novels are available in print and for Kindle at a rather affordable price, and if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself reading them several times. Black will be continuing the conflict in a third book that I am sure will not disappoint.
Have a good weekend and enjoy Your Weekend Read.
About the Author: Sean “Groz” Burke is a former Assault Section Leader in the Marine Corps infantry with combat deployments to assorted sunny Middle Eastern and African locations. During his tenure as a gyrene many doors were kicked, gates blown and people’s days excessively ruined. During these deployments, Sean often instructed the use of foreign weapon systems, helped his command understand the armament capabilities of the enemy and was his unit’s resident “terp wrangler.” He attended numerous PME schools, including Sensitive Site Exploitation and the Iraqi Arabic and Culture Course. After departing the Marine Corps Sean graduated from Temple University with a degree in history and is now (no shit) a high school teacher. When not teaching he continues to compulsively study foreign weapon systems, world affairs, and foreign policy. Groz is one of the biggest geardos the Mad Duo knows (which is really saying something). He is a wealth of information regarding all things Cordura, Steel, and COMBLOC.
Here’s something to think about if you spend more than a couple hundred bucks a year on guns, parts, and ammo:
Declare for Morning Wood!