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The Cold War Swap (Mac McCorkle #1)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  294 ratings  ·  32 reviews
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 f ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 16th 2003 by Minotaur Books (first published 1966)
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The Cold War Swap was the first novel by Ross Thomas, a former soldier, political flack and reporter. It's a doozy.

It's a cracking yarn set in 1960s Bonn at the height of the Cold War, replete with un-named American three-letter-agencies, Stasi, KGB, and MI-x excitement, politics, alcoholism, and everyone smoking too much. Ross Thomas wrote more than 20 novels, most of them wonderful examples of political intrigue. His eye for detail was that of a skilled journeyman reporter - the kind who's re
Ronald Koltnow
Ross Thomas's debut novel has all of his characteristic wit and intelligence. It resembles one of Lionel Davidson's books, esp. NIGHT OF WENCESLAS, where the plot revolves around escape. It is a bit dated (others have commented on the treatment of homosexuals in the novel) but Thomas's wonderful characters are out in force -- the phlegmatic McCorkle, his enigmatic partner Padillo, and the oleaginous Maas (or is it Klein?). It is a novel of its time, and a pretty good one. Try to compute how many ...more
I am in the process of re-reading any of the Ross Thomas books I can still find, but I have concluded that this one, sadly, doesn't stand the test of time. Not because it is his first novel - it's still damn good for a first book. And not because it has as its backdrop the Cold War in all its sublime pointlessness - that is his point, and there is plenty here that is still relevant in the age of Guantanamo and the so-called war on terror. The reason I found myself cringing over and over was beca ...more
It's back-to-school time, and each year the newspapers run the story about what the incoming freshman college class "knows." For example, the freshman class of 2012 was likely born around 1994, so in addition to having Pierce Brosnan being their first James Bond and only seeing "Cheers" in reruns, these kids missed the fall of the Berlin Wall. It's difficult to explain to them the bizarre West Berlin situation - how to describe the dizzying clash of East Versus West in such a glorious city.

I picked this up on the recommendation of one of my favorite crime writers (George Pelecanos) and found it to be a funny, fast-paced, Cold War caper. In it, we meet McCorkle and Padillo, the American co-owners of a bar in Bonn, Germany, circa 1966. After serving in the Army, McCorkle opened the place with Padillo in 1952 as a typical American bar and grill, making it a novelty in Cold War Germany. However, for the multilingual Padillo, co-ownership is merely a cover for his real job as an Americ ...more
Written in 1966, this was Thomas' first novel, but it shows a sure hand at work. I had read a number of Thomas' books (but not this one) some years ago; none are currently available in physical form but fortunately some are available as ebooks.

Much like Charles McCarry, who works the same ground as this book, Thomas writes in something of a lean style. Unlike too many contemporary mystery and suspense writers, he doesn't pad his work with unnecessary detail. When the main character flies from Bo
Sean Brennan
Although there is nothing wrong with this story, is nicely paced and readable it just lacks the complexity of the British Spy thriller during this period. For me the whole point of a really great espionage thriller is for the reader to be completely baffled, not to know who is who? until the whole story is explained to the reader in the last chapter! This was just far too simple!
Timothy Hallinan
Ross Thomas, now unjustly neglected, is a delight: a brilliant plotter, creator of unforgettably eccentric and dangerous characters, and a guy writer nonpareil. His books are about guys: guys in trouble, guys who are friends, guys who operate on the fringes of espionage, guys who love women but, in the end, would probably just as soon hang around with the guys. I bought a whole shelf of out-or-print paperbacks in the book room of the Left Coast Crime convention and have been drowning in Thomas e ...more
I am really picky about the kinds of stories I read. I figure there are more books out there than I will ever get to read so I don't have to read stuff I don't want to. Having said that, I am going to retract at least a piece of it now. I've heard people say that if an author is REALLY good, the subject matter doesn't matter. The photo by that explanations must be The Cold War Swap. I have no interest in the cold war, little interest in spies and less interest in books set outside of the U.S. Bu ...more
If you liked Hitchcock's Torn Curtain, this novel will enchant you. It's quite entertaining and very exciting. For me as a German it was especially funny to see how the Americans see us. You might be slightly surprised but "Auf Wiedersehen" and "Ein Bier, bitte" aren't the only things we can say. Also, the German names were very amusing. Mac's girlfriend is called Fredl and - by all means!!- I've never heard that name in my life. It as horrible and old-fashioned as Heidi (sorry, Mrs. Klum!!) and ...more
Sean O
I read this book in literally one sitting. It was a perfect read for a transatlantic flight. Typical Ross Thomas political thriller, set in the Cold War 60s.
this book is a really fun cold war, spy-noir. sort of a combination of raymond chandler, elmore leonard, and allan furst. the main characters are two american expats living in germany a few years after WW II. They both fought in the war. One is still in the CIA while the other owns a bar and wants to live a quiet, peaceful life. They get caught up in a plot to bring somebody over the border from east germany. the pacing moves along quickly and the narrator, the bar owner, has a great phillip mar ...more
This is the first book I read of this author, and it is also the first book written by the author, and I am amazed that this author was unknown to me until I started reading this book, and now I'm helplessly hooked; I must read his other books. I was told though, that 25 of his 26 books are now out of print.
I liked this book a lot. It was written in 1966 during the cold war, and it is obviously about the same. This author could write. This book won the Edgar Award for being the best mystery of 1
John Kues
This was a fast read. I agree with Stuart Kaminsky's (one of my favorite authors) foreward, comparing the characters to those in Casablanca. I can well see Humphrey Bogart reciting some of these lines. I don't know how I missed knowing about Ross Thomas. This book was written in 1966, was his first book and won an Edgar. There were a few typos, but nothing that hindered the reading. I really liked his writing and will be following up with others, I think he wrote 19.
Mark Rathaus
Very impressive for a first novel. With hard-boiled but breezy dialogue, it reads like a noir mystery illuminated by spotlights. The short action scenes race to viscous conclusions and the lengthy sections between them, are elaborate descriptions of imaginative characters or complex exposition. it's a great first effort, but clearly, not Thomas at his best.
This book was 3/4 fun and 1/4 frustrating, not because of Thomas but because the subject matter that Thomas is satirising (cold war politics and intrigue) irritates me so much. I had a lot of sympathy for most of the characters, and the sense of place was great, but I wish he had not been so horrible to the homosexuals.
Jon Spoelstra
I had read this years and years ago and was wondering if I still felt that Ross Thomas was one of the all-time mystery writers. No more wondering. I'm only about 25% through The Cold War Swap and there's no doubt. Ross Thomas is one of the all-time greats.
Gary Mesick
A marvelous book that really should put Thomas in the same league as Le Carre. Granted, he wouldn't win the playoff, but he belongs right up there. Thomas has the great advantage over Le Carre in that he knows how to be funny.
Ted Kendall
For an old book--one written in the 1960s--this has all the makings of a timeless classic in the spy/thriller genre and would make a great Bourne-like movie. Reading it was like watching a classic Connery Bond movie.
Ein sehr guter Thriller aus der Zeit, in der noch ständig getrunken und geraucht wurde und in der man noch Schusswaffen in Flugzeuge und über Grenzen tragen konnte.
A fun, fast moving, well plotted 60s cold war thriller by a writer who's new to me. I am already reading more Ross Thomas (80s this time).
Good one . Ross Thomas' first novel not ukp to the standard of his later works but miles ahead of thrillers being written today.
Joaquin Peloso
Not so bad. If anyone is fluent with Spanish, I might recommend the author Alvaro Lozano as well for a quick review of the cold war.
Jim M
During the Cold War, two Americans run a bar in Germany, one is a also a secret agent and needs his friend to help him.
Thomas' first book, a cold war thriller, won awards when it first came out. I enjoyed it but it seems quite dated now.
Spies, fast cars, friends, and a bit of 'action' make up The Cold War Swap - all-in-all a great story.
Benjamin Plume
Such wit, and yet the reader is still swept up in the sleuthing.
First Ross Thomas book i read and i am hooked.
A tight spy tale, well told.
Joshua Lax
Simple yet excellent.
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Ross Thomas was an American writer of crime fiction. He is best known for his witty thrillers that expose the mechanisms of professional politics. He also wrote several novels under the pseudonym Oliver Bleeck about professional go-between Philip St. Ives.

Thomas served in the Philippines during World War II. He worked as a public relations specialist, reporter, union spokesman, and political strat
More about Ross Thomas...

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Mac McCorkle (4 books)
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