Monday, September 21, 2015

Why I Set Snowflakes in July in the 1970s

Pentagon room blown up by Weather Underground

My new military thriller, Snowflakes in July, takes place during the 1970s. Not many novels seem to be written about this period. I believe that those of us in the United States have wiped these turbulent times from our collective memory. I also believe that the human brain tends to suppress bad memories and reinforce pleasant ones. But I agree with George Santayana’s statement in his 1905 The Life of Reason that: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Momentous events occurred in the 1970s. Perhaps the Watergate Scandal that forced Richard Nixon from office was the most significant. The fall of Saigon negated all the American military efforts in the previous decade to preserve South Vietnam as an independent country. At least our POWs were released and returned home after years of confinement and torture in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” And then there was the domestic terrorism that plagued our society.

As I wrote in a previous blog, “The highest incidents of terrorist attacks in the U.S. occurred during the 1970s. In a six-month period in 1971 and 1972, over 2,500 bombings took place in the U.S. The following chart from the Washington Post illustrates this point.

Why were the Seventies so violent? The turbulent Sixties spawned a number of groups seeking to impose their ideologies of the rest of the country through force and terror. The Ku Klux Klan, perhaps the largest and most long-lived terrorist group in U.S. history, was still attacking and sometimes murdering civil rights leaders. Some radical black power organizations declared war on the police. They began bombing police stations and shooting policemen and moderate African American leaders, whom they branded “Uncle Toms.” Puerto Rican nationalists, who had earlier tried to kill President Truman and had shot up the House of Representatives, carried out more bombings and shootings. They blew up the Mobil Oil headquarters and ambushed a U.S. Navy bus, killing some of the occupants. And then there were the terrorist groups spawned by the American New Left.

Perhaps best known of the New Left groups was the Charles Manson “family,” the murderers who massacred movie star Sharon Tate’s family and tried to kill President Ford. Also fairly well known was the Symbionese Liberation Army, principally because they kidnapped Patty Hurst and brainwashed her into helping them rob a bank. They also assassinated moderate African Americans. Less well known to the general public was the Weather Underground or Weathermen. The Weathermen espoused the violent overthrow of the U.S. government and replacing it with a Marxist society. Terror was their weapon of choice. One of their leaders admonished them to be “crazy MFs and scare the hell out of honky America.” The Weathermen exploded bombs in police stations and government buildings, including the State Department and the Senate Office building. Weathermen also conducted an infamous armored car robbery. Fortunately, the deaths of some of their bomb makers in an accidental explosion hindered their bombing campaign.

The plot of Snowflakes in July tracks the founding and expansion of a New Left terrorist group called the Phoenix Guards Brigade (PGB). Like the Symbionese Liberation Army, their military commander is a former special forces expert. The PGB’s principal advantage over competing terrorist cells is a mole in the high levels of the Pentagon. Their mole fingers weaknesses in U.S. nuclear weapons compounds that may allow the theft of nuke bombs. The terrorists mobilize to mount a commando mission to steal nuclear weapons.

My novel’s protagonist, Captain Mike Duvall, is a U.S. Navy aviator who has just been released after years of confinement in the “Hanoi Hilton.” His experiences as a POW are woven throughout the story. Mike begins to suspect the conduct of the mole and starts an investigation. After he enlists a Navy lawyer, Leslie Thomas, in his efforts, he falls in love with her. The PGB learns of her queries and begins to blackmail her with photos of a youthful indiscretion. Will Mike uncover the plot to steal nukes before the terrorists can mount their raid? And what must Leslie endure at the hands of the PGB before the climax of the story?

Read Snowflakes in July to find out.

Warren Bell is an author of historical fiction.  He spent 29 years as a US Naval Officer, and has traveled to most of the places in the world that he writes about.  A long-time World War II-buff, his first two novels, Fall Eagle One and Hold Back the Sun are set during World War II.  His third novel, Asphalt and Blood, follows the US Navy Seabees in Vietnam.  His most recent novel, Snowflakes in July, was released on Kindle on September 15, 2015, and a paperback version will be following.  For more about Warren Bell, visit his website at: or see him on twitter @wbellauthor.  

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