The real action in the Cold War most often was not in direct superpower confrontation but in small countries where the Soviets could exploit local injustices by supporting revolutionaries on the ground.
The West would be forced to help some thuggish but friendly government that invariably would overreact to the threat, and the battle was on.
While John LeCarre and Len Deighton covered the sexier KGB vs. MI5 beat, Gerald Seymour mostly concerned himself with the side conflicts. A former BBC journalist, he captured the dirty little wars in Afghanistan, Northern Ireland and the Balkans, as well as terrorist acts in Italy and the Middle East.
That's why when the big boys (especially Deighton) were floundering for a reason to keep writing at the end of the Cold War, Seymour didn't break stride. If anything, he got even better.
Unfortunately, at least in the United States, hardly anyone noticed. Despite the fact that he is far more entertaining and less pretentious than LeCarre - but just as smart - Seymour has never sold well here.
That means you might have to work a little harder to find "Dead Ground," his latest excellent novel, but it is well worth the effort.
Though he only set one story, "The Contract," on the famed frontline of the East German frontier during the Cold War, Seymour returns there. He shows us that the superpower conflict might be over, but things are hardly hunky dory in der Fatherland.
Early on, a character sets the stage for the book's premise that the thugs of the Stasi, the East German secret police, are a problem with which the unified German government has never dealt.
"There's blood on their hands. ... So the (Berlin) Wall came tumbling down and a hundred thousand full-time Stasi just disappeared from the face of the earth," the character muses.
British Intelligence analyst Tracy Barnes is shocked when she walks into a party at her base and finds the guest of honor is Dieter Krause, the former Stasi officer who was responsible for executing the first agent she ran - and who was also her lover.
In a rage, Tracy attacks Krause and creates an international incident. Some Germans are counting on Krause to restore their prestige in the intelligence community, while others would rather take down a bad guy. The Brits, meanwhile, want to milk Krause but also have their own pet sources they want to promote. Krause is also close to the new head of the Russian army.
Tracy heads for Germany to find eyewitnesses to her lover's brutal murder. There, she discovers the complete control the Stasi exercised over the East Germans. While there are still rooms full of records - both true and false - of ordinary people, powerful and nasty characters like Krause were able to purge their files as the Wall came down, she learns.
Worried for her safety and her career, Tracy's family hires Josh Mantle, a middle-aged lawyer and former intelligence officer whose brilliant career was cut short because of his dedication to principle over politics.
While searching for evidence on Krause, the mild mannered Mantle and the bull-headed Tracy uncover a whole nest of ex-Stasi officers who are now running a brutal organized crime network.
In many ways, the people of the East were ill prepared for modern society and are still dominated by their former masters, who had the resources to give themselves a leg up in the unified Germany.
Seymour, a veteran international reporter, is utterly convincing in his detail and is even better at creating dilemmas of the soul than of political intrigues.
The players in this drama are as unpredictable as the plot. The high quality - and the knowledge that a happy, pat ending is never assured in a Seymour novel - leads to a superb exercise in suspense that is nearly as informative as it is entertaining.