The Slow March of Light

Written by Heather B. Moore
Review by Thomas j. Howley

In 1960 in a divided Germany, the Cold War is actually quite hot if one is engaged in espionage. In the late 1950s, Bob Inama is simply trying to pursue a law degree at Utah State University until he is drafted into the U.S. Army on the eve of 1960. He starts as an enlisted artilleryman, but his college background and basic understanding of German make him attractive to Army Intelligence recruiters. Bob is then immersed in intense German language training to prepare for follow-on insertion into a critical and dangerous operational role.

While still training, he meets a pleasant West German girl, Luisa Voight, whose father is a senior police officer in Frankfurt. Louisa’s mother is gone, but her grandmother still lives in East Berlin and is reluctant to move to the West. Luisa, a nurse, finds herself enmeshed in a ring of patriots who try to help East Germans escape the German Democratic Republic, which is a totalitarian hell controlled by the Socialist Unity Party and the Soviets. Luisa soon ends up in Berlin just as Bob is commencing his undercover intelligence collection activities there. Things go badly for Bob as Luisa struggles to smuggle out her grandmother.

This outstanding novel is a harrowing account based around actual events in Bob Inama’s life. The author chillingly and graphically captures daily existence where the controlling political party, national security apparatus, and media work together to crush all dissent. Bob’s interaction with a café waitress causes him to note “few smiles, little laughter, and heavy hearts” are the way of life there, where government snitch lines are set up to ensnare the “enemies of socialism.” A timely and cautionary tale. My highest recommendation!