I began writing this novel one week after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Amazing how a brush with mortality can focus the mind. Amazing how a sustained creative endeavor can bring healing. That was five years ago. I put aside another project. This one had been simmering for decades. Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb is the story of a generation of Midwestern preppies that I know only too well.
One seed for the plot came from my mother’s early life. Two years out of college in 1951, she was hired by the State Department to start a school in Moscow for the children of English-speaking diplomats. She lived in Moscow from 1951 to 1954. The Cold War had begun. Many of the Moscow details in the book come from her diaries. And she really did take the family poodle with her. The Anglo-American school still exists today. My brother and I always wondered: was she a C.I.A. spook?
Another inspiration came in 1989. I was driving home from work, turned on the radio and heard the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Hit by an inexplicably large wave of emotion, I pulled over. Suddenly it was visible – the insidious Cold War TENSION that pervaded American life for so long that it blurred into normalcy. I began to think about a novel that would capture the charged interweave of big-stage influences with a local, day-to-day family drama.