Hot Times in Panamá is the story of a Missouri farm boy's journey to adulthood in the 1950s during the Korean War and the expanding Cold War with Soviet Russia and their influences on his life and the lives of persons he came to know and work with. He was too young to serve in World War II but just the right age for the Korean War.
When on the first day of his high school senior year in 1949 Frank Blake chose a Spanish class instead of a French class, he didn't know his choice would take him as a secret agent to the backwaters of Central America. There Cold War tensions had deadly consequences hidden from the public attention Americans regularly gave to events in Europe and Asia. The following year Frank passes the deferment test that enables him to stay in college until graduation in 1954, upon which he joins the army.
After basic training he is posted to the counterintelligence school in Baltimore and then to Panamá where he meets Julia, an enigmatic Radcliffe graduate he thinks works for the embassy. When he's assigned to a team for a clandestine operation that's dependent on Julia, the war turns personal and dirty. After the mission she vanishes from his life.
But Frank's thoughts of the mysterious Julia persist, along with the realization he had become romantically attracted to her. Over the years Frank's efforts to find Julia or information about her are fruitless--until years later when he encounters at an American Alpine Club dinner a person he had once met over drinks and cigars in Panamá. His dinner companion had known Julia in Cambridge and had worked with her on a secret assignment in Guatemala but had also lost track of her. Frank longs to see Julia again, but he won't discover why she disappeared until he receives a letter from her almost forty-five years later that answers all Frank's questions--except one.
Interwoven with the Julia mystery are M*A*S*H-like stories of the lives, on duty and off, of the young men who temporarily served serve as secret agents in the backwaters of Central America, where outside the glare of public attention, Cold War tensions lead to deadly consequences. They came from colleges and universities across the country with degrees in various subjects. They didn't consider themselves professional soldiers, but they desired to perform their duties to the standards set by their Office of Strategic Services (OSS) predecessors and outperform their CIA competitors.
About Frank Babb
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Published February 7, 2012
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences, Travel.