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"Book Wot I Have Read: The Dead Hand"

Posted: 07 June, 2020

The Dead Hand

My mind’s played a trick on me over the course of the last 30 years. When I were wee I knew how things were going to pan out; I was going to die in the fireball of Nuclear Armageddon, catch Aids, and/or be run over by some BMW owning cunt, waving a wad of 50s out of his window. Everything backed this up. The comics, the films, even the music... but somewhere (probably in field) I forgot all this.

If, like me, you were pre-teen during the Gorbachev/ Reagan / Thatcher era, then I'd wager you'd have felt the same. And you've probably always wondered, exactly how close did we come to this fate?

The Dead Hand (by David E. Hoffman) goes someway to answering this, and it's fascinating. Ostensibly covering the last decade of the cold war (but actually providing a history lesson as to how things got to where they did) it interviews many of the main protagonists, and takes a deep-dive through previously classified documents, and the implications are fucking terrifying.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, it’s proper John Le Carré stuff, but I knew very little about large sections of what this book covers, despite idly reading around the subject for years. But the one thing that stuck with me, that I just can’t shake out of my head, is that it all could have ended so much earlier, but Reagan and his advisers missed it. Completely. Fucked it. I wonder what the world would be like now if they hadn't.

When I think back on most of these people I see the cartoon villans of Spitting Image, but it turns out that's closer to the truth than I'm comfortable with. So if you have even the slightest interest in any of this history, slap on Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and settle in for a jaw-drop per chapter. You’re not going to look at any of this in the same way again.