To Climb Cold War Mountains

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
218 Pages
Reviewed on 10/20/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tom Gauthier for Readers' Favorite

To Climb Cold War Mountains is a work of historical fiction penned by author Gary R. Hall. After World War II, the United States and western allies and the Soviet Union and its satellite states began a struggle for supremacy: the Cold War. Soldiers did not do battle directly, but the two superpowers continually confronted each other through political maneuvering, military coalitions, espionage, and more. On August 13, 1961, the Communist government of East Germany began to build a barbed wire and concrete between East and West Berlin: the Antifascistischer Schutzwall or antifascist bulwark known as the Berlin Wall. Its official purpose was to keep so-called Western “fascists” from entering East Germany, but its fundamental objective was to stop the mass defections from East to West. Military history, the history of conflicts, is often delivered sans the most crucial element: the individual human perspective of emotion, sacrifice, and interaction. Gary R. Hall corrects that omission in To Climb Cold War Mountains. Here he presents a tale of bravery, suffering, loss, and ultimate victory of a group of disparate people, each with a different motivation and skill set, who confront the Communists and prevail. Peter Ackerman and his wife, Trudi, had escaped ten years earlier and had asylum in the U.S. where Peter became a soldier and specialist in behind-the-lines warfare. Now on a Cold War mission to East Germany to rescue an embedded agent working for the West, the story involves discovery by the East German STASI, escape and evasion by the team sent into the East, including Peter and Trudi and the defecting German-born Soviet helicopter pilot. Their escape is nearly foiled by the surprise construction of the infamous Wall.

In To Climb Cold War Mountains, Gary R. Hall has written a straightforward, fast-paced, detail-filled account of a small group of rescuers and rescuees--American, West German, Czechoslovakian, Sudetenland German, and Russian--all with the goal of escaping the horrors of Eastern Europe under the Soviet Communists. They confront their motivations, their strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately their intermingled desires to survive at all costs. A quote from the book lays it bare: “A decision in life … that could not be understood by a world not walking in their shoes…” Some might compare Hall’s work to the stories by WEB Griffin as he finds that fighting both ex-Nazis and the Soviet NKGB can lead to strange bedfellows, as well as the birth of the CIA and the Cold War. But I choose to reach back further to the master of spies and espionage, for Gary R. Hall is worthy of comparison to Ian Fleming and the pace, depth, twists, and turns of 007: James Bond. To Climb Cold War Mountains of course is deeper in human interest and the probing of feelings and emotion and never lacking in action, suspense, and page-turning scenes of danger. Having served in American military intelligence during the Cold War period myself, I can enthusiastically recommend this well-researched and authentic tale.

Rabia Tanveer

To Climb Cold War Mountains by Gary R Hall is an action/thriller novel filled with plenty of drama to keep you hooked to the story. Peter and Trudi Ackerman had a mission: rescue NATO Agent Gerdt Mintert before things got messy with the STASI. The rescue mission was supposed to be simple; however, things got a little complicated when the East-West Berlin border was closed. Unsure of their escape route, the group was not prepared for the future. However, help came in the form of a STASI agent who was ready to help them as long as he got out of the country as well. But the hurdles were not over. Peter was separated from the group at the worst possible moment, and he might not make it back to the group in time. Was Peter going to make it back to Trudi in time, or was this the end of the road for him?

Wow, the intensity of the action had me hooked to the story from the very beginning. Peter and Trudi were a great pair of protagonists to drive the story forward and make it entertaining. Gary R Hall’s descriptions of East Germany were incredibly vivid. However, it was how the author explained and described the desperation and the almost-panic the characters faced that made the story more entertaining for me. I loved how all the characters were human enough for me to relate to them. There was never a disconnect between me and all the characters. The dialogues were brilliant, especially the ones belonging to Stellman. The sarcasm and the sass made them enjoyable and refreshing. To Climb Cold War Mountains is a brilliant novel.

Romuald Dzemo

To Climb Cold War Mountains by Gary R. Hall is a novel with strong historical themes, set in the Cold War Era. Peter Ackerman sets out for East Germany with his wife Trudi to rescue an agent who is thought to have been discovered by the STASI. It is a mission that becomes more complicated with each step they take. Joined by a German-born Soviet helicopter pilot, the characters are pursued by the intrepid STASI Agent Stellman. The dangerous adventure takes the characters from East Germany to Czechoslovakia and West Germany. Separated from his wife, will Peter be reunited with Trudi as each of them struggles to make it safely to the West?

One of the things I enjoyed about To Climb Cold War Mountains was the author’s ability to capture the historical elements of the story, giving readers a strong feel of Cold War East Germany and the fear inspired by the STASI. For example, there is a chilling moment when one of their agents defects and joins those fleeing the territory for fear of the punishment that he could receive for a failed assignment. References to the historical Berlin Wall and the Modus Operandi of the STASI are deftly included. The characters are elaborately written, believable and likable, and readers will particularly enjoy the way the central couple is developed. The author’s gift for plot shines through the narrative with moments that are tense and unpredictable and twists that are unexpected. It is profoundly moving, filled with adventure, and brimming with realism. To Climb Cold War Mountains is an excellent read for fans of stories with strong political and historical settings and unforgettable characters. Gary R. Hall’s dazzling prose elevates the quality of entertainment.

Grant Leishman

To Climb Cold War Mountains by Gary R Hall is an exciting and dramatic representation of an escape from East Germany at the height of the Cold War. Peter Ackerman and his wife Trudi are both escapees from the German Sudetenland of post-war Czechoslovakia. Now working for the American Special Forces, Peter had rescued Trudi, his childhood friend, several years earlier and the pair of them, along with their specially trained dog, Zara, are tasked with returning to East Germany, through Czechoslovakia, to rescue an American asset, Gerdt Mintert, under suspicion by the East German Secret Police, the Stasi, along with Gert’s nephew and niece. For Trudi and Peter, this work for the American government is their way of proving to the world that not all Germans were rabid, Hitler-following monsters. This is critical for them as they climb their own personal mountains of redemption for the immoral and evil actions of some Germans during the war, including Trudi’s own father.

To Climb Cold War Mountains reads very much like a factual report of a critical mission rather than a fanciful fictional story and this definitely serves to add gravitas and reality to the tale. I have no doubt this was the intent of author Gary R Hall in writing this piece and I can say he definitely succeeded in this respect. The author’s knowledge of locations, procedures, personnel, and equipment of the time comes shining through every paragraph of the text, and as a reader, it is easy to accept this as a factual account. I particularly enjoyed the two main characters’ analysis of their reasons for doing this intensely dangerous work. It was incredibly easy to feel the suspicion and fear that was inherent in East German civilian life at the time, as the city of Berlin was about to be partitioned by a permanent wall. The descriptive detail of the long and hazardous trek through East Germany and then Czechoslovakia was riveting and kept me turning pages long after I should have retired for the evening. This is a fascinating insight into Cold War life in the East, as well as the extreme tensions on both sides of the Iron Curtain at the time. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and can highly recommend it.