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Hot Times in Panama: What would you do to serve your country? Paperback – March 15, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Babb's debut novel tells of a young Missouri boy drafted during the Korean War and selected for a counterintelligence school.
.... He's sent to the CIC detachment in Panama.... His time in Panama is short but memorable, particularly the night spent at the Hotel Central with the enigmatic Julia....Chapters are so tight and self-contained they could stand alone as short stories. The author allows the mystery of Julia to drive the story home to a rewarding conclusion that is just open-ended enough, and an epilogue wraps up the specifics, historically speaking on the Korea War.
Kirkus Reviews

The love of youth never leaves us, and the flame never dies. Hot Times in Panama: What Would You Do for Your Country? is a novel following Frank Blake, a Korean War veteran entering into a CIC unit in Panama. A chance meeting gives him a glance at a girl who he doesn't see for decades, but never forgets her. As they meet again, their romance is against a backdrop of corruption and cruelty in every direction. "Hot Times in Panama" is a strong addition to collections focusing on espionage and intrigue fiction.
Wisconsin Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review

. ...This is one book ["Hot Times in Panama"] that everyone should read and the stories related to Central America, The Cold War, WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars remind us of why our soldiers are so vital to our freedoms and why Americans fight so hard for our country and our freedom. Characters that are strong, straightforward and quite charismatic and as you hear the voice of our narrator, the main character, Frank Blake you will definitely understand just how far some will go to protect our country.
Goodreads review by Fran Lewis

From the Author

I grew up during the Great Depression on a 140-acre farm about seven miles northwest of Maryville, a county seat town of 5,000 inhabitants in northwest Missouri.  We lived with my paternal grandfather and my father's schoolteacher sisters spent the summer months with us.  
I was blessed with books and magazines and a grandfather, mother, and aunts to read them to me.  Whether inherited or a habit, I've continued to read fiction and nonfiction on a daily basis even when I'd spent the day reading law books or legal documents as a lawyer.  During World War II, our Philco radio, books, magazines, and newsreels at the Saturday night movies provided our information and entertainment.

After high school I continued on at Northwest Missouri State College, the word "Teachers" having been dropped from the name.  Four years later I graduated, married a college sweetheart, and headed for Columbia University in New York for a Masters and Ph.D. But fate intervened, in this case my draft board, and before classes began in September 1954 Uncle Sam needed my services to finish the Korean War.  Although most of my training class went to Korea, I ended up in Panama as a special agent in the Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), thanks to a total immersion, one-year Spanish class in high school that my girl friend prevailed on me to take instead of French.

My novel Hot Times in Panamá: What would you do to serve your country? is a fictionalized story suggested by some of the things I saw or participated in during my tour of duty.  The Cold War was in full swing.  We fought "Commies" wherever we found them based on the information provided by the followers of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the whims of the Panamanian Policia Secreta, our close friends in the endeavor.  For most of us Americans these were trying times.  After the exhilaration of winning World War II, we were now threatened by the Soviet Union, our former ally in the battle against Germany, Italy, and Japan.  The Communists seemed to be pushing us back everywhere: Eastern Europe, the Berlin blockade, the fall of China, and retreat from Vietnam by the French.  We felt betrayed by Americans who had spied for the Soviets during World War II and helped them make their nuclear bomb.  The war in Korea was ending as a stalemate.  Many Americans felt threatened and uneasy.  This is how a farm kid from Northwest Missouri with a degree in English and French and one-year of Spanish ended up running agents and dealing with Commie sympathizers in a country he'd previously known only by its canal.

On separation from the Army I decided to go to Harvard Law School instead of returning to Columbia.  As a part-time job I was a Teaching Fellow in the English Department of Harvard College for a couple of years, teaching grammar and writing to foreign students.  My education started with living in New York City for several months, continued in Panama, and finished in Cambridge, MA.  I was then ready for what came next.

In June 1959 I joined a Chicago law firm where I practiced for the next thirty-two years, including an 8-year stint in Washington, D. C. to start an office for the firm.  Specializing in corporate finance and governance, I worked on financings and mergers and acquisitions for banks, investment banks and public and private companies and served on the boards of several public companies. My service in the CIC provided valuable experience in dealing with people, situations and conflicts frequently encountered in the practice of law.  I better understand who's lying, the real (not stated) objectives of people, how much or how little you can trust people, dealing with people who are not interested in the truth, and how it feels to have an Uzi two feet from your belly button with a thug's finger on the trigger.

Someone asked me when did I start writing fiction.  As a child when I rewrote by hand the stories about Greek gods and fairy tales because I wasn't satisfied with what they said.  The reports I wrote about Communist and other nefarious activities in Panama, the facts sometimes needing a little coloring to get attention at Headquarters, which noted my reports as a standard for "good writing"?  The prospectuses for public offerings I wrote as lawyer may have approached fiction, although none ever landed in court?  I'll take responsibility for "fiction" with my book Hot Times in Panamá.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Wheatmark (March 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604947136
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604947137
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,822,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I served for two years as a special agent in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps in Panamá in the 1950s. While in the Army I decided to pursue a legal career instead of becoming an English professor as I originally planned. On graduation from Harvard Law School I joined a large Chicago law firm, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance transactions, and general corporate law for thirty-two years. For the next ten years I was a venture capital investor, a field I had enjoyed while practicing law. Events in my life and the lives of persons I've known or learned about have inspired the fictional stories I now enjoy writing. Upon reflecting on the "stories" told by the elders in my family, I've come to realize that, as one ages, "fact" and "fiction" become harder to distinguish.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 7 customer reviews
An interesting read and literary getaway.
Ethel Lee-Miller
This book is a must read for people who want to know more about the kind of secret operations our government was involved in during the Cold War.
Monika J. Bond
As both a cold war and hot war veteran, I really enjoyed this story.
william russell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 7, 2013
Format: Paperback
Hot Times in Panama
Frank Babb

Life has a way of bringing about changes that you often do not expect. Sometimes the predictable becomes the unexpected as Frank Blake and two other young men find out when the army decides to send this Missouri boy drafted during the Korean War into a job that would change his life forever. Starting out going for French and winding up in Spanish because of his girlfriend, Katie, Frank never knew that this one decision would change everything. Friendships solder then gone after high school. Worrying about his number in the draft and hoping to finish school Frank forges ahead but not before encountering several bumps in the road. Meeting Katie then finally Joan, his wife he winds up not in Korea but Panama and not in the military the way he thought but chosen with two other for counterintelligence school. As the book opens we read the prologue and we hear Frank's voice as he and several others are handling a mission that places him in a storage closet along with a woman named Julia and several other enlisted men. Teasing the reader from the start we learn little about her and wonder what happens to hear when the mission is completed. Send to the CIC detachment in Panama. His wife Joan at his side his job to get Intel to get around what the communists are doing. We forward to the evening before this mission and we hear both Joan and Frank enjoying an evening out but you can free the tension rising within him as the new guy on the block and fearful of what might happen. Added in his short time and one night with Julia.

From Fort Bliss where his training began to Fort Holabrid where you hear more about his new assignment the voice of Frank Blake is heard describing the rules, protocol and what is expected of him in his job and personal life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James M. Trapp on March 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Frank Babb has written a most interesting story. One part is the journey of a young man from Missouri to Maryland to Panama to Harvard to Chicago to Washington, through education, marriage, career selection and government service. Another part is an intriguing inside look at the US intelligence operations, particularly the Army's Counterintelligence Corps, the CIC. I can testify that the author's descriptions of the CIC training at Fort Holabird are accurate and well detailed. Babb is a very good writer, sounds like a historian. The book is fun and picturesque.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By gllallg on February 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
very interesting, indeed. Every sentence rings true. An unusual and useful insight to a little known part of the Cold War.
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As both a cold war and hot war veteran, I really enjoyed this story. Frank Babb put together a good readable and enjoyable yarn focusing on the events taking place in Central and South America during the Cold War period. I also liked the prologue very well since I was involved in that time frame in the military. I think Frank Babb answered the question of "what would you do for your country."

I also liked the title and the cover art; that's what grabbed me.
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