The Cold War is at its height as graduate student Nick Butler, a CIA recruit, heads to the beach in Santa Monica. Operating as a spy in the military aircraft industry, he’s been given fake stealth bomber designs by U.S. and allied intelligence officials. The beautiful girl he meets on the sand, a Russian spy, thinks they’re real.
“What goes on in Santa Monica is very important,” said Wes Truitt, the author of “Stealth Gambit,” a spy novel recently released by Dorrance Publishing.
And the main character’s encounter on the shore is one of numerous plot points in the book involving the beachside city.
“Stealth Gambit” marks a sharp departure in the writing career of Truitt, a longtime Marina del Rey resident. His four previously published works, which centered around business and politics, were all nonfiction.
Truitt, 76, drew extensively on his own life experiences to write “Stealth Gambit,” which offers a fictional, but feasible, slice of life amid the political and military tensions brewing between the United States and the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s.
“The best way to communicate with people is through stories,” he said. “I have wanted people to get a realistic appreciation for what the Cold War was like. Younger people have no knowledge of it. It’s something their moms and dads might tell them about. It was a dark and strange era.”
Truitt worked for about 25 years at Northrop Grumman, a large aerospace and defense technology company. He was a consultant to the RAND Corporation, a think tank based in Santa Monica. And he has shared his knowledge of defense and foreign policy issues with numerous policy groups and government associations.
Truitt, who holds a doctorate in political science from Columbia University, has served as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University, UCLA and Loyola Marymount.
Readers of “Stealth Gambit” will uncover numerous parallels between the agencies in the book and the ones they’re meant to represent. Northrop Grumman’s name is changed to Century Aerospace, Wilshire Aerospace is a stand-in for Lockheed Martin and the National Defense Analysis Center (NDAC) is a fictional substitution for RAND.
Paul Hammond, the inspiration behind one of the book’s characters, David Hammond, was a real RAND expert in aviation and foreign policy. He’s the official who tells Butler to head to the beach in Santa Monica, leading to his climactic affair with a Russian spy.
“She gets, through him, a copy of the stealth bomber design from Century Aerospace, and that design is taken by a courier to Washington and put in a secret dropbox,” Truitt said. “Nick figures out that there are KGB operatives in Washington.”
The sequel, which has already been written, delves into the lives of Butler’s sons, who were birthed using semen captured by seductive Russian spies. It has not yet been published.
In the meantime, Westside residents will likely find familiar numerous settings in “Stealth Gambit,” including the beach, Ocean Avenue, the former Holiday Inn hotel (now the Wyndham Santa Monica) and The Warehouse Restaurant in Marina del Rey.
“I lived it,” Truitt said. “I was there.”