The Berlin Conspiracy

The Berlin Conspiracy

3.7 4
by Tom Gabbay

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Jack Teller is through with the CIA—until the Berlin station is contacted by a Colonel in the East German Stasi just days before President John F. Kennedy's scheduled visit to the Wall. The Stasi officer has an important message—and he will speak to no one but Jack.

The informant claims a treacherous plot is brewing to assassinate the American

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Jack Teller is through with the CIA—until the Berlin station is contacted by a Colonel in the East German Stasi just days before President John F. Kennedy's scheduled visit to the Wall. The Stasi officer has an important message—and he will speak to no one but Jack.

The informant claims a treacherous plot is brewing to assassinate the American president in Germany—a conspiracy originating at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Only Jack Teller believes the threat is real, and it has left him alienated and alone in a divided city that holds too many dark secrets. And if he forgets the two essential truths of the espionage game—that lies are currency and nothing is what it seems—he won't live to prevent a global catastrophe.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wallowing in a post-Bay of Pigs funk, ex-CIA agent Jack Teller is called out of retirement in 1963 and sent to Berlin to meet an East German agent with a message for Jack's ears only in the debut of screenwriter and former TV producer Gabbay. Jack is floored by both his contact's identity-and his information about a plot to kill President Kennedy during an upcoming visit to West Berlin. His dormant idealism roused, Jack delves into the conspiracy while dodging the threats of corrupt CIA higherups and falling in with colorful residents of Berlin's Cold War demimonde. Mixing cynical world-weariness with dead-pan humor and a refreshing lack of Bond-style omnicompetence (random mishaps include a nasty dog bite and a disastrous attempt to shoot off a pair of handcuffs), Jack's story is part John le Carr and part Elmore Leonard. Gabbay constructs the thriller as a dress rehearsal and what-if scenario for the actual Dallas assassination. With rogue intelligence operatives, gangsters, Texas tycoons and a mob of snipers, coverup hit men, fall guys, fall guy impersonators, and miscellaneous functionaries all jostling each other, the plot's many moving parts make the climax a virtual parody of ponderous JFK conspiracy theories. But until this odd turn, Gabbay offers a stylish thriller with an appealing hero. (Jan. 3) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Set in June 1963 during President John F. Kennedy's visit to Berlin, Gabbay's debut is a Cold War thriller with an assassination plot that mimics Lee Harvey Oswald's successful attempt in Dallas. Jack Teller and his younger brother, Josef, were orphaned at an early age. While Josef stayed in Germany, Jack moved to America, where he later did contract work for the CIA. Now retired and living in Florida, Jack receives a call from his mentor, Sam Clay of covert operations, who gives him orders to take off for Berlin. It seems an East German colonel in the Ministry for State Security has information he will divulge only to Jack. Tough-guy Jack, whose story is narrated in noirish first person, doesn't know whom to trust when the colonel tells him about an assassination plot concocted by men within the U.S. government using a Soviet-trained assassin as the fall guy. Complications ensue until Jack saves the world from nuclear war. A tired plot saved by a few interesting characters; recommended only for larger popular fiction collections.-Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-The nuances of the JFK assassination conspiracy theories chillingly collide with the intricacies of Cold War espionage in this well-crafted, fast-paced thriller. CIA agent Jack Teller is a hard-boiled, world-weary pragmatist who would rather be fishing in Florida but warms to the notion that fate has selected him to abort an assassination attempt in Berlin. If allowed to succeed, it could lead in a matter of minutes to all-out nuclear war and the end of the world as we know it. Teller soon finds himself in that never-never land of spies where no one is who he seems to be, and where danger lurks behind, above, below, and within every doorway. As implausible as this may sound, Gabbay does a credible job of juxtaposing his story with historically accurate but equally implausible events, namely the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the assassination in Dallas. The novel could be viewed as simply a good escapist read, but there is an enormously significant lesson at its core: in a world with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, it only takes a well-placed loose cannon or two to set us all on a course of utter destruction. That story has been told before, but it bears repeating. This is a thrilling tale with historical lessons of lasting consequences.-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Cold War spycraft and the Kennedy assassination constitute the not-exactly-virgin territory explored with a certain noirish flair in this familiar but well-made debut thriller. Like many a spy before him, Jack Teller has left the CIA behind and hasn't the slightest intention of ever going back. A lot of fishing, a bit of drinking, maybe some writing here and there-that's what Jack has planned for retirement. Until, of course, Sam Clay, his old boss at the Company, calls him one night with the news that an anonymous East German official has information for the United States and will pass it on to only one man: Jack. As it turns out, the official is Jack's long-lost brother (a subplot that never quite manages to take off), stepping out of the shadows just long enough to tell him about a CIA plan to assassinate JFK in Berlin and turn the Cold War into a hot one. With little more than his wits and a stock of hard-boiled phrases stolen from the Sam Spade School of Elocution, Jack must ferret out the traitors and halt their plot before the president is offed and the nukes go a-flying. The plot's twists and turns are more perfunctory than pulse-quickening, but Gabbay, a veteran television programmer, evocatively captures the dark, dank atmosphere of East Berlin. Predictable, but an undeniable delight all the same.
Rocky Mountain News
"A spy novel of the first rank. ... Add a new name to the must-read list of thriller writers."
Tampa Tribune
“One of the early favorites for best debut of the year.”
Rocky Mountain News (Grade: A)
“A spy novel of the first rank. ... Add a new name to the must-read list of thriller writers.”
Jack Higgins
“A Cold War thriller of real brilliance.”
Rocky Mountain News (Grade: A)
“A spy novel of the first rank. ... Add a new name to the must-read list of thriller writers.”

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The Berlin Conspiracy

A Novel

By Tom Gabbay

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006

Tom Gabbay

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060787856

Chapter One

In 1963, the world was divided into two camps, and Berlin was on the front line. They called it a "Cold War," but one spark in that divided city and it wouldn't be cold for long--the whole damn planet would go up in flames. Of course, I'd contributed more than my share to this nonsense doing contract work for the Company through the fabulous fifties, but after Cuba the shine had gone off and I dropped out of the insanity.

I found an agreeable retirement spot in a small bungalow near Pompano Beach, Florida, about forty miles north of Miami. At that time it wasn't much more than a couple of bars and a convenience store on a strip of sand off the highway, but it suited me fine. The idea was to get rich as a bestselling author of spy novels and then find more desirable living quarters. I had a typewriter and loads of material, but nothing ever came together in my head, let alone on paper. So I did a lot of fishing.

It wasn't the first time Sam Clay had phoned in the middle of the night, but it was the first time in a while. Sam was DDP (Deputy Director for Plans, in charge of covert operations) and as near to a real friend as I had, even though I'd only seen him once since I dropped out. I hadn't left the agency on the best of terms, not that Sam held any of that against me, but when you're out you have tobe completely out. I'd made my own bed and didn't mind sleeping in it, if it wasn't for the cockroaches, that is.

Anyway, I was surprised to hear Sam's voice. He didn't waste time asking how the fishing was, just got to the point, which was a ticket waiting at the TWA desk in Miami for the morning flight to New York, connecting through to Frankfurt and Berlin. There would be a car waiting for me at the airport and he'd see me in a few days. That was it. No small talk, no explanation. Not that I would've expected one over the phone.

I hung up, sat on the side of the bed, and wished I had a Marlboro. There was an ocean breeze coming through the window and I got up, stood in front of the screen to let it wash across my bare chest. It was pretty black out there, just the sound of the waves slashing onto the beach. Why had I gone along with Sam? I may not have been cutting it as a writer--or as a fisherman, for that matter--but I had no desire to get back into the game. I'd had enough subversion and betrayal for one lifetime and I certainly had no wish to revisit the city of my youth. It might as well have been someone else's childhood memories knocking around in my brain, that's how removed I felt from it. There was nothing left of Berlin to revisit, anyway. The places I once knew had been reduced to rubble and rebuilt into something else that I didn't care about one way or another. It wasn't that I wanted to avoid my past, either. I just didn't give a damn.

I guess the easy answer was that I was tired of hauling in empty lures by day and staring at blank pieces of paper by night. A change of scenery would do me no harm. And I owed Sam. Anyway, whatever the reason, I packed my bag and thirty-six hours later I was back in the business of chasing shadows.

It would've been a routine operation if not for an unusual request, made in a letter written by an unidentified East German official and dropped in the car of a State Department staffer, somebody's secretary I think it was. The anonymous official said he had important information that he might be willing to share, under the "right circumstances." Those kinds of letters were fairly frequent in Berlin and the "right circumstances" usually meant the right price, which was invariably paid, even though the information was usually pretty lame. But the author of this particular enticement wasn't interested in money or even a one-way ticket west. He had just one demand: me. I was the only person he'd talk to.

And no one, especially me, had the slightest idea why.

It would be a significant understatement to say that the guys in Berlin were unhappy about this request. The chief of station at the time was a joker named James Powell. A midforties, tall, slender, tailored-suit kind of a guy with a head too big for his shoulders, he was a Yale man who thought he was a real smooth operator. I thought he was a pretentious asshole, but that didn't matter. You came across a lot of pretentious assholes in the intelligence business. I even liked a few of them. Not Powell, though.

He didn't care much for me, either, which was understandable for a man in his position. No station chief would've liked having an outsider brought in to handle a routine letter drop, but having me show up out of retirement (they called it exile) would've really got under his skin. He must have lobbied Washington hard to keep me out of it and been overruled. Everyone knew I'd ditched the agency and thought they knew the reason why, not that I cared what they thought. I was back for a limited engagement and didn't want to get into any of that old bullshit.

Still, I was curious about my mystery man. Why the hell would some East German official single me out for contact? I'd been out of the game for two years and I'd never worked Europe anyway. It must have intrigued Washington, too. Whoever the guy was, he had access to files on me, and he'd found something in one of them that got his attention. They must've figured he was a player, and it wasn't often that you got the real thing to volunteer. Usually they'd have to be bribed, extorted, or drugged into betraying their country, which took a lot of time and planning, and more often than not you still came up empty. This was a potential gift, one that would come at an extremely opportune moment. Hence the middle-of-the-night phone call from Sam and the pissed-off Berlin chief of station.


Excerpted from The Berlin Conspiracy
by Tom Gabbay
Copyright © 2006 by Tom Gabbay.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Jack Higgins
“A Cold War thriller of real brilliance.”

Meet the Author

Tom Gabbay is the author of The Berlin Conspiracy and The Lisbon Crossing. He previously worked for NBC Entertainment as director of children's and comedy programs, and was creative director of the production partnership between NBC and ITV Television in the United Kingdom. He lives in Europe.

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