War, Spies, and Bobby Sox
A loosely connected pair of long stories and one short one set in WWII Chicago and the Midwest, War, Spies, and Bobby Sox covers the war on the home front. In “Incidental Spy,” a Jewish woman who works at the Chicago atomic bomb plant is forced into becoming a spy. As her life becomes more and more complicated and frightening, she winds as a triple agent, for the Germans (who turn out to be Communists, not Nazis), a rogue army officer, and the FBI. A few glitches—the first use of the word “intel” wasn’t until 1961, for instance—do not affect the strong emotion and sense of threat that carry the story along.
In “POW,” a German POW working on a farm in America uses a naïve girl’s love to escape and flee to Chicago. Although many of the German POWs are glad that for them, the war is over, one is determined to continue the fight. But he doesn’t count on the interference of a fellow POW, or on the girl’s strength and anger when she discovers he’s merely used her. The author again evokes a solid sense of time and place (although it’s unlikely a German POW would own a copy of Steppenwolf, as the book was banned in Germany from 1939 to 1945).
“The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared” is the shortest and least effective of the three stories. A young actress in the Chicago Yiddish theater is murdered, and only a teenage boy who admired her understands why someone killed her. While the period work is good, this is a very slight story, not in the same class as the other two.
While a bit melodramatic in spots, the stories are well-crafted and interesting. I’ll certainly look for more by this author.