R. Cyril West’s novel of tragic love, suspense, intrigue, and the dangerous machinations of the human heart—The Thin Wall.
Midnight, August 20, 1968: the sirens of Prague are sounding. Without warning, Russian tanks have crossed the frontier and are pouring into the city. The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia has begun. Arriving with the troops is Colonel Grigori Dal, a seasoned KGB officer and coldblooded killer. While the country slips into chaos, Dal uses the fighting as cover to apprehend an American prisoner-of-war from a military prison in Prague. Within days, only a cursed woman and a troubled war hero stand between him and protecting the Cold War’s darkest secret: Proof U.S. servicemen were secretly transferred to the Soviet Union.
Foreword by Chip Beck: In what seems like only yesterday, but in reality was almost 30 years ago (1984), I helped a Time Magazine crew emerge from the tattered ruins of West Beirut, which during the previous night had fallen from Christian government control into the hands of the Muslim Amal and Druze militias. Weeks later, the Time Bureau Chief and I coincidentally sat together flying from Cyprus to London.
Historical setting: On August 20, 1968, the Soviet Union led Warsaw Pact troops in an invasion of Czechoslovakia to crack down on reformist trends in Prague. Although the Soviet crackdown on the “Prague Spring” was swift and successful, small-scale resistance continued throughout early 1969 while the Soviets struggled to install a stable government.
Main Characters in The Thin Wall …
Col. Grigori Dal – An intriguingly cultured, yet conniving KGB colonel, Dal is the greatest stage actor to have ever served in the Soviet Armed Forces. He is as relaxed with reciting from Shakespeare as he is with killing in cold blood.
Ayna Sahhat – Half-Czech, Half-Azerbaijani, Ayna is labeled “cursed” by the local villagers because previous boyfriends have died sudden, tragic deaths. She is also the most talented cellist in the Bohemian Mountains.
Dr. Milan Husak – A doctor with a “secret” past, Milan is troubled by the deaths of 13 orphans who died because of his mistake during World War II. The people believe he is a “war hero.” But Milan refuses to be called a “hero.”
A character-driven portrayal of the 1968 Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, brought to vivid immediacy through the conflict between an intriguingly cultured, yet conniving KGB colonel and the people of a small village who courageously (and sometimes timidly) try to resist oppression.
Reader Questions for The Thin Wall